RE: A Test

From: Vincent Campbell (
Date: Fri Oct 05 2001 - 17:22:56 BST

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    Subject: RE: A Test
    Date: Fri, 5 Oct 2001 17:22:56 +0100 
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    Before I go home....

            <They all are memes according to the most accepted definition.>

            And what pray is that? And how do your define most accepted. I
    don't think Blackmore, Brodie, Dawkins or many others would concur.

            <"Commit suicide now." might be an instruction/suggestion but it is
    > meme nevertheless. A meme which some people might follow or let
    > spread and others not. That you don't commit suicide but some
    > terrorists did shows exactly that memes do not automatically make
    > people do something. It is the persons brain which decides which
    > memes to believe in, which to follow, which to let survive.>
            No it doesn't because it's not a meme.

    >> one is a statement. Such things may only become memes if they
    >> replicated, transmitted by people you've sent them to.

            <Yeah so following your point, people decide which memes to
    > replicate and transmit. Your words. My point.>
            No people decide, or inadvertently transmit things to other people
    all the time- just like our conversation. They only become memes if a
    person who has been transmitted to, decides, or inadvertently passes it on
    to someone else. (e.g. "I heard this really bad joke the other day....").
    If it's not transmitted like this it's not a meme, merely information.
    > > Second, the point here is that the minds into which these phrases go
    > > when they are read are all different, and will be stored differently,
            <So memes get stored in brain?>

            No information gets stored in brains, but we don't know exactly how
    (particularly in terms of long term memory).

    >> interpreted differently, remembered or instantly forgotten etc.
    etc. Why?
    >> One reason is that each individual has a unique set of personal
    >> memories etc. such that the exact pattern of information storage
    in each
    >> individual is going to be different.

            <Yes, everyone selects diffently. Brains aren't not caring hosts.
    > select which memes to keep alive and let spread.>
            No they store specifi pieces of information idiosyncratically
    (obviously there are general areas of the brain for certain kinds of brain
    function), hence the idea of replication brain patterns (which memes in
    minds must be if that idea were true) must be false.

    > > Thus if a meme existed in a mind, in
    > > order to get into another mind, it would have to change its form. If it
    > > changed its form, then it is not a replicator, and therefore the whole
            <Oh that's crap. Just because something changes it forms does not
    > it not a replicator. My example "God is dead" might appear in
    > different form on your screen. 15" screen. 17" screen. 21" screen.
    > Different font. You could print it. You could write it with a pen. It
    > stays a replicatory item.>
            It's not crap, it's absolutely vital for the replicator theory to
    work, and the fidelity of language is remarkably high, the same could not be
    said for how information is stored in the brain.

    >> The only way the analogy can work is if we junk what's going
    on in
    >> people's minds (not that it's irrelevant), and instead
    concentrate on the
    >> only things that can be demonstrably replicated- the cultural
    >> themselves, such as these phrases.

            <I thought they were no memes? So what's your point now?>

            There are no memes in minds, but that doesn't mean there aren't
    memes. Memes are cultural artifacts not illusory things in people's brains.

    >> There, I've replicated one of the messages.

            <Yes, you did. Others did not. You selected.>

            In order to replicate that message I simply typed it out again.
    Doing so did not mean that in my brain there suddenly appeared a material
    structure exactly the same as the one in yours when you wrote the sentence
    originally. That's the point- the meme is the sentence itself, once someone
    reproduces it.

    >> What matters is the causal factors that impact on whether an
    >> artifact is replicated or not, but this is a sociological, or
    >> psychological question.

            <A brain question in the end.

    > I gave this example about a book publisher who decides to publish a
    > certain book. So the result that the book gets published is a result
    > of a decision in the publishers brain. That this person might came
    > to his decision because of sociological or commercial considerations
    > does not matter. The decision happened in his brain. His brain
    > decided whether this artifact gets replicated.>
            This is a specious point. The question that springs to mind is
    "...and?' People are capable of motivated and unmotivated behaviours, both
    of which can involve cultural transmission that is witting or unwitting.
    You're missing the emergent properties that we're actually considering when
    talking about cultural transmission. If you want to reduce everything to
    brain function you're better off following neuroscience- nothing wrong with
    that, incidentally, but not what memetics is primarily concerned with.

            Now this time, I'm really going home :-)

            See ya Monday!


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