Re: Modes of Transmission

Date: Wed Jan 16 2002 - 05:12:06 GMT

  • Next message: Joe Dees: "Re: Modes of transmission"

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    Subject: Re: Modes of Transmission
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    In a message dated 1/15/2002 10:30:17 PM Central Standard Time,Joe Dees
    <> writes:

    Hi Joe.

    It looks like you are listing media of communication, at least with regard to
    the transmission of ideas.

    Some very basic questions are:

    1. WHAT is the replicator or WHAT are the replicators

    2. HOW does the replicator (or replicators) replicate

    3. WHY do some replicators replicate more than others do.

    Questions 1 and 2 seem to be getting mixed together in recent threads, though
    I have not read everything.

    In answering question 1, there seem to be three very broad classes under

        A. Internal phenomena that might be called ideas and/or memories and/or
    internal behaviors,

        B. External behaviors, typically visible, audible, tangible, etc. with
    the unaided senses

        C. Artifacts.

    All of A, B, and C are identified by way of abstractions, as discussed in
    this excerpt from my paper Units, Events, and Dynamics in the Evolutionary
    Epidemiology of ideas (

    " Many of the conceptual and analytical tools used to consider thought
    contagions also pertain to the various other kinds of cultural replicators,
    though often with modification. Still, the similarities allow for scientists
    to study a range of different kinds of cultural replicators. As with memory
    items, one still needs abstractions to consider two behaviors or two
    artifacts "the same." That means that one still needs to use abstractions to
    view behaviors or artifacts as replicators. For example, it takes an
    abstraction to say that two people both performed "the same" behavior of
    tying a shoe. One does not mean that hands followed the exact same
    trajectories over time, since no two people's hands are exactly identical.
    Some hands have fewer than five digits, others have extra digits, while still
    others have arthritic joints. Even for a single individual, the trajectories
    followed in tying a shoe can vary dramatically, while the physiological state
    of the hands and body also change from moment to moment and year to year.
    What one calls "the behavior" of tying a shoe is recognized more for the
    outcome of a secure bow made by one person than the specific behavior leading
    to that result. People also learn different ways of tying a shoe:
    single-handedly or left-handedly, while others learn to tie bows that have
    slight topological differences such as a clockwise or counterclockwise twist.
    Compounding the diversity is the huge variety of shoes and shoe laces. A very
    young child needs a certain amount of experiential learning just to know that
    a shoe-tying behavior is happening. Cultural replication can only happen with
    respect to an abstraction, whether it involves internal memory items or
    external behaviors and artifacts or any combination of them.

    While a behavior such as tying a shoe is not itself a thought contagion, the
    knowledge of how to tie a shoe with a bow does spread as a thought contagion.
    The ease of untying a slip knot such as a bow would have given people
    incentive to learn the knowledge of how to tie a bow from other people seen
    doing it. As that knowledge spread in adults, parents had motives for
    inculcating the knowledge into their children: doing so saved them from
    having to dig terrible knots out of their children's shoelaces or from
    dealing with shoes falling off of their children or from always having to
    help the children with their shoes.

    When artifacts are viewed as replicators, most involve brains at some point
    in the causal pathway to forming new "copies." Bows tied in shoelaces do not
    replicate themselves, and they are usually not even used for clues about how
    to tie shoelaces. Instead, bows result from behaviors that result from stored
    knowledge, with the behaviors playing an essential role in communicating the
    knowledge from brain to brain. The bow as an artifact helps call attention to
    the fact that there is a useful bow-tying behavior and knowledge of how to
    tie a bow. The artifacts of bows, the behavior of tying bows, and the
    knowledge of how to tie a bow all depend upon each other for propagation.
    They all depend on the persistence of memory for preservation, as the bows
    and the behaviors of tying them usually remain dormant while people sleep
    with their shoes off and untied. " END QUOTE

    In regard to ideas as replicators, the general question 2 of how the
    replicators replicate includes both the media of communication and other
    behavioral specifics. Under media of communication, you do indeed have such
    things as showing, saying, writing, and picturing. With respect to idea
    transmission, artifacts and behaviors can be media of communication. Along
    with showing, saying, writing, and picturing, one might add signing (as in
    sign language), and even some exotic, futuristic methods involving
    micro-neurosurgery. If we could learn from osmosis, I would add that one too

    --Aaron Lynch

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    Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
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