Re: More on information

Robert G. Grimes (
Fri, 07 Nov 1997 17:11:55 -0500

Date: Fri, 07 Nov 1997 17:11:55 -0500
From: "Robert G. Grimes" <>
Subject: Re: More on information

Mark Mills wrote:
Snip for brevity

> Going to my dictionary, I've discovered 'Information' is defined to mean
> 'the act of informing' or 'knowledge gathered in any way.' 'Inform'
> means to 'give form.' Thus, 'information storage' is defined to mean
> 'storing the act of giving form.' Alternatively, since 'knowledge' means
> 'the clear and certain perception of that which exists,' 'information
> storage' can be translated to mean 'storage of true perceptions.'
> I doubt that we can store 'acts' or 'perceptions.' At best we can store
> reminders to act or perceive.

I have to keep reminding my self that the definition of a word is not fixed.
The definition is determined by usage and usage indicated by context. There
are many different definitions of each word. I don't mean to be "picky" but
let's look at it.

in·for·ma·tion n. Abbr. inf. 1. Knowledge derived from study, experience, or
instruction. 2. Knowledge of a specific event or situation; intelligence. See
note at knowledge . 3. A collection of facts or data: statistical
information. 4. The act of informing or the condition of being informed;
communication of knowledge: Safety instructions are provided for the
information of our passengers. 5. Computer Science: A nonaccidental signal
or character used as an input to a computer or communications system. 6. A
numerical measure of the uncertainty of an experimental outcome. 7. Law: A
formal accusation of a crime made by a public officer rather than by grand
jury indictment. in "for·ma"tion·al adj.

information retrieval n. Computer Science 1. The process of searching for and
recovering specific data from large quantities of information stored in a

knowl·edge n. 1. The state or fact of knowing. 2. Familiarity, awareness, or
understanding gained through experience or study. 3. The sum or range of what
has been perceived, discovered, or learned. 4. Learning; erudition: teachers
of great knowledge. 5. Specific information about something. 6. Carnal
knowledge. [Middle English knowlech knowen to know; See know -leche n. suff]

knowledge base n. 1. Computer Science The part of an expert system that
contains the facts and rules needed to solve problems in a specified domain.
2. A collection of facts and rules for problem solving.

in-stan-ti-ate (verb transitive) -at-ed; -at-ing
First appeared 1949
: to represent (an abstraction) by a concrete instance <heroes ~ ideals --W.
J. Bennett>
-- in-stan-ti-a-tion (noun)

(all definitions from American Heritage except for the last)

Thus, using the word as the "act of informing" it would be readily apparent
that the "act" could not be stored. Using the word as we have pretty
consistently used it, "knowledge, facts or data," and one readily sees that
all of us are talking about the symbology of the meme in a representation of
speech, print, video tape or other manners of capturing such symbology.

We all know that we cannot store "sewing" ("sewing" probably isn't a meme but
"a stitch in time saves nine" is) but we would not deny that the knowledge
of sewing, including descriptions of needles, thread, material, patterns,
etc., can all be stored in some form of symbology so that the knowledge can
be translated or transferred where it can again be "accessed" by a person for
their use. The perceptions of the organism and the quality of such symbology
determines how close the "map is to the territory."

Thus, many of us have repeatedly referred to memes in this manner, i.e., the
meme is the minimal (crux) of the "idea" or the "construct" within the
cognitive milieu. The cognitive milieu is the physical organism including
its biochemistry and, if I may use my own term, "associative network."
Obviously, the meme construct within its surroundings is, both by definition
and common sense, unique.

Memes are replicated (actually copied) by the physical use of symbology from
the organism to another organism, either directly or through the medium of
intermediate storage of the symbology and subsequent accessing by an

Since all of this involves the abstractive processes both in receiving and
transmission, deliberate modification of the result by the organism, the
codification of the meme into some form of symbology (the meme seed or husk),
and the processes of translation (both in transmitting and receiving, all
depending on methodology of symbology) and the "normal loss of detail or
distortion by noise, etc. involved in copying," it is readily apparent that
the meme is (like everything else) in a constant state of change (evolution)
in all of its representations. Couple this with the cultural "storage" of
memes and one certainly has a "meme continuum" represented by all sorts of
unique constructs or symbologies of unique constructs subject to constant

During all of this we then are exposed to the same processes that we have
with all of our perceptions, etc., which involves some degree of
discrimination by the organism both in perception and in "reproduction,
replicating or copying." Which gets back to my statement comparing such
"replications or copies" as unique and different but, in many instances,
"close enough to the original for government work." Since this same
statement is true ( in my opinion) for everything else in the universe there
would appear to be no reason for memes to be an exception.

> I use the term 'information storage' regularly, but Ton is quite right to
> assert that all that is 'stored' is a 'carcass' or 'reminder' of
> information. Off hand, it seems both 'information storage' and
> 'instantiation of information' are code words for some unique meaning
> rather than understandable usages of the words 'information,' 'storage'
> and 'instantiation.'

It would appear to be (and I believe that Ton would agree) very safe to
continue to use such terminology of "information storage, meme complexes
printed in books, or meme codification through symbology," etc., and all of
us knowing fairly well what we think is occurring. I believe that Ton was
simply drawing attention to the problems associated with our concepts about
"meme definition" when we talk about "replication" or "storage," etc., if
not, he will surely correct me and inform us in his own inimitable way, very
accurately and with insight.

But I think that it is probably apparent that we agree that the meme, when
traveling between organisms, is a physical representation of the original
construct within the organism's cognitive milieu, and as such, is a
codification of the original, just as all "informational" exchanges between
organisms. If we wish to use "substrate" in place of "cognitive milieu" it
is all right with me but my preference for "cognitive milieu" is because of
the inference of an almost infinite amount of "unique influence" on the meme
construct within the organism. Anyone with any knowledge of biology would
know that was true, also, of substrate if referring to the nervous system.
However, one might also think of substrate as a passive base for etched or
printed circuitry and, in that instance, I might object as I do not consider
the nervous system to be "passive," but, perhaps it is more so than I give

Of course, if someone really considers the meme to be truly "viral" in
structure, I humbly withdraw the whole thing.

I hope that I have not confused everyone...



Bob Grimes Jacksonville, Florida

Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore....."

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