Received: by alpheratz.cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk id VAA10107 (8.6.9/5.3[ref firstname.lastname@example.org] for cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk from email@example.com); Sat, 2 Feb 2002 21:11:09 GMT Date: Sat, 2 Feb 2002 13:05:21 -0800 Message-Id: <200202022105.g12L5LT22863@mail16.bigmailbox.com> Content-Type: text/plain Content-Disposition: inline Content-Transfer-Encoding: binary X-Mailer: MIME-tools 4.104 (Entity 4.116) X-Originating-Ip: [126.96.36.199] From: "Joe Dees" <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: RE: Words and memes Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org Precedence: bulk Reply-To: email@example.com('binary' encoding is not supported, stored as-is)
> "Grant Callaghan" <firstname.lastname@example.org> email@example.com RE: Words and memesDate: Sat, 02 Feb 2002 07:54:20 -0800
>> >Joe Dees,
>> >> >> >> >"There is bacon in the fridge" is not a meme. It's simple
>> >> >> >> >information. The meme would be "bacon is evil" or "bacon is
>> >> >> >> >fattening" or "bacon is good." That sort of thing.
>> >> >> >> >
>> >> >> >> That bacon would be evil to two of the people for different
>> >> >> >reasons, and good to a third, because of their differing cognitive
>> >> >> >contexts [...] qualifies it as a meme (same for fridge).
>> >> >> >>>>
>> >> >> >
>> >> >> >Memes promote the autonomy of culture over our conscious minds.
>> >> >> >When we make simple observations of the world around us, we're
>> >> >> >functioning intentionally, using words entirely for our conscious
>> >> >> >purposes. That culture uses us doesn't mean we don't use it too.
>> >> >> >This is the flipside of the basic argument of memetics, that our
>> >> >> >intentional use of culture doesn't mean it's not turning around and
>> >> >> >working us as well.
>> >> >> >
>> >> >> That relates to my contention not one whit.
>> >> >
>> >> >When we say, "There's bacon in the fridge," we're using words. When
>> >> >we say, "Bacon is evil," the words are using us. Only then are they
>> >> >memetic. Words are not identical to memes (any more than to ink on
>> >> >paper.)
>> >> >
>> >> If I say to someone else that the bacon's in the fridge, and they tell
>>a third person, then meaningful information has been replicated, a
>>necessary and sufficient condition for memetic propagation to be said to
>>have taken place. It would also result in the modification of behavior;
>>the third person would look for the bacon in the fridge rather than in the
>> >To be replicated is necessary but insufficient to qualify as memetic.
>>Memes are not passively replicated but actively self-replicate. The mere
>>repetition of words doesn't mean memetic propagation is occurring. Memes
>>exploit our conscious interaction in order to replicate themselves from one
>>mind to another. In order for this to occur, the words must involve some
>>kind of interpretation ("bacon is evil") and not a mere statement of fact
>>("bacon is in the fridge"). If it's merely factual, the repetition of the
>>statement can be accounted for according to normal, intentional use of
>>The memetic hook used is among our most primordial; hunger can even trump
>>sex as a hook, and is only itself trumped by safety, and not even then if
>>one is hungry enough. How can it be maintained that single words, which
>>must be learned and taught to be used, are memetic in nature, yet
>>sentence-configurations composed of them is not, is exceedingly strange.
>It seems to me that if you tell someone "The bacon is in the fridge," you
>have used a meme to transfer information. But if you come home and say, "I
>brought home the bacon," to mean "I completed my assignment," and no one has
>used that combination of words to make that assertion before, then you have
>created a new meme.
True enough, but both are communicating information; the first about the specific location of food, the second a metaphor communicating the completion of a mutually-undertood task (such as breadwinning, itself a metaphor).
> And if the person you said it to starts using the same
>combination of words to mean the same thing, you have transmitted that meme,
>although your friend is just using a meme rather than creating one.
>In my scheme, all the words you use are memes that have been created by
>someone at some time for some purpose. New combinations are new memes the
>minute they are transmitted. The new memes die out if the receiver does
>not, in turn, pass them on. A good ad man invents new memes every day.
>Budweiser's ad agancy took a common phrase, "What's up?" and a catchy way of
>saying it, invented, probably, by some friend or acquaintance, and put it in
>a Superbowl commercial. From here, "Wazzaaaa!" was spread to millions of
>The person who first used it to amuse and influence his friends was an
>inventor. He was just like the first man to realize he could chip the edge
>of a rock to make it sharp instead of having to go in search of one. The
>people who picked up the practice were meme users. People who improved on
>the theme were also inventers and if enough of the tribe or tribes started
>using the technique, the meme became part of their culture. What we call
>culture is just the accumulation of these inventions by ordinary people and
>not so ordinary people using and passing on ideas and techniques in the
>course of their daily lives.
>That some ideas are more useful or appealing to the people who pick them up
>does not mean the ideas are using us. Ideas don't use anyone. People use
>ideas. Other people borrow them for a number of reasons, but the ideas do
>not impose themselves on anyone. A chipped rock has no will of its own. A
>sound can impress the people who hear it, but it does not do so knowingly.
>Only the people who hear it can place a value on it and use it again for
>their own purposes.
>Giving memes anthropomorphic qualities does not advance the science of
>memetics (if it ever becomes one). Even though, over time, the hand and arm
>that holds the hammer is reshaped by it, it was not the will or desire of
>the hammer that caused that change. It was the will and desire of the
>carpenter who wanted to use it that much.
I have little to add to or disagree with the balance of your post, except to assert that memes and humans coevolutionarily 'use' each other; the first blindly and naturalistically, the second intentionally and culturally.
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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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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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