Re: Replicators, was Non Homuncular Memetics

Aaron Lynch (
Mon, 06 Oct 1997 21:09:12 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Mon, 06 Oct 1997 21:09:12 -0500
From: Aaron Lynch <>
Subject: Re: Replicators, was Non Homuncular Memetics
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Aaron Lynch responding to Valla Pishva:

>> It is here that the basic dissimilarity with memes can be found:
>> memes are merely used for information exchange between different
>> processors. In opposition to genetic biology, these processors (I mean
>> us) are not encoded by the information contained in memes.
> Depending on the abstraction within which we hold memes and genes,
>this is not neccessarily true. We would never be using the term "meme" if
>memes didn't have a conceptual framework within which they operated (ie
>the cultural level of abstraction). Memes serve now to replicate this
>cultural ability for the replication of memes in our brains. This
>internal "memetic processor" is replicated (encoded) in every generation
>by memes themselves starting at an individual's birth. This processor is
>just as physical as we are for genes, which replicate through us. Memes
>can not use us for information exchange without creating a system within
>which to exchange that information.
> A rebutal may be "dont genes create that system?" No, genes
>create the system UPON WHICH that system is created. They are a
>necessary precondition for, but do not necessitate that system, just like
>there is a definable environment that genes as replicators need in order
>to be able to create their "processors." These environmental conditions
>(here you may want to refer to conditions such as "an oxygen environment"
>or "fundamental" physicals laws- i'm not too clear on what) can be seen
>as processors which genes do not replicate but rely on to pass on their
>"information" (just as memes rely on genes). It is clear, though, that
>they are relative to an abstraction so that changing the color of tulips
>wont violate the existence of genes, just like changing a few genes may
>not alter one's ability to support a memetic system (though it seems like
>autism does limit this, from what I read on earlier postings). As for the
>initial creation of such systems, they seems to be ("relatively") gradual,
>with very fuzzy boundaries (do chimps have memes?).
> One difference between these systems seems to be the amount of
>integration/interaction there is between individual units within them (on
>a relative time scale, of course); genes are the least-interactive with
>one another, memes are pretty damn interactive, and the environment can be
>seen as having the least barriers to interaction (here, though, if we
>look at the level of "fundamental laws" there is maximal intergration
>coupled with no change/evolution- Rupert Sheldrake would have something to
>say about this).
> Also, I think that while memes do replicate with respect to an
>abstraction (Aaron's phrase), that abstraction's study is meaningless
>without reference to abstractions about the system (hence, memetics).
>Maybe this is obvious, but I thought id throw it in anyway.

I agree with your points about systems built upon systems. Infants, for
instance, generally learn the basic phonemes from their parents in order to
proceed to further levels of language learning. Some of babbling phonemes
they make are reinforced while other babblings are not. Language learning,
in turn, opens the door for all sorts of other learning.

The idea that replication happens only with respect to an abstraction is
actually a correlary to a more general principle that the "sameness" of two
entities exists only with respect to an abstraction. If its any comfort,
recall that physicists have long ago adjusted to the idea that the
"simultaneity" of events exists only with respect to a coordinate system, a
framework of time/location abstractions. (I normally cringe at using the
word "relativity" in connection to culture, but it might be appropriate in
this context.)

--Aaron Lynch

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