Re: Study shows brain can learn without really trying

From: Wade T.Smith (
Date: Sat Nov 24 2001 - 23:17:32 GMT

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    Subject: Re: Study shows brain can learn without really trying
    Date: Sat, 24 Nov 2001 18:17:32 -0500
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    Hi Robin Faichney -

    >repetition of an observed behavioural pattern counts as imitation

    Yes - "The act, practice, or art of copying the manner or expression of

    But, can one just repeat an observed behavioral pattern? I do not see it.
    One requires a skill set of performance standards to even attempt
    imitating, much less learning a behavior, unless such behavior is within
    the innate skill set and autonomic, like a panic response or a sneeze or
    a blink. And one is not imitating a virus when one sneezes. The virus is
    using them. It has replicated in a homey stew of mucus and blood, but it
    is not imitating anything. It don't have observational capacities to know
    anything is out there to imitate. If I _imitate_ you sneezing, perhaps to
    make you feel less alone in your malady, it is because I have the ability
    to produce a mimicked sneeze, but I am not sneezing, and I do not have
    the virus that made you sneeze. When I do pick it up, being in the same
    room, it will use me to make sneezes, and I will.

    And I repeat, that _use_ is not imitation. And I am declaring that memes
    are only cultural artifacts, and can only be used once they are in a
    shared environment and that imitation (or evolutionary mimicry) is an
    illusion of similar environmental behavioral responses by similarly
    adapted organisms. If we have a roomful of people sneezing, they have the
    same virus. Or there is imitative intent and performance on the part of
    some. But the virus is not spread by the imitators.

    I ain't arguing that the above definition is not imitation, but,
    semantically, my copying a mannerism of yours is not the mannerism
    itself, it is a simulacrum, an act, an intended behavioral action.
    Artistically, this could be useful, as on a stage when I need to elicit a
    certain feeling from an audience- if I use your expression, it may well
    be that it is common enough to be recognized- a sneeze, for instance,
    certainly is. The audience will know I am acting the part of a sick
    person. Representation is the use of an imitation. It is a cornerstone of
    drama and expression and can lend great meaning. This meaning could then
    be attempted to be recreated by a member of the audience, in a private or
    public setting, and if I conveyed enough of the background with the
    expression, they could imitate it, having the skill set to form the
    muscles of the face and the strength in the lungs, simple actions, and
    the experience (although it would not be required) of having sneezed in
    the past. I did not, and they do not, pass the virus that actually makes
    people sneeze.

    >People don't reinvent the wheel -- they copy it.

    No, they _use_ it. This ain't nitpicking definitions- this is very basic.
    Use is not imitation. There is no need for me to copy a wheel every time
    I get on my bicycle, and, indeed, I am not _imitating_ anyone's behavior
    when I ride it. _I_ have learned to _use_ it- if I were only imitating
    someone riding a bicycle, I would fall down, fast and hard- which, of
    course, I did, until I learned the skill set required to ride a bicycle.
    Handy, yes, that I saw someone ride one before I attempted to, but, not
    necessary- the skills of balance are inherent in the species.

    I did not copy the computer or the program that I am using to email this,
    I am using them.

    Imitation is not use. Imitation is forceless evolutionarily.

    And, I would say, memetically.

    - Wade

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