Re: Memes are Interactors

Josip Pajk (
Thu, 09 Apr 1998 14:46:17 +0200

Message-Id: <>
Date: Thu, 09 Apr 1998 14:46:17 +0200
From: Josip Pajk <>
Subject: Re: Memes are Interactors
In-Reply-To: <000801bd62de$b14e4380$705295c1@user>

I would prefer if the discussion (if any) about memes as interactors could
be assigned a thread different of the ongoing "List of meme definitions"
because I also share the Paul Marsden's fear that such discussion invites
confusion, so I propose that any comments on this issue remains under the
"heretic" subject of "Memes are interactors".

Paul Marsden wrote:
>This distinction between replicanda (behaviour) and memes (symbolic
>representations (i.e. information)) is IMHO, useful but would it not be
>better if your definition explicitly referred to your conclusion as to
>whether the meme is a replicator or simply the replicated. (THE source of

Could you please explain what IMHO is? Thank you.

Aaron Lynch wrote:
>I have no problem with applying evolutionary replicator theory to entities
>instantiated at levels other than the brain. But I want to see the term
>"meme" used with some consistency.

>Unfortunately, there seems
>to be a common unwillingness to "impose" something even so basic as an
>approximate word meaning on a fellow scholar in our field. The Symposium
>call for papers says that "chaos exists because a general framework is
>lacking." I would add that a lack of terminological consistency amplifies
>the chaos greatly. Many people may simultaneously attempt to draw attention
>to their own favorite levels of structure by changing the definition of
>"meme," in contrary ways, but this ultimately leads to a Tower of Babble
>and subsequent ridicule by those giving our field a critical review.

>It is possible to take inspiration from the meme concept and go on to
>discuss information replicating at other than brain to brain levels without
>attempting to overrule Dawkins and all others who use "meme" in a manner
>consistent with Dawkins.

Let's go back to the "roots":
Dawkins defined the meme as a "unit of cultural transmission" or a "unit of
imitation" (I personally like more the other one and don't think that they
are identical, that is, imitation is not equal to cultural transmission).
It is not hard to understand "imitation" as "replication". But, I would
like to emphasize here that "imitation" is a more appropriate definition
for "making copies of processes" like behaviours, and "replication" for
"making copies of structures" like genes. Processes are time dependent, but
structures are not. The same distinction must be made between "code" and
"program". Code is a (time independent) structure according to which the
computer (system) "behaves" or executes a program (in time, instruction
after instruction). I believe that you are not stating that those two are
the same.
So, replicas (replicanda) are structures. Genes could be understood like
structures. But what could be the "unit of imitation"? Dawkins gives some
examples: "tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making
pots or of building arches". As I understood this examples, they are not
INDIVIDUAL behaviours, but, behavioural REGULARITIES, i.e. something enough
stable that can be labeled, like a mountain or like rain drops. Behaviours
are processes, but behavioral regularities are not, they are structures.
When you observe a process in a given time period you can identify the
structure (code) of that process and it is time independent.
Where are this behavioural regularities (structures) identified (observed)?
In the human brain by the aid of other previously stored structures
(knowledge). How do they spread? By "forcing" the host system to behave
(make replicas) according to the observed regularities. But, the key
question is in which shape are they in the mean time "stored" in the brain?
Are they static structures? As I see it they are not. When you see a
printed pattern (replicanda) of some process, in your brain a dynamic model
of that process starts to run. It is a model (replica) of the real process
but it is a DYNAMIC model (structure) and it interacts with other similar
models in the brain's neurological structure.
Interactors (genetical and memetical) are PRODUCED from their environmental
"raw" material according to the replicanda code. But memes and genes does
not share the same environment.
Genes as replicators "build" their complex biological interactor from
simpler biological environmental resources. The so produced biological
interactor (dynamic system, brain) is the ONLY REAL environment for the
instatiation of memes. Some memetic "raw" material (resources) must already
exist in such a genetically "engineered" environment from which memes can
be produced (if this would not be true, how could new born children start
to learn).
So, the first memes PRODUCED in the brain of a child from genetical
(neurological) resources are now there. Moreover, they are produced by
imitation. Parents are producing replicas of their behaviour, and those
replicas generates in the brain of their child memes that are INTERACTING
with the old ones modifying the child's memetic structure (phemotype). The
child starts to produce its own behavioural replicas...and so, the cultural
transmission can take place.
In order to be labeled as interactor something must be "active" (maybe
"dynamic" would be a better word). A replica is "passive" (or "static", to
ease the previous reactions on this two labels). It could be understood
that now I am in a contradiction with what I previously said. Behaviour is
a process, so it is by definition a dynamic structure. How can behaviour be
labeled as a replica which I define as static? The answer is: behaviours
are dynamic only during their expression time. Once expressed they become
static time independent structures (patterns). Processes can be "stored"
and transmitted only as patterns (static structures). But, another
characteristic of static structures is that when an appropriate
energetic(al) (resource) structure is applied on it, they becomes the base
of processes, that is, energy (resources) are "canalized" through their
rigid patterns.
Individuals, systems, interactors are more or less complex dynamic
structures build of rigid (static, material, physical, tangible)
structures; labile, dissipative (energetical, stochastic, resource) dynamic
structures; and flexible, controlable (informational, symbolical, memetic)
dynamic structures. Only an individual posessing all of those three
structural types can be labeled as a SYSTEM.

This is becoming rather long so I will stop here for now. I would only want
to clear one more thing:

Paul Marsden wrote:
>No I think this Wilkin's definition is closer to your position than you
>think because a meme, in his view is NOT "passive", but "active" because he
>claims it has the capacity for "endogenous" change.

I took Wilkins's article only as a "substrate" to be infected with my own
memes. I hope he will forgive me for that. I like his article because it
gives (to me) a very wide look on the genetics/memetics framework and makes
an effort to incorporate various authors' partial thoughts in a consistent
structure. I believe this is a better scientific method instead of giving
new labels to everything that looks slightly different. Concerning the
endogenus change, as I understood, Wilkins took that definition from George
Williams's definition for the evolutionary gene and I deliberately (maybe
wrong) translated it as incidental (stochastic) change.


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