Re: Memes, territory and odors

Mark Mills (mmmills@OnRamp.NET)
Sat, 21 Jun 1997 21:27:48 +0000

Date: Sat, 21 Jun 1997 21:27:48 +0000
From: Mark Mills <mmmills@OnRamp.NET>
Subject: Re: Memes, territory and odors

Dr. Robin Wood,

Thanks for your comments. While thinking about them, I kept coming back
to the issues of epistemology and ontology. It seems to me that at a
minimum, we have different ontologies. We seem to be using the same
words, but place different meanings on them and set them in different
frameworks. I've talked about evolutionary epistemology (everything
changes), systems, the rhythmic aspect of life and reproduction, etc.
Despite this, since I mention a physical model for memes, you have
reduced me to a sort of 'static' mentality.

I'm left inspired to look more closely into how one talks from one
epistemology into a listener's alternative epistemology. If we are
using the same syntax and vocabulary, but positing the words with
different meanings, how do we communicate? How do I share ideas?

Obviously, ideas do not replicate from head to head as if by some mind
reading trick!

The following is something of response to your specific points:

>This reminds me of Pirsig's distinction in "Zen and the
>Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" and "Lila", between dynamic quality and
>static quality. (To me, the difference between
>wholes/properties/processes (dynamic quality) and
>things/parts/mechanisms (static quality)).

Please put me on the 'dynamic' side. While I talk about 'things,' you
should note that I've posted a 'system' proposal for territorial
behavior and evolutionary adaptation. Please look at the system side of
my proposal! I would like to think I got something useful out of
reading Pirsig 20 years ago.

>Genetic systems are very different from memetic systems in a
>number of ways:

>Genes (as parts of cell systems) replicate through sexual

??? There are a lot of asexual reproduction involving genes.

>Memomes such as Amish or Baptist belief systems are much more
>like organs and organ systems- they are complete and self-sealing

This seems analogous to the ways the vertebrate species can only
reproduce with their own species.

>Genes need to be carried by the whole genome to become
>part of the next generation, whereas memes can infiltrate in
>discrete "packets" or chunks.

DNA can infiltrate as discrete packets known (the virus concept).

>Lamarckism does not work in genetic propagation, but appears
>to be possible in memetic systems.

I suspect this is a matter of how one defines the term 'meme' or

>The social and cognitive processes which lead to the spreading
>of memes through carriers and agents ..., are much more
>complex than the process by which genes and cells replicate.

I don't think you are speaking as a cellular biologist. I don't know
how you characterize complexity at the genetic and memetic levels, but I
suspect microbiologists would vote for near infinite complexity at the
genetic level.

>We can change the way people think, but it is jolly difficult
>to change our genes.

This depends on how one defines the term 'meme.' One might be capable
inserting some engineered cells into my body and still expect me to
survive. I might not survive a brainwashing attempt. I'm very
attached to my name and birthday.

Mark Mills

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