Re: What's in a Meme?

Bill Benzon (
Mon, 16 Jun 1997 06:48:49 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Mon, 16 Jun 1997 06:48:49 -0500
From: (Bill Benzon)
Subject: Re: What's in a Meme?

John Wilkins says:

>differentiated. [Species also reticulate - join - as well as differentiate,
>which raises lots of fun problems.]
Cultural species do this all the time. For example, creolization in
language is reticulation (& it wreaks havoc of language taxonomy). The
standard story of jazz -- African rhythm plus European harmony -- is a
story about reticulation.

>A memetic individual is the smallest collection of significant cultural
>structures that can interact in a restricted sociocultural domain. As an
>example, take 'scientist', or better, 'molecular biologist'. One becomes a
>molecular biologist through a process of education and hands-on training.
>The likelihood is that this in no way causes hereditable biological
>changes. One can simultaneously be also an accomplished violinist, which is
>another memetic individual - *in the same organism*.
Actually, I do get this point. I just wanted to ride my particular
hobby-horse a bit.

Now, what if Marvin Minsky actually succeeded in downloading his mind into
a computer. Is that download a memetic individual or just the embodiement
on the memetic individual in a different physical envelope?

>Value for the survival of what? WRT biological evolution, culture may be
>mostly spandrellic. WRT cultural evolution, a lot of biology is also


>There's also a nice question of in what way two entirely ontologically
>distinct selective regimes like biology and culture can interact. In my
>view, they need to share some major portion of their interactive
>hierarchies, but it gets messy quickly.


William L. Benzon 201.217.1010
708 Jersey Ave. Apt. 2A
Jersey City, NJ 07302 USA

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