Re: Replicators (and the use of code)

Dave Pape (
Tue, 10 Jun 1997 23:04:42 +0100 (BST)

Date: Tue, 10 Jun 1997 23:04:42 +0100 (BST)
Message-Id: <>
From: Dave Pape <>
Subject: Re: Replicators (and the use of code)

At 11:29 10/06/97 MET, Hans-Cees Speel wrote:
>> I could live with that, but the problem is that using replicator itself
>> is confusing. As I tried to explain before then you speak of an active
>> agent. In that sense a photocopier is a replicator, still genes and
>> memes are not, although also the word replicator is used for them. An
>> enzyme and a photocopier are replicators, cells are self replicators,
>> genes and memes are information which is replicated.
>> The confusion is not because I think that we should keep the use of
>> replicator for cells only, the confusion has been caused by Dawkins from
>> the start, and it still exists after we call a cell a self replicator
>> (Moreover I dislike the use of 'self' and 'auto-').
>I coined the term replication mechanism in my first essay. The copy
>machine is such a thing and so is the cell. You would then get the
>replicator (which is not an agent on its own) and the replication
>mechanism. Next to that you also have the transcription or
>translation or interpreter mechanism (which enables code to become
>action, thus enzymes in genetics)

Recently I went through a phase of thinking of all apparent self-replicators
as... sort of feedback-like emergents in self-referential systems. The
simplest example would be audio feedback (singing into a microphone too
close to a loudspeaker which the mic's connected to). In this example, you
hear the singer's voice, which starts ringing, and after a short while you
hear /apparently/ self-perpetuating tones, which come out of the speaker,
into the mic, and back round the loop. It's a self-referential system... the
feedback sound /seems to be/ a self-replicating thing (in that tone produces
more tone... although with "mutation" over time).

The /immediate/ self-ref. system resulting in the /apparent/
self-replication of DNA is... cell chemistry.

But... what's the justification for saying that /cells/ are
self-replicating? I was wondering whether they were themselves maybe
/apparent/ self-replicators, emergents of the self-referential system of the
Earth's organic chemistry. The reason we see self-replication rather than
wider self-reference, might be because the self-reference in those systems
is very intimate.

Sorry if this doesn't look like it relates to memetics... I think it does,
but want to float this question before digging myself any deeper into my
armchair memeticist's theories.


Dave Pape
I am ready.

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