Re: Genetics/Memetics analogy

Mark Mills (mmmills@OnRamp.NET)
Tue, 15 Jul 97 00:42:05 -0000

Message-Id: <>
Subject: Re: Genetics/Memetics analogy
Date: Tue, 15 Jul 97 00:42:05 -0000
From: Mark Mills <mmmills@OnRamp.NET>
To: memetics list <>

Revised genetics - memetics analogy

I've enhanced the proposed physical model for memetics based on =
comments made over the last week.

Memes are analogous to genes. Genes are part of replicating physical =
bio-systems with behavioral aspects. The behavior within the nucleus =
is still fairly undefined, but we can rely on the physical evidence =
for a greater appreciation of how the system works. In the same way, =
I've sought to define memes as part of a replicating physical =
cultural-system with behavioral aspects.

The physical evidence isn't required for the system to replicate and =
survive, it simply makes it easier to study.

The beauty of the genetic model is the use of physical evidence for =
all phases of cell life. There are certainly a lot of other things =
going on, especially the behavioral activity of chromosomes, RNA, =
plasmids, mitocondria and a host of others, but the physical aspects =
provide coherence to research.

The same is true for memetics. The physical vocabulary is useful in =
terms of providing a framework for concrete discussion, it isn=B9t an =
attempt to =8Climit=B9 the focus. By sticking to a physical model, =
we have a foundation for coherent dialog. Important issues relating =
to the nature of 'mind' are not defined away. This model of memes =
simply clarifies the physical activities upon which 'mind' is based.

Bill puts memes in artifacts. I was a bit ambivalent about this =
until working on the physical model for memes. I noticed that every =
analogous system had a processor. The only code creating =
non-biological processor that came to mind was a computer, and =
cybernetics has its own vocabulary. Thus, I put the coded environment =
into the cybernetics world, not memetics. Cybernetics seems to be =
built upon memetics, but I think it useful to keep the two distinct.


Recording substrate:
Genetics (mitosis): Invariant sequence of phospate and deoxyribose
Genetics (sexual): Invariant sequence of phospate and deoxyribose
Memetics: Synapse connections
Cybernetics: Magnetic media, plastic

Genetics (mitosis): Sequences of neucleic acids
Genetics (sexual): Chunked resequencing of adult individual=B9s DNA =
(1/2 set per allele)
Memetics: Patterns of proteins lodged in synapse connections.
Cybernetics: Magnetized spots (bits) on harddrive, holes in CD, etc.

Unit of code substrate:
Genetics (mitosis): Gene
Genetics (sexual): Gene
Memetics: Meme
Cybernetics: CPU dependent, 32 bit words are currently popular

Genetics (mitosis): Chromosome
Genetics (sexual): Chromosome
Memetics: Brain and nervous system
Cybernetics: Static memory (hard drive, tape drive, etc)

Normal product of code:
Genetics (mitosis): Proteins, single cells
Genetics (sexual): Proteins, multicellular organisms
Memetics: Reorganized chunks of matter (food, shelter, symbols, etc), =
families, tribes, etc.
Cybernetics: Reorganized chunks of matter (symbols, food, shelter, =
etc), programs, networks

Product allowing decoding of genome:
Genetics (mitosis): Proteins
Genetics (sexual): Proteins
Memetics: Spoken and written languages, artifacts, rituals, body =
Cybernetics: Voltage patterns read via printers, monitors and =

Replication timing trigger:
Genetics (mitosis): Balance of cellular materials
Genetics (sexual): Balance in hormone levels, sensual identification =
of mate
Memetics: Hormone levels, sensual identification of =8Cinitiate=B9 or =
symbol recording material
Cybernetics: Symbolic instructions potentially keyed by transducers =
of sensual information

Code delivery system during replication:
Genetics (mitosis): RNA and enzymes open DNA=B9s double helix
Genetics (sexual): Sperm, male sexual organs, behavioral instincts, =
brain-muscle reflexes, etc.
Memetics: Memetic memory, brain-muscle reflexes, etc.
Cybernetics: Transducers that convert electrical patterns into =
mechanical motion

Code reception system during replication:
Genetics (mitosis): RNA and enzymes deliver new DNA to open DNA helix
Genetics (sexual): Egg, female sexual organs, behavioral instincts, =
brain-muscle reflexes, etc.
Memetics: Sensual transducers that convert environmental activity =
into electro-chemical patterns
Cybernetics: Transducers that convert mechanical motion into magnetic =

longevity of transmitter:
Genetics (mitosis): Minutes
Genetics (sexual): Days
Memetics: Milliseconds
Cybernetics: Nanoseconds

Process control:
Genetics (mitosis): Controller proteins with set decay rate
Genetics (sexual): Hormones with set decay rate
Memetics: Modulated standing waves in brain
Cybernetics: CPU

Time required to copy code to new organizational unit:
Genetics (mitosis): Minutes
Genetics (sexual): From generation of alleles to fertilized egg may =
be several days
Memetics: Hours to years
Cybernetics: Seconds

Refresh rate of units:
Genetics (mitosis): Cells live for months
Genetics (sexual): Multicellular organisms live for years
Memetics: Families generally last less than the lifetime of the =
members, tribes/clans can last thousands of years
Cybernetics: Computer units fall out of use within years, networks =
may last thousands of years

Units of organization (phenotype):
Genetics (mitosis): Cells
Genetics (sexual): Multicellular organisms
Memetics: Cultural units (families, tribes, corporations, etc)
Cybernetics: CPU, memory and output devise packages (computer and =
monitor), networks

Physical evidence of genealogical connections within populations:
Genetics (mitosis): DNA fidelity (mitosis is a high fidelity =
Genetics (sexual): DNA similarity (shared patterns regardless of =
location on chromosome)
Memetics: Weak DNA linkage evident, written transcriptions of oral =
communication. (families existed before writing, but we only have =
DNA record (poor data)). Artifact record (fossils). Active rituals.
Cybernetics: similarity in static memory patterns

Evolutionary framework, proof of selection process:
Genetics (mitosis): Change in the gene pool, record of changing =
fossil phenotypes
Genetics (sexual): Change in the gene pool, record of changing fossil =
Memetics: Change in meme pool, record of changing artifact remains
Cybernetics: Change in 'program' pool?

This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)