Where Instinct Leaves off And Memetics Begins.

Ken McE (KenMce@catskill.net)
Thu, 31 Jul 1997 13:24:21 -0500

Message-Id: <199707311719.RAA29374@catskill.net>
Date: Thu, 31 Jul 1997 13:24:21 -0500
From: Ken McE <KenMce@catskill.net>
To: memetics@mmu.ac.uk
Subject: Where Instinct Leaves off And Memetics Begins.

From: Mark Mills <mmmills@OnRamp.NET>=20
(writing an open letter to Alex Brown)
Date: Wed, 30 Jul 97 22:07:21 -0000
Subject: Re: meme generation & evolution

You've again raised the source of meaning question. You seem to believe=20
that every experience has a very small amount of inherent meaning ('a=20
single word...means very little thought it does have integral=20
meaning...'). Where does this meaning come from? If words had inherent=20
meaning, wouldn't all languages be about the same?

I suspect low pitch, low volume, rhythmic sound (baby crying) produces
innate reaction in many humans, but wouldn't this be a matter of
brain response? =20

I sense a desire to define 'meaning' without addressing the issue of=20
inherited brain responses. Rather than say 'meaning' emerges from an=20
inherited aspect of our body, you seem more comfortable placing the=20
source of 'meaning' in the collections of sound or light patterns. Have=20
you avoided inheritance? Where do inherited behavior patterns fit into=20
your system?

Ken McE comments:

I would like to suggest the much of what is considered meaningful comes
from the older parts of the human brain. Much of this would directly
relate to the continued survival and comfort of the bearer of that
particular brain.
I would agree that most natural experiences come with some sort of
meaning attached, although personal history and culture can fiddle
around a bit with the details. Stand near fire at night =3D good, stand
in fire at night =3D bad is pretty well ingrained
Specific words usually do not usually have inherent meanings, but the
ability to find meaning in sounds or gestures is inherent in our kind.=20
The English word =93Mama=94 has close cousins in a fair amount of the wor=
languages, and they all have about the same meaning. Laughing, crying,
and screaming also tend to have the same meaning in all cultures. These
would be examples of sounds with inherent meanings.
I would suggest that the elaborate towers of meaning that we humans so
love to build are all based on foundations of things that we
instinctively value. Someone whose tower of thought shares little or
nothing with the other existing towers would tend to be considered
insane. I believe that =93internally consistent delusion=94 might be th=
phrase evoked. There could be all kinds of fascinating memes floating
around in such a place, but being adapted to a specialized enviroment,
they would go extinct when that enviroment passed on.=20
It is on top of sturdy foundations of instinctual value that memes
thrive and play. They can sharpen, improve, and refine our instinctive
behavors. To use an analogy that I like, I am writing on my trusty old
Macintosh LC III computer. It was designed to run system seven, and all
of its hardware is wired up so as to encourage this. To change any of
this elaborate hardware is very difficult. =20
What happens if you want to improve your performance? The machine gets
a =93patch=94, a piece of software called a =93Hardware System Update=94.=
allows its instincts to run along as they always have, but refines the
results. In humans we would call this =93System Hardware Update=94 a mem=

Cordially, Ken McE

The only problem is that after you're done there's no way to unteach a
dog how to use a hammock.

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Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
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