Units, Events, and Dynamics in the Evolutionary Epidemiology of Ideas

From: AaronLynch@aol.com
Date: Sat Dec 01 2001 - 23:42:40 GMT

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    From: <AaronLynch@aol.com>
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    Date: Sat, 1 Dec 2001 18:42:40 EST
    Subject: Units, Events, and Dynamics in the Evolutionary Epidemiology of Ideas
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    I have placed a new paper called "Units, Events, and Dynamics in the
    Evolutionary Epidemiology of Ideas" online at
    http://www.thoughtcontagion.com/UED.htm. At 27,000 words, this paper is
    longer than my 17,000 word 1998 JOM-EMIT paper. It is a technical paper not
    suited to a quick reading, a cursory reading, or an emotionally distracted
    reading. While 27,000 words may seem lengthy, it is probably a small fraction
    of what active memetics list readers have read from this list --perhaps even
    in a month's time. The paper, however, is more considered than typical
    listserver posts.

    Some of the changes made from the JOM-EMIT paper:

    1. The word "meme" is briefly discussed in a footnote, but not given any
    important role in the paper. The section of the 1998 paper that argued
    against adding more definitions of "meme" has been eliminated. Instead of
    "meme," terms such as "idea," "belief," and "thought contagion" are used.
    While disputes continue past the quarter-century mark about what memes are,
    where they are, and whether they exist at all, people who are not hard-line
    behaviorists may take less issue the idea that ideas, beliefs, and thought
    contagions are in people's heads. People who see memes only outside of brains
    should be able to pursue their work without worry that I might contradict
    them on that point.

    2. The word "mnemon" has been recently dropped. When I re-invented the term
    in the early 1980s, I thought that it could improve communication by way of
    being an entirely new term that had no baggage and that could be more
    specific in some ways and more general in other ways than the word "idea." It
    could also be defined more precisely than the vague term "meme," which I did
    not adopt until 1988. As it turns out, a few people who have read my work too
    quickly have inferred that the word indicated a claim to discovering some
    kind of new structure or mental entity -- wildly untrue. Also, since OED II
    had not yet been published, I was unaware that Cherkin and Young had
    previously coined the term in connection with "engrams," a situation that
    also fosters severe misinterpretations of my work. (The "engram" concept had
    nothing to do with my use of the word "mnemon.") Better to replace 133
    instances of the word "mnemon" than to spend thousands of words trying to
    tell people what I meant.

    3. The paper also discusses the significance of F. T. Cloak's 1973 paper
    "Elementary Self-Replicating Instructions and Their Works: Toward a Radical
    Reconstruction of General Anthropology Through a General Theory of Natural
    Selection." I have scanned and placed online a copy of that paper that F. T.
    Cloak sent me in 1979, at http://www.thoughtcontagion.com/cloak1973.htm.

    4. The section on Qualitative and Quantitative Evolution is greatly expanded.
    It now includes, among other things, a discussion of how evolutionary
    "punctuation" can arise from evolutionary replicator phenomena. It also
    offers an epidemiology of ideas explanation for the phenomenon of innovative
    ideas being formed almost simultaneously by widely separated people.

    5. There is new discussion of the relationship of ideas as replicators to
    behaviors and artifacts as replicators.

    Despite these changes, I have not attempted to explain the relationship
    between the evolutionary epidemiology of ideas and a wide range of other
    fields. Such a project would require additional papers, or perhaps expansion
    of the present paper into a lengthy technical book. The evolutionary
    epidemiology of ideas has many useful applications and interesting
    implications for which I have not yet seen an adequate mode of investigation
    and analysis that makes no consideration of replicating ideas. These
    applications are what may eventually raise enough interest in a long
    technical book for me and/or others to write one.

    --Aaron Lynch


    This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)
    see: http://www.cpm.mmu.ac.uk/jom-emit

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