Re: Memes are Interactors

Josip Pajk (
Mon, 20 Apr 1998 16:16:31

Date: Mon, 20 Apr 1998 16:16:31
From: Josip Pajk <>
Subject: Re: Memes are Interactors

Dear Mr. Lynch,

you wrote in "Thought Contagion":

"Another social barrier to thought contagion, the credential system, provides a method of rejecting important kinds of belief transmission from the uncredentialed. Those holding a doctorate, professional license, or clergy post thereby gain more access to minds than those lacking such distinctions. People do make exceptions, since most are themselves uncredentialed. Yet highly credentialed individuals may apply credential systems more vigorously, limiting the acquisition of common thought contagions among their ranks. Moreover, less credentialed people can recognize the restrictive effects of credential systems well enough that they don't even try to impart beliefs to someone with impressive credentials. All of this helps restrict the circles in which specific thought contagions can travel."

I deeply admire your and other people's work on the memetics field, as I deeply admire any work done by anyone, with or without credentials, who is attempting to make this World a better place to live. IMHO (thanks to Bruce Howlett), Credentials are not equal to Competence. Credentials are, as one of my mentors at the Academy used to say: "the license to forget everything I have said to you and start from the beginning". That is, Credentials are a rigid structure granted for a past work, and Competence is a dynamic structure showing the present "fitness" of a specific system to perform some imminent future work. Please do not understand me wrong. I surely will never be "credentialed" enough to attend this discussion on your level, but I "feel" that my competence in fields other than memetics can help this list to gain some answers on FAQs that, as I could see, are bothering us all.
The reason I joined this list was not "looking to make money by pandering to the masses" (If it was really my intent I would probably start by currying favour to you as one of the "fathers" of memetics). I simply run into this list during my meandering path of searching for answers that I (obviously wrong) believe someone have already found. You still didn't prove my incompetence for "doing the job" and so I will continue to make replicas of my thoughts and spreading them in the environment of this list.

Now, I would like to make an attempt to clear some terms from your discussion with John Wilkins:

In sistematics we define ENTROPY as a previous measure of outcome uncertainty when making an experiment. If we are performing an experiment for which we do not know for sure which will be the result, but we know that the set of all possible results consists of i=N elements, and each result has a probability of happening p(i), than the quantity of INFORMATION gained at the end (by knowing the outcome) is (according to Shannon) the N-sum of all the products for the probabilities p(i) and their logarithms log2p(i). If all N results of the experiment have an equal probability of happening, then every p(i) is equal 1/N, thus the uncertainty (entropy) is maximal (log2(N)). If one particular outcome has the probability p(k)=1 (the event will surely occur) than all the other results must have a probability of happening that equals 0, consequently there is no uncertainty about the final outcome (we suppose that the product 0*log2(0)=0). In all other cases we have a situation where 0<H<log2(N),
or the exact (calculated) measure for entropy (H). Moreover, the received message about the final outcome of the experiment eliminates the previous uncertainty and caries a quantity of information that is exactly equal to the previously calculated entropy.
In my knowledge, the same calculus is used in statistical physics with the difference that instead of a logarithm with the base of 2 (log2) a "natural" ln function (with the base of e) is used. I believe that Boltzman already defined entropy as a "measure of lack of information about the state of a physical system".

But this is not so important for our discussion. What is important here is the fact that the "Observer" (the system that is performing the experiment) MUST have some information BEFORE the experiment (the number of all possible states of the observed system, the probability for every of the possible events to happen). Moreover, the message (signal) with the encoded resultant outcome of the experiment caries information ONLY for the Observer system that is interested in it and Knows (calculated) the previous measure of uncertainty.
In systematics we are dealing with rigid (deterministic) systems. For such systems the calculation of the previous uncertainty measure is quite easy. For example, if we know that the system under experiment is in such-and-such state, we can be pretty sure that if we apply to it such-and-such signal it will go in such-and-such state.
Even in genetics we can very exactly foresee the final outcome of various interaction/replication processes. The offspring will be very similar to its parents, if we change the environmental conditions we can predict what repercussion will they have to various species, etc. Genetic individuals are reactive, they can only RESPOND to environmental stimuli. They are "programmed gene carrying machines".
In memetics this is not the case. We are dealing here with dynamic (self-organized) systems. Such systems are proactive, not reactive. Unlike genetic individuals which are evolving through selection in the biosphere environment, meme carrying individuals (hosts) are evolving during their life time, they can even change their "species" (see Athony Kenny's example in "Viruses of the Mind").
A genetic individual (human's brain) is the ONLY environment in which meme/mnemon selection could be performed. So we can not state that memes can be stored in structures different from brain neurological structures like floppy disks, computer memories or other artifacts. They are only (matter-energy) structures produced by dynamic meme carrying hosts. There is only one kind of meme, the "active" (interacting) one. There is no "passive" kind of memes or "potential" memes. A floppy disk is a rigid structure, like a stone, and it is susceptible to degradation like any other rigid structure. It is passive, it is completely dependent about the environment. Even if such rigid structure is purposely "directed" (transmitted) towards some other particular system able to decode them, the host that produced the structure have no mean to control which information (meme), if any, will the receiver host (system) produce upon this structure. It is all matter of probability. When you are speaking or
writing a letter or a book you are not transmitting memes to other people, you are only producing replicas, you behave according to your memetic phemotype. Memes/mnemons will be (probably) PRODUCED and will survive in some other people brains making them to behave like you (make replicas similar to yours).
Any of this hosts will have its particular reasons for behaving according to the "transmitted" meme. Some will accept it without "understanding" it only because they like you, some will find in it some portion of information that fits well enough in some other part of their memetic structure, or have any other interest why it is better to accept your thought than reject it.
Now I would like to put some explicit questions:
If memes are not interactors, if their replication and instatiation in other hosts depends only from their "inherent quality" and not because of "how well do they fit in the present memetic structure of the host", then why memes of "high quality" does not instatiate in more hosts than "lower quality" memes?
If memes are not interactors, biased to selection in human's brain, what are the memetic interactors and where do their selection happen?

Josip Pajk

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