Re: 'Experience' as 'substrate'

Ton Maas (
Tue, 28 Apr 1998 08:25:24 +0200

Message-Id: <v03102802b16b23b36576@[]>
In-Reply-To: <>
Date: Tue, 28 Apr 1998 08:25:24 +0200
From: Ton Maas <>
Subject: Re: 'Experience' as 'substrate'

Chris wrote:

>I wonder if we might usefully describe a meme as a self-replicating
>'pattern of experience'. A certain pattern of sensory experience may
>carry a sensual 'reward' such that the experiencing organism is
>motivated to behave in such a way as to attempt to _reproduce_ that
>sensory reward. Variation occurs when such behavior patterns have
>'unintended' experiential consequences, which must then be 'adjusted
>for' by further behavior modifications by the affected nervous system.
>Thus 'experience', as a _self-designing_ cybernetic operation of the
>(in our case 'human') nervous system, becomes the 'substrate' in which
>'memes', in conjunction with their generative behavior patterns and
>the nervous systems which execute them, are 'evolved'.

This is certainly an interesting line of thought. Among other things it
resonates well with a similar phenomenon in biological evolution. As D'Arcy
Thompson has demonstrated, the evolutionary process itself seems
"saturated" with patterns that remain fairly constant between species, such
as "a nose above a mouth, with an eye and an ear on either side". As the
geneticist William Bateson has shown with his experiments (such as removing
the limbs of embryos and grafting them back on in opposite locations) these
patterns are probably more archaic than our genetic system and are coded
analogously rather than digitally. This goes against the engineer's dream
of creating an organism from its genes alone. Rather than "describing" an
organism as in a blueprint, genes seem to contain clues as to how to
"modulate" or "alter" the analog patterns of the underlying archaic process
of embryology.


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