Received: by alpheratz.cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk id UAA16341 (8.6.9/5.3[ref firstname.lastname@example.org] for cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk from email@example.com); Sun, 13 Jan 2002 20:53:10 GMT From: "Lawrence DeBivort" <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: <email@example.com> Subject: RE: Knowledge, Memes and Sensory Perception Date: Sun, 13 Jan 2002 15:25:23 -0500 Message-ID: <NEBBKOADILIOKGDJLPMAEEFACJAA.firstname.lastname@example.org> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="Windows-1252" Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit X-Priority: 3 (Normal) X-MSMail-Priority: Normal X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook IMO, Build 9.0.2416 (9.0.2910.0) Importance: Normal X-MimeOLE: Produced By Microsoft MimeOLE V5.00.2919.6600 In-Reply-To: <LAW2-F139lixRXmvBcN0000eebe@hotmail.com> Sender: email@example.com Precedence: bulk Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org
My thought on 'memes as tools.' Memes can be created inadvertantly, and have
'undesirable' effects; thus it is hard for me to classify them as a whole as
tools, a word which imples some degree of design thoughtfulness and some
degree of beneficial usage. _Some_ memes may have tool-like qualities: they
may be designed, and they may have, given the design, beneficial impact. So
I stay with a simpler definition of any meme: it is the expression of a
belief that has self-disseminating and self-protecting characteristics.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: email@example.com [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]On Behalf
> Of Grant Callaghan
> Sent: Sunday, January 13, 2002 1:44 AM
> To: email@example.com
> Subject: Re: Knowledge, Memes and Sensory Perception
> It's good to hear that there's another theorist on the list. I
> like the idea
> of tools being memes, it's the original purpose of memes: tools
> to increase
> survival prospects and chances. The converse however is not always so I
> contend. I will explain why in a more in depth analysis of your letter to
> Susan Blackmore submitting your theory.
> >>So where do we read about your theory, Grant? >> Luisa Grant:
> >I was just reading The Meme Machine and was struck by an idea
> that may make
> >the field of memetics more like a science. The key to my idea is
> to >give
> >up the selfish meme concept. There is selfishness, all right,but
> it is not
> >the meme that is selfish. In that sense a meme is not much like a gene.
> Selfishness of course doesn't really apply to non- living
> abstract entities
> or small clumps of molecules. The term selfishness has meaning only to
> living animated beings. Terms like the selfish meme/gene doesn't apply to
> the meme/gene itself but to the behavior the meme/gene helps
> bring forth in
> such a way that the occurrence of that meme/gene increases at the
> expense of
> other genes/memes. In the evolutionary end only those genes/memes
> greedy and selfish behavior will prevail over those that produce less
> ambitious and vital behavior. It's a law of nature, survival of
> the fittest
> again and again. The term Selfish Meme/Gene is just a catchy
> short-hand name
> for memetic/genetic selfish induced behavior. That's what Dawkins and
> Blackmore meant by that slogan.
> Ok. This is the first real argument about selfishness that makes
> sense to
> me. What still bothers me, however, is the difference between the
> relationship between the gene and the body it creates and the meme, which
> only codifies behavior. It doesn't build a body, but it does
> build a body
> of tools. Those that are about the same thing, like the various
> branches of
> science, law or religion, can be considered a structure, of
> sorts. But what
> kind of structure is it? They seem basically to be a library of tools we
> use to solve a specific type of problem, somewhat like the Java
> library and
> the other software that run my computer.
> The cities we live in are built on memes as much as they are
> built on earth,
> steel and stone. Are cities and nations the bodies that memes
> create? Are
> cars and computers and airplanes and factories the bodies of
> that become for the cities and the nations the equivalent of blood and
> organs? And is civilization the superorganism that will someday
> cover the
> Earth? We seem to be headed in that direction.
> This would dovetail nicely with what genes do for the body and
> the species.
> It's a direction that seems worth exploring.
> >Memes, in my estimation, are a set of tools we use to accomplish certain
> > >objectives in our daily lives. Each tool is a meme and vice
> versa. That
> > >simplifies the task of identifying a meme and categorizing it.
> I ask you
> >to hear me out and respond to the following challenge: give me an exampl
> > >of a meme that is NOT a tool.
> Well allow me on behalf of Susan, that shouldn't be so hard when
> you admit
> the following logical argument. Suppose all memes were tools,
> what remains
> as tool-substrate then? Tools have to apply to something, but
> what according
> to your theory. It's like trying to build a house with all hammers and no
> >From this logical premise it should be easy to find examples of non-tool
> memes: music-plays, fashion/catch phrases, fashion, etc.... If
> you insist to
> stick to your infinitely broad definition of the concept of a tool, the
> meaning of tool-substrate becomes irrelevant.
> I'm not sure what you mean by "substrate" and why it's important. The
> tools/memes of architecture and city planning are what allow us to build
> cities. The writer and speaker use the tools/memes of language to
> communicate. Music, art, fashion and catch phrases work to
> cement and guide
> our relationships with each other. A person who lacks these tools can't
> function in society. Oh, sure, we can individually get along
> without some
> of these tools but anyone who lacks all of them will not really
> be a member
> of society.
> I remember trying to function in Taiwanese society. In the beginning, I
> felt as helpless as a baby. As I picked up the customs and the
> language I
> became more productive and had to depend less on others to take
> care of me.
> Eventually, I was able to live and stand alone but will never be able to
> function as fully as someone born and raised in that culture. I
> got into it
> too late in life. Chinese language and literature will never say
> as much to
> me as English does. Chinese plays and movies will never wring the same
> emotions from me as those created in the culture I grew up in.
> In the end,
> my greatest contributions to my fellow man in Taiwan came from my English
> skills. I helped them understand what my culture had to offer and helped
> them sell to America what their culture had to offer. And mostly, I used
> English language and American culture to do it. That's what
> those tools do.
> They help individuals work, play, associate and function as a group.
> Like you I like to consider the utility of memes as crucial for
> adoption and
> propagation. However I like to think in more general terms of fitness
> increasing potential which has many similarities with your
> To me to regard all memes as being tools is inappropriate.
> >The primary difference, in my mind, between humans and other
> animals is our
> >ability to use tools. Not that we can and they can't. But a human can
> >juggle over a million tools in his mind at one time. It is the extent of
> >our tool-using that sets us apart. Humans can use anything as a tool. In
> > >fact, humans can use nothing as a tool. The concept of zero is
> one of the
> > >most useful ideas in mathematics it revolutionized the subject
> in Roman
> > >times. Zero, nothing, no thing.
> True, we are the unrivaled tool-making species par excellence but that's
> nothing new.
> But it IS important. It's what allowed us to rise above the
> society that would have limited our numbers to a few million. The earth
> wouldn't have been able to support more of us than that. Without farming
> and learning to use the land instead of just living on it, we would never
> have had more than villages. With laws and commerce, we learned to live
> closer to one another and live above the land as well as on it.
> We learned
> that population can be denser when people live in boxes that cut down the
> friction of people rubbing elbows together. Without the tools of
> and government and education and commerce and industry, there is
> no way the
> earth would support six billion people. Without our tools we
> would not be
> us. What difference does it make that it's not news.
> >The average college student commands over 20,000 words in his
> >But he is also able to make use of such concepts, memes, tools as the
> >amount >of silence between words to convey meaning.
> Unless one suffers from some sort of speech impediment this is simply not
> true. You don't pause in between words, you as a linguist should
> know this
> perfectly well. I refer to Steven Pinker. You only pause to catch
> breath or
> to think about the next sentence construction.
> The silence may not be there physically, but it's there
> symbolically. You
> know where a word begins and ends. That's why it's represented
> by a space
> in writing. If you don't hear it, you insert it with your mind
> as you turn
> sound into speech in your head. You also know where sentences begin and
> end. They do have physical silences between them. We don't
> pause only to
> breathe. We pause for effect. We pause for emphasis. We pause
> to change
> the subject. We pause to consider what to say next. Just
> because words run
> together does not mean there are no pauses that carry information in our
> >That is silence, no sound, nothing. We also use every possible
> >of our faces to convey=20 >information. A wink, a smile, a frown, a
> >drooping eyelid, a wrinkled nose >or brow, the angle of ones
> head, and more
> >are used as tools to convey >information of one kind or another.
> The term
> >poker face even defines the >use of that expression. It is an attempt to
> >keep ones face blank during >some transaction in order to gain an
> >advantage. Of course, the blank fac >e >also conveys information because
> >everybody knows what the user is using it >for. But think of it.
> The lack
> >of expression is being used as a tool to both hide information and to
> >convey it at the same time.
> This is not true either. It's all about changes that reveal information.
> Tell me Grant how on earth can you extract information from somebody who
> maintains a poker face throughout the *entire* game? You can't, this is
> precisely where the use of poker-faces lie. It's fullproof if
> maintained and this is precisely what these guys do...
> Again, I beg to differ. The information you get from a poker face is not
> about the cards being held. It's about the player. It says what kind of
> player he is and how serious he is about the game. You don't mess with a
> guy who wears a poker face. He uses it to intimidate the other
> players as
> well as to hide his intentions. It's a badge he wears to show his skill
> level. It takes practice to perfect and helps separate the
> wolves from the
> >My degree was in Linguistics. In my studies I came to the
> conclusion that
> > >we learn the linguistic tools we use to communicate one at a time,
> >starting >with ma and ba in our earliest attempts to influence
> the behavior
> >of our >parents. The child makes a great number of random sounds in the
> >first year >or childhood and discovers that some of them elicit
> a reaction.
> >Over time, >those that are rewarded by parental or other attention are
> >retained and >enlarged upon, while those that get no response
> are dropped.
> >This is the >first instance of the evolution of language in a
> child. Useful
> >sounds are >kept in the vocabulary and the useless ones discarded.
> >This is the key to my concept. It is not the memes that are
> selfish it is
> > >the person, the brain, the individual who is using them. We choose the
> > >tools/memes from the store that is available to us based on
> how well they
> >do >the job we are trying to accomplish with them. The older we
> grow, the
> >more >we have available. We see someone use a tool to get
> something and we
> >try to >use it. If it doesn't work as we expected, we listen
> again and try
> >again until we can use it, or we discard it.
> There is a limit to the number of sounds we can handle in daily
> conversation, for example, so we settle on those that are most
> useful to us
> and drop the rest. Of course it is *we* who are selfish, but this is a
> hardly earth-scattering conclusion.
> When I said discard, I meant we put them in long-term memory
> rather than in
> memory where we have ready access to them. A picture or a word
> will bring
> it back and remind us that it's there. The fact that it is we who are
> selfish may not be news but you'd never know it from some of the
> writing and
> speaking one reads and hears on the subject.
> Thanks for your comments. I really enjoyed this give and take.
> It gave me
> a lot to think about and caused me to make some adjustments in my outlook.
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> This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
> Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
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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)
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