Re: Knowledge, Memes and Sensory Perception

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Fri Jan 11 2002 - 20:00:03 GMT

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    At 10:50 AM 11/01/02 -0800, "Grant Callaghan" <>
    >>All three are examples of replicators.
    >>Genes have active effects in cells, memes in brains, and computer viruses
    >>in computers.
    >I agree completely. But there are vast differences in how the various
    >replaicators are encoded and the environments in which they live.

    Of course. There is a vast difference between redwood trees and elephants,
    but both are living things (and replicators, of course).

    >None of them do anything until they are expressed within their
    >environment. The effect they have on their environment is a function of
    >that environment. A meme does not act like a gene and a computer program
    >does not act like a meme.

    Different levels are involved though there are all kinds of odd crossed
    over effects. Memes (Shakers, Heaven's Gate) can have had the effect of
    particularly lethal genes. Biotech firms write copyright notices in DNA,
    so they could write anything. And then there are memes that disguise
    themselves as warning about computer viruses.

    There are interactions between the levels too. Memes that are too hard on
    the genes of their hosts like the above examples tend to die out. Computer
    viruses are held in check by memes that are spread about them. (And in
    turn *this* level is hijacked by false warning as I mentioned.) "Fleas
    with fleas to bite them ad infinitum."

    >Although you can make a good case that a computer program has more in
    >common with a gene than a meme since both the computer program and the
    >gene use a type of Turing tape to hold the data and execute the program
    >written on it. The meme's method of encoding data and executing it are
    >still a question of debate.

    True, but rapid progress is being made in this direction. The works of
    William Calvin are particularly instructive.

    Keith Henson

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