Experience and Memes

Mark Mills (mmmills@OnRamp.NET)
Tue, 15 Jul 97 00:42:29 -0000

Message-Id: <199707150540.AAA24266@mailhost.onramp.net>
Subject: Experience and Memes
Date: Tue, 15 Jul 97 00:42:29 -0000
From: Mark Mills <mmmills@OnRamp.NET>
To: memetics list <memetics@mmu.ac.uk>

Arel brings up the point that every =8Cexperience=B9 is not a meme. =
I think this an excellent point, one worth a lot more consideration. =
I think it helps distinguish what memes do.

Memes (the physical variety, of course) are involved in activity. =
Recording experiences is important, but only part of the process. =
Memes kick off actions. Muscles move when a meme is invoked. Things =
are created.

We often know little about how our bodies 'act.' Actions just =
happen, sometimes reactively, sometimes upon conscious decisions. =
This makes the activity aspect of memes a bit difficult to follow.

I think it useful to compare our memetic codes to cybernetics. In =
computer memory, we can store 'data' and 'instructions.' To run a =
computer, we invoke the 'program,' a set of instruction codes, first. =
Once invoked, we introduce 'data' for the computer to process. =
Sometimes, we forget the 'program' and concentrate entirely on the =
'data.' In the same way, we are good at perceiving 'data,' but only =
have a foggy view of our brain's 'instruction code.'

Consider mastering the piano. Reading a manual on playing the piano =
does little good. Instead, the player must practice daily for years =
to master the skill. Once mastered, the skill decays without =
continuing practice. Without continually experiencing the act of =
playing the piano, mastery fades away.

I propose we call this a 'piano playing' meme-complex. The broad =
range of practice experience is woven into the meme-complex. One can =
see this as a collection of cause and effect connections that tune =
the body for precise action. Teaching is a matter of proposing a =
discipline of practice.

Off the top of my head, I see three broad sets of memes here. Finger =
movements for striking piano keys represent one set of memes. A =
second set of memes control eye movements for translating musical =
notation into finger movement requests. A third involves listening to =
the results of finger motion and evaluating the product. By =
practicing constantly, the meme complex reaches a state of mastery.

Where do these memes come from?

I think it is obvious. We are born with them. They are genetically =
placed in our brains. A baby knows how act at birth. They can nurse, =
stretch, cry and a host of other instinctive actions. While still in =
the womb, they kick and suck their thumbs.

Human memes have evolved a great deal over the last 2 million years. =
I do not mean their phenotypical express: culture, but the foundation =
code itself. We may have a lot more memes than earlier primates. We =
may have more dynamic and flexible ones.

I think instincts are reactive memes. Mammals have an expanded =
ability to develop non-reactive memes, but they are probably based on =
initially reactive foundations.

The =8Cfinger movement=B9 meme was placed in the brain genetically, =
but required =8Cawakening=B9 and =8Cparticularizing=B9 via cultural =
education and a host of experiences. The problems of some autistic =
children support the developmental model of inherited conceptual =
building blocks. For example, some of these children have no in-born =
'wiring' for the notion =8CNO.=B9

There is no way to transfer a meme from one individual to another. =
We simply do the best we can with the memes we are granted at birth. =
We can guide the development of a meme, but it is very difficult to =
develop a skill when the basic foundation is not there.


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