Memes are interactors

Josip Pajk (
Tue, 07 Apr 1998 10:34:58 +0200

Message-Id: <>
Date: Tue, 07 Apr 1998 10:34:58 +0200
From: Josip Pajk <>
Subject: Memes are interactors
In-Reply-To: <>

At 22:26 05.04.98 -0500, Aaron Lynch wrote:

>MEME: A memory item, or portion of an organism's neurally-stored
>information, identified using the abstraction system of the observer, whose
>instantiation depended critically on causation by prior instantiation of
>the same memory item in one or more other organisms' nervous systems.
>("Sameness" of memory items is determined with respect to the
>above-mentioned abstraction system of the observer.)

Another meme definition could be found in the interesting recent John S.
Wilkins`s article:

>>Memes are those units of transmitted information that are subject to
selection biases at a given level of hierarchical organization of culture.<<

Unfortunately, in both papers memes are seen as PASSIVE structures
(replica-tors,-nda). As I see them, memes are interactors (ACTIVE, dynamic)
categories in human neural (dynamic system) ecologies. Moreover, memes are
elements that form every individual KNOWLEDGE (memetic) structure
(Wilkins's phemotype) or the "informational structure" of any dynamic system.

In order to apply memetics to broader systems like culture (Wilkins`s
attempt), we have to define the structure that can be applied to any
dynamic (cybernetic) system (organism, mechanism, organization).

I took the known structure for dynamic (causal) systems from systematics
consisting of three mutually connected internal blocks: information
extraction (observer) model, system output model and inner state model, to
explain the difference between information and knowledge in a "Tofflerian"
The same systematics structure can be applied in memetics also. By the
application of this structure powerful mathematical models are on disposal
for further analysis and synthesis.
But, to apply this structure we have to change some notions that are in the
very base of memetics and are presently blocking the advance in this field:
1. Information transmission: Information are not transmitted. Signals are.
Behaviours are transmitted (replicated) from one system to another.
Information is produced in the system`s information extraction (observer)
model (block) upon the data (signals, messages, behaviours) gained from the
environment (other systems) and according to the present (memetic) state of
the system.
Such information is used for building the memetic structure stored in the
memory model (block) of the system which affects as the further information
extraction process, so the output (response, behaviour) production of the
2. Memes are replicators: Not at all. We have to review Dawkins`s
definition or we will argue about this matter another ten years. System`s
behaviours are replicanda, the system is the replicator. As J. Wilkins says:
"Memes must be expressed in a cultural** ecology in order to be selected,
but is the class of behaviours rather than the behaviours themselves that
are memes. Memes do not control behaviour (including mental behaviour)
rigidly, but bias and constrain it to a norm of reaction."
**(I would say any dynamic system)
and further:
"When we understand that replication is passing on of a message, it doesn`t
really matter what the medium, or substrate, of the message is, and the
notion that there has to be some privileged replicator, like nucleotides or
neural columns, becomes unnecessary".
As I see it, the massage (behaviour, system`s output) is the replicanda,
the system is the replicator. Even Shannon didn`t state that what is
actually passing through the communication channel are information. He
purposely inserted the notion of coder and decoder between the
source/destination of information and the communication channel. Thus, it
must be understood that:
Information (an memes also) never leave the system. Information and memes
"survives" only in a dynamic system ecology.
I will once more use a J. Wilkins definition to make a conclusion:
"So, the resultant evolutionary ontology is that replicators (replicanda in
Ghiselin`s terminilogy-structures that are replicated, Ghiselin 1987)
generates interactors, which are the evolutionary individuals that are
subjected to selection and whose economic success or failure biases the
regeneration of the replicanda."
Things are very much brighter when in this definition behaviours are
identified as replicanda and memes as interactors, such:

Behaviours (replicanda) generates interactors (memes) which are
evolutionary individuals that are subjected to selection and whose economic
success or failure in the system`s ecology biases the regeneration of the
replicanda (behaviour).

Josip Pajk

This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
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