Re: meme generation and evolution(2)

Ton Maas (
Wed, 6 Aug 1997 07:40:29 +0200

Message-Id: <v03102803b00d4b4df083@[]>
In-Reply-To: <c=SG%a=_%p=TP%l=STAFF-EXCHA-970805073430Z-209411@staff-exchange.TP.AC.SG>
Date: Wed, 6 Aug 1997 07:40:29 +0200
From: Ton Maas <>
Subject: Re: meme generation and evolution(2)

Some further comments...

>AB: Yes, as in a lot of other things, I would go along with Gregory

>Bateson's views on behaviour as communication. Yet from my point of

>one can reverse this so that if necessary one can say that

>is behaviour. It all depends from what perspective one wishes to look

>the system. Bateson himself, for instance in 'Steps to an Ecology of

>Mind' looks at the human society from several equally valid (and I

>isomorphic) points of view: communication, behaviour, learning,

>types, pathologies, kinship, etc. If cultural evolution or memetics

>anything - it is interdisciplinary.

Very much so!

>similarity) between things. As Tony Maas says, the memory storage

>is 'everywhere'. How else would we define the presence or identity of

>cultural paradigm other than through patterns and regularities form

>behaviour throughout a large number of particular examples. (If

>got a reference for McCulloch on this, I would appreciate it).

One place would be his paper "Why The Mind is in the Head", where he
describes reverberating circuits and memory, but the story I had in
mind was actually related by Bateson during a seminar. According to him
Warren had invited a small group of specialists to his home, to discuss
information retrieval. McCulloch's mother (whom he lived with) at one
point got up and left the room, and McCulloch - who could read her
subtle signs - followed her to the kitchen to find out what was
bothering her. "Those young men," she said, "they don't understand
anything! They think that if you store something in a particular place,
you can simply go back and fetch it later. But that's not how it works.
I know, because I keep forgetting things. So I have one pair of glasses
in the living room and another pair in the kitchen. What you do is you
keep a little bit of everything evrywhere."

<paraindent><param>right,left</param>Speaking of this, did you know
that one of Varela's most recent books (about the history of
cybernetics) is entitled "Why The Mind is Not in the Head", thereby
referring to more recent insights.

</paraindent>>Reduction? I don't think so. Logically, what is it that
is being

>reduced? Nothing is being reduced. Certainly not experience itself,

>which is non-compressible. As I said in the previous post: one cannot

>transport or transmit experience itself only the report about it, and

>inevitably that report will be a compressed version, a diagram or a

>formal model (a la scientific theory) of the experience itself - its

>most essential features. It is a thing in itself whose relations are

>isomorphic with those of the experiences themselves (can be mapped

>for one). That is, the map is not the territory.


>AB: Condensations are only impoverishing if they are used out of

>context. More specifically, if there is a refusal or inability to

>de-condense/de-compress the message/report into a particular context.

>this case we have schizoid or pathological behaviour where

>stereotypes are applied to complex circumstances and 'only the key

>remain'. This can happen in the evolution of a cultural system or in

>some cases of individual development: the staccatto or telegraphic

>of communication. Cultural Evolution theory and Memetics has to be

>to deal with the evolution of forms/meme sets in variable

>which can lead to pathological results. To suggest that this is

>the result of 'bad memes' flying around is, in my view, Medieval.

I was hinting at a problem which concerned both Bateson and Korzybski,
namely bad intellectual habits or a poor and insufficient epistemology.
If you don't go about theorizing about the world in correct ways, you
end up with monstrously reductionist models of reality. Compare the bag
of tricks approach to health problems which is the stock&trade of
regular medicine and Cannon's notion of the wisdom of the body. There
are *sensible* ways in which to discuss the difference between good art
and bad art, between good poetry and bad poetry and between good
science and bad science.

>AB: This is a complicated issue in the usual sense that we get

>gradations of learning ability throughout the animal kingdom and, as

>say, primates and dolphins are getting pretty close to what we would

>regard as the first complex communication. Yet their communication

>an extremely limited degree of semiotic freedom and I would imagine

>unable to discuss the context of the messages they transmit. That is

>under which the conditions would chnage the meaning of the message.

>Apart from tenses. Can they really negate? As I understood it.

>cannot say "no", they can only refuse. Reference to past and future?

>didn't think so but I really don't know.

Metoo thinks it is highly improbable. The world would be a different
place if more species could pull off that trick :-)

Regards to all,


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