Replicators (and the use of code)

Hans-Cees Speel (
Tue, 10 Jun 1997 11:00:13 MET

From: Hans-Cees Speel <>
Date: Tue, 10 Jun 1997 11:00:13 MET
Subject: Replicators (and the use of code)

: memes and genes
> are not replicators. The only replicator on Earth today is the cell: the
> cell is a system which can reassemble something similar. Genes cannot do
> that, neither memes. Genes and memes are replicated.

I know that genes nor memes self-replicate, but I would not like to
say they are not replicaters. Not because you state the facts wrong,
you obviously are right, but because the term is accepted for some
time. It will confuse people to change it.
I guess you could use self-replicaters, and replicaters to make the
distinction you want.

What I do like is your arguments on why code is so important. This is
a very valid and important theme in any evolutionary theory
involving code: WHY IS CODE NEEDED, or stated differently: WHY IS

> The striking similarities between genetic biology and human culture
> which Dawkins pointed to - while recognizing very correctly that the
> latter could not be explained by genetics - stem from the fact that both
> use encoded information. This is the basic similarity, too often
> overlooked. An essential feature of encoded information is that it is
> process free (it exists also when no processes are going on)

Great, you find a way to put it in simple words: this is what Howard
Pattee means with rate independent matter. But I do wonder why you
stated before that my distinction between code and matter is of
little use, or did I understand you wrongly?

and thus
> can be combined, duplicated, mixed, stored, changed, exchanged
> horizontally (horizontal gene spread occurs in biology as well of
> course, pace to what many people claim: we usually look at the wrong
> kind of genetics, we should look at the genetics of mobile elements,
> like plasmids (and viruses)).
> You can't combine ongoing processes, but the encoded information for
> different processes can be combined, recreating very different
> processes, which gives us the impression of 'creation' (a creative mind
> is actually nothing but a mind which is good in recombining encoded
> information). Think of engineering and of genetic engineering and - of
> course - of genetic evolution which has been able to combine very
> different processes, because they were available in an encoded manner.

brilliant! I think this is the explanation why code is needed: there
is a limit to what a cell, or brain in memetics, can do in processing
at the same time. Too many processes will interfere with each other.
Thus there needs to be some separation in time between different


> > At one point, you suggest using the terms 'structure' (centroles, membrane,
> > etc), 'processors' (enzymes) and 'code' (DNA, RNA). At the conclusion, you
> > choose 'code,' 'processors' and 'processed information.' Does this mean
> > 'structure' and 'processed information' are related in your scheme? What
> > about 'input'?
> Well, I have to elaborate this (together with many others I hope!). One
> could speak of processors, encoded information for processes or
> processors and the material artefacts which are the result of the
> interactions between processors or between processors and code (whereby
> the physically encoded information, under the form of genes, can be
> considered as an artefact as well).

where does bahavior of structures like a body fit in here? Can you
use this to describe human behavior?

> >
> > I like this general direction. It provides a way to leverage the known
> > biological and computer 'system' theories. Also, it can potentially handle
> > the troubling problem of timing and scale. What is 'processed information'
> > at one time and scale turns out to be code at another time and scale.
> The problem to explain all of this is not that we need a paradigm shift,
> but that we need about a dozen at a time. I'll try to work this out
> better in a manuscript I am preparing for the journal. Dawkins shifted
> our attention from the individual to the gene. This gene centered
> worldview offers many possibilities, but causes many flaws as well. Many
> more possibilities and insights arise when we push back the border
> further towards an information centered world view. Considering life as
> a sinlge giant process and getting rid of the gene replicator, meme
> replicator paradigm could already help a lot.

I do not understand this I am afraid. Maybe I should wait for your



Theories come and go, the frog stays [F. Jacob]
Hans-Cees Speel
Managing Editor "Journal of Memetics Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission"

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