Re: Modes of Transmission

From: Philip Jonkers (
Date: Fri Jan 18 2002 - 07:16:49 GMT

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    Date: Fri, 18 Jan 2002 02:16:49 -0500
    From: "Philip Jonkers" <>
    Subject: Re: Modes of Transmission
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    >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
    >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,

    I guess this class includes, what is referred to as
    `meaning', on the list.

    > 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

    It looks like you're in the memes-are-everywhere
    camp too. Cool... I expected no different though.

    >" 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

    Nice and clear quote, I like it...

    >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

    What is the difference between showing and picturing?
    I can't picture that... Well, we can already
    learn from osmosis since a branch of biology
    probably is dedicated to just doing that. Do you mean
    to learn mediated by osmosis in a cheating and
    lazy kind of way in which you acquire
    knowledge without investing the good old blood, sweat
    & tears?
    Sorry Aaron for being
    such a hair splitter, I guess it comes with the
    territory (computational science).



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