Re: List of meme definitions (reply to Paul Marsden)

Robert G. Grimes (
Fri, 10 Apr 1998 17:47:03 -0400

Date: Fri, 10 Apr 1998 17:47:03 -0400
From: "Robert G. Grimes" <>
Subject: Re: List of meme definitions (reply to Paul Marsden)

Ton Maas wrote:

> Hmm. I'd say that cats and dogs are obviously conscious, though not
> necessarily self-conscious. Self-consciousness is what's necessary to be
> able to communicate _about_ commucination.
> >2. Individuals of many species can transmit only danger signals or similar
> >ones. These signals are only reflex responses to some external or rather
> >simple internal stimuli. Such animals does not have a need for consciousness.
> Animal minds are far from simple. Even diehard behaviourists had to admit
> it is virtually impossible to stop rats in mazes from being curious, since
> "sticking your nose into a dark hole" is _not_ a single and simple "item"
> of behavior. Curiosity is a way of _organizing_ behavior: a pattern rather
> than an item. By administering an electric shock to a rat's nose, the
> behaviorist can't stop the rat from being explorative, since his curiosity
> is actually rewarded by the shock. Even in rats, mental complexity is
> sufficient to allow for changes in sign from one logical level to another.
> I'd say that behavior per se requires some kind of consciousness, but not
> self-consciousness.
> On a related note the French couple who made "Microcosm" (a feature film
> about insects), even though they had years of experience behind them, said
> during a TV-interview that they were very surprized to observe individual
> characters among such "simple" organisms as beetles. Of all the seven
> beetles they collected for a certain scene, only _one_ was able/willing to
> perform the required trick of rolling a ball of turd before a rolling
> camera on the set. All the other six turned out to be camera-shy :-)
> >>Organisms can have effective "models" of their environment without the need
> >>for consciousness, which is in many respects collateral to the proceedings
> >
> >3. The bandwidth of speech channel limits the width of 'conscious
> >information processing'. The natural selection could not maintain the
> >emergency of broad 'conscious channels' in human evolution.
> >So this interpretation may be some weak answer to question why capacity of
> >conscious information processing is much less then capacity of unconscious
> >one.
> >
> >Practically all memes (in humans) are transmitted by consciously controlled
> >channels.
> As a cultural anthropologist I am tempted to say (although I prefer not to
> quantify these data) that most cultural traits and premises (constituting
> the bulk of our individual mental "luggage") are transmitted
> subconsciously, by interactional routines that are so obvious to all the
> participants that they are never questioned or analyzed. This doesn't mean,
> however, that they cannot be quite obvious to a trained observer from the
> outside. Our most basic memes are transmitted and received without any
> conscious awareness on our part.

Couldn't we also say:

Sensory systems are all abstractive systems (as are effector systems), translating
complex multiple sensory stimuli into more simplified electro-chemical charges,
chemical changes, or other higher/lower level abstractions (with us it includes
such things as "lateral gazes, words and innuendoes") which apparently trigger
reactions based on some inborn and/or "learned" translation system whereby the
sensory abstractions are matched against some kind of reference and "translated"
into receptor "awareness" - even if it's only at the pH level (and vice versa).

In reaction, a "reactive" process may be originated combing resultants into a
complex "effector reply," which, ultimately, through reflex and/or "conscious
direction" becomes, again, part of the "external world" where the action modifies
something in turn (even if it is only "vibratory motion through an elastic medium
producing an effect on the auditory nerve") and the end product may be a "replica"
of the originating stimuli.

As Ton so eloquently (and more simply) implied, whether it be "cilia" responding
or "PhDs," it is a constant action and interaction triggered and filtered through
abstractive processes.

One recalls Korzybski demonstrating "cellular memory" through the use of a squash
seed and its root (in a tropism chamber) whereby the seed is rotated, carefully
timing the new positions so that just prior to the cellular chemistry responding
to the new relation to gravity (roots grow "down") it is moved again and again to
new positions. Finally, the seed is held still and the root goes through a
"dance," faithfully reproducing the various twists and turns that the previous
effects of gravity had upon the cellular chemistry of the root prior to it being
able to "catch up."

Somewhere along that abstractive process, depending on the organism, some of these
abstractive structures/symbologies qualify as "memes."

Thus, even though it may matter to us that we appear to have come to be "aware" of
many of these relationships, we still "respond" and do our little "dance" in a
much more complicated fashion as we sense and respond to certain variations in our
environment that are, metaphorically speaking (and sometimes factually), on the
"right wave length."

I would certainly agree that "self conscious" is the more appropriate word for
some of the higher order abstractions of hominids... and, I do think and agree
that apes, cats and birds have memes. Remember the Great Tits and the great
milk-bottle cap caper!



Bob Grimes Jacksonville, Florida

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

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