Meme pools?

Dr I Price (
Fri, 20 Jun 1997 06:28:06 -0400

Date: Fri, 20 Jun 1997 06:28:06 -0400
From: Dr I Price <>
Subject: Meme pools?
To: "" <>


Trying to build on your excellent message - heavily snipped for brevity

> what we need and, in
biology what we actually have is a theory which explains the emergence
of more and more complex levels of biological organization with their
own level of ecological constraints. We also have a theory of evolution
that explains how natural selection filters out various species over
time, sorting them so to speak in terms of their viability in particular
environments and a genetic theory which explains how genetic information
is transmitted through various lineages. All this is excellent. The
theories all provide mechanisms by which evolution at species or genetic
levels take place. Mechanisms, mechanisms. How useful they are in
explaining evolutionary and dynamic processes. Unfortunately they seem
to be in rather short supply in the memetics area. >

I would say we have a theory [see Price 1995 at URL below for earlier
references] - In brief
Memes [aka paradigms mental models etc etc - collective mindsets] underpi=
collective sets of 'unwritten rules' - accepted ways of behaving and
thinking. Any organisation is a system of such rules. It thus serves as =
vehicle for a memes replication, and a vehicle engaged in a selective
competition for resources of matter/energy. There is a wealth of scholast=
research, especially, but not exclusively, from economists on selection
between rule based systems. Add memes and it makes, IMO, more sense. Much=

of the tranmission is embodied in the 'rites of passage' through which
people become members of different forms of organisation. =

> one sometimes senses the
presence (or need) for some form of 'spontaneous emergence' or other
a-historical phenomena to magically bring coherence to this infinity of

The literature on spontaneous emergence, especially from the Santa Fe
Institute is important here. One cannot IMO understand replicator driven
systems without Complexity - or vice versa. Again see my papers for
references. Hierarchy and spontaneous order at many scales are fundamenta=
properties of complex adaptive systems. Your music example, snipped for
brevity is a good one.


>Three general points about all this. One: in order to get coherent
theory of cultural evolution (or anything else for that matter) we have
to note the regularities of the field and partition it off accordingly
into classes, levels and other distinguishable groupings. In other words
we have to produce some kind of taxonomic order otherwise we have an
unifferentiated mass of data which is unintelligble.

Two: We have to provide explanatory mechanisms for the emergence of
different organizational levels (ecological explanation) within the same
domain recogizing the hierarchy and (equally) embedding of groups within

Three: We have to provide explanatory mechanisms for the historical
changes that take place between time A and time B. That is, why do
things look different, etc.>

I agree. The Taxonomic order in the meme pool is vitally needed. My =

suggestion is that the highest level of distinction is between belief mem=
[religions, science, capitalism, etc etc etc.], language memes [largely
expressed as nations, tribes etc.] and artefact memes. Music memes may be=
fourth group. I haven't thought about it.

The order is not clear cut. There is probably more cross-pollenation and
co-evolution in the memetic domain than the genetic though John Wilkins h=
shown us data that point to more genetic cross pellenation than I was
previously aware of.

The explanatory mechanisms are, I think, emerging from the science of

The mechanism for historical change is called selection is it not?

>Meme pool? Perhaps a more useful designation might be the structure of
cultural systems.>


If Price
Active Personal Learning, Guildford UK


Alex Brown

(Note: telpathy and alien intervention are excluded as explanations)<

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