Memetics framework

Josip Pajk (
Tue, 03 Mar 1998 14:27:27 +0100

Message-Id: <>
Date: Tue, 03 Mar 1998 14:27:27 +0100
From: Josip Pajk <>
Subject: Memetics framework
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Chris wrote:

>In our contemporary culture, each individual and special interest group,
according to 'tradition', percieves its perspective on the world as 'the
way the world _is_', rather than 'this is the structure of our/my beliefs
about the world, and this is how my belief system motivates me to behave'.
This absolutist 'is' worldview meme systematically motivates violent
conflict among individuals and groups holding incompatible absolutist
>Human evolution has thus far lead to our 'belief' (assumption) that our
perceptions of our envirnonmental stimuli, and our evaluations thereof, are
'fact', i.e. are 'what is', rather than 'what my
>particular nervous system abstracts from its environmental stimuli'.

Thank you for this example, Chris. This is the same kind of problem I had
when I was trying to identify what is the (real) source of information in
surveillance systems. In a regular base, radar and other observers are
named as sources of information. My point of view is that they are not. The
source of information is actually the presence of an aircraft in the radar
operational range. Without this fact there is no information for the people
sitting in front of the radar display. There are maybe other data gathered
from the radar (as a source of information) interesting to the service
staff, i.e. malfunction data, but they are not in any close correlation
with the other source of (tactical) information (the aircraft). It is a
matter of definition what the system is, what are itís boundaries, what
data the destination is interested in.

Mick wrote:

>On what dynamic system(s), for example, does the information in a library
depend for "survival"? Does that mean that a meme is only a meme when it
is in a host?

The same structure can bring various information to different systems. I.
e. a book in a bookstore is only a product with a price for the owner of a
bookstore, itís content will hopefully bring to the creation of different
information or "memes" to different systems (people) reading it (linguists,
historians, sociologists, psychologists, typographers...) with regards to
their particular interest and previously accumulated knowledge.

So, I find that the most suitable definition of the source of information
is: the source of information is a process, a change of structural state.
By this definition, a book or a CD, or a seed can not be addressed as
sources of information or memes, they are only structures that can induce a
structural change of state or meme creation process in a particular
(appropriate) system (reader, drive, environment). The created information
or meme is thus strongly correlated with the state of the system at the
moment of the application of this structure on its material, energetic and
(for dynamic systems) informational structure.

Mick wrote:

>So is a meme a thought or information? Is the meme really T, or E(T)?
The two are not the same. Sure, if the encoding E(T) is *very* hi-fidelity
then we can just talk about meme T.
>Perhaps the greatest strength now is that memes can be spread by
*reference* or as Rob suggested - invoked by a set of instructions.

You answer at the previous question by yourself. E(T) can never be the meme
itself. Moreover, E(T) could not be information neither. No matter how
great is the encoding fidelity, the decoding is performed by another,
different, system. Even if you could somehow manage to transmit the proper
decoding protocol to the receiver system the transmitted structure
representing the protocol would have to be decoded there. When you try to
invoke a meme in another (dynamic) system you can never be completely
assured if the meme in that system was invoked in the same manner as it
always is (is it?) invoked in your mind. Dynamic systems have their "goals"
so they can even "lie" and send you a structure from which you will realize
(produce a meme) that they are in a state in which they in reality are not.

Ton wrote:

>In this respect memes are more "independent" from their physical carrier
than genes, so discussing them in terms of "selection" and "survival" is
quite tentative.

Not at all, if you accept that memes, as genes, can not exist out of their
hosts. The host is the environment for the "selection" and "survival" of
genes as it is for memes. The difference is in what can be the host for
genes and what for memes. In my opinion static systems (organisms) are well
enough environments for genes survival but not for memes. Memes can exist
only in a "higher class" dynamic systems, as a part of their informational
structure. A person with a heavily damaged brain kept "alive" artificially
is still a perfect host for genes, but what is with that person's
capability of producing "memetic structures"?

Ton wrote:

>I can see that it is possible for memes to be "carried" by digital
entities (although this is not necessary by any means), but why identify
memes with digital code?

The only reason I accepted the John Wilkinsís remark about "blending
inheritance" is because if we do not make an effort to describe memes as
recombinant entities (like genes) there is indeed a possibility of getting
"what Eigen calls a "quasispecies" - a clustering of lineages about some
optimal mean in the space of possibilities, and again no change". It could
lead to general definitions as this:

>Misunderstanding is not simply 'on' or 'off.' At its best, the
transmission of a meme from one carrier to another will result in
superficial deviation from the origin.

So, our primary task is to identify the structure of a meme and to identify
its "quantum" elements that could be digitally interpreted as "on"
(accepted) and "off" (rejected) and that can be subject to recombination.

Ton wrote:

>There's always the option of "essential" versus "processual" definitions.
Which one is chosen usually follows from the underlying world-view.
Dualists tend to favor "essential" definitions, while cybernetically
informed monists prefer processual ones. In the end there seems to be no
common ground upon which this argument can be settled. Radical monists are
rare - most fashionable monists are actually dualists-in-disguise and
unfortunately Dawkins is no exception.

Can you (or someone else) please explain this with some examples applied on
the same structure. Iím not sure I understood this correctly.

Josip Pajk

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Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
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