Re: Experience and Memes

Mark Mills (mmmills@OnRamp.NET)
Wed, 16 Jul 97 17:18:39 -0000

Message-Id: <>
Subject: Re: Experience and Memes
Date: Wed, 16 Jul 97 17:18:39 -0000
From: Mark Mills <mmmills@OnRamp.NET>
To: memetics list <>

Arel wrote,

>I think we must be careful to distinguish the replicators which are
>encoded and "travel" from brain to brain, sometimes via paper or other
>vectors, from the brain mechanisms which receive memes and give them
>access to behavioral causation.


>The analogy here is chemicals to
>chemical receptor sites (dopamine to dopamine receptor sites, etc.).

By this, I assume you mean distinguishing meme from meme-receptor.

I'm not sure it is necessary to have a 'meme-receptor.' If we are born
with our memes in place waiting to be developed, there is no need for
memes to travel about and be 'received' by anything.

>This does leave the question, however, of where exactly instinctive
>behaviors fit in the brain-meme complex. Of course these behaviors do
>not travel, belonging in the genetic rather than the memetic system; but
>at some point these systems use the same behavioral pathways.

This is only a problem if one is fixed upon having memes bounce around
from person to person whenever communication takes place. If one
originally defines memes to be simply another coded substrate, there is
no problem. Memes don't have to move anywhere.

I think we both agree that memes must be tied to genetics in some way.
One could say that instincts ware entirely separate evolutionary
developments from memes, but it seems much easier to say that instincts
are the original expression of memes.

I'm not disagreeing with your logic, only your definition. If you start
by defining the construct 'meme' as something that moves from person to
person like sperm, your question about instincts come up. If you start
by defining the construct 'meme' to be 'like genes but coded on an
alternative substrate,' instincts fit in very nicely. Genetic
replication by mitosis does not involve 'gene' receptors. The process
involves an open DNA helix emerging from the closed double helix. As the
'open helix' becomes exposed to the random DNA bases floating about in
the nucleus, the empty locations begin to fill in.

Again, the key is how one originally defines the construct 'meme.'

memes' planted in the brain during infant development. Many animals have
only instincts. Some animals have a small percentage of 'read-and-write
memes.' Humans are animals with a much higher percentage of
'read-and-write memes' than most animals. For example, researchers
teaching apes to communicate via sign language have found gorillas
possess the memetic ability to understand names and define 'ownership,'
they simply differ with humans by degree.

My own interest in memes comes from work on the emergence of modern human
culture from pre-conscious mentality and an even earlier ape-like
mentality. Thus working instincts and a limited memetic agility into the
schema is very important.


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