To have a mnemon

Fri, 5 Jun 1998 16:45:38 -0400 (EDT)

Subject: To have a mnemon
Date: Fri, 5 Jun 1998 16:45:38 -0400 (EDT)

On Tue, 02 Jun 1998 15:56:16 -0500 Aaron Lynch <> wrote:
> A few more comments, though I doubt that we will resolve large differences
> between schools of thought here on this list.

There's still one major area we haven't thrashed out yet, and that's
the question of coneptual memes.

If I understand you correctly, you postulate that there are some people
who can have a mnemon such as: 'bee pollen invigorates' (let's call
this one A), and some other people who have a different mnemon: 'belief
that bee pollen invigorates' (call this one B). The first of these is
just an item of familiarity, and might be re-expressed as 'familiarity
with the statement that bee pollen invigorates'. The second of these
requires a belief in that statement. Presumably only those who have
the first mnemon can have the second one but not the other way round,
ie. I couldn't believe in something I had no knowledge of at all, but
on the other hand I could have extensive knowledge of something I don't
believe in.

So therefore, adopting your formalism:

A*B (a believer in bee pollen invigoration)
A~B (a sceptic in the bee pollen market)
~A~B (somebody who has not heard anything of this sort ever)

These are all real types of people.


~A*B is impossible since it would require that I believed
something I had no knowledge of.

I just mention this to clarify things before I begin.

If somebody who has never heard of any invigorating properties of bee
pollen, receives a message from me concerning the alleged
invigorating properties of bee pollen, then that person acquires
mnemon A, so:

A + ~A gives 2A

However, supposing I had decided to transmit the phrase: 'duck
pollen invigorates'. Nobody, as far as I'm aware, has ever
transmitted this meme before (and with good reason because it's
nonsensical). Is this still an event of the type A + ~A gives 2A?
(not the same A referred to above as that was bee pollen)

Does that then imply that I had the 'duck pollen invigorates'
mnemon before I transmitted it? I don't think I did, as I just
made it up immediately prior to typing it on the keyboard.

If the answer to the above is no, then I can transmit a mnemon I
don't have. Or do I _have_ to be a host to transmit? If not then
is the correct formalism, ~A + ~A goes to 2A? If I just make it
up and instead of communicating it over the web, I just say it
quietly to myself, is that ~A goes to A?

If 'duck pollen invigorates' seems to be too contrived an example,
let us consider 'wasp pollen invigorates' which is not necessarily

I just thought of that wasp example. It sort of came into my head
somewhere between the first and second line above, probably about
0.5 seconds before I typed it. Was that the instant I became a
host of this mnemon? Now all the readers on the list have read
it. Are they then hosts to 'wasp pollen invigorates' mnemons?

If I sit here and derive thousands of variants on this theme:

'elephant pollen invigorates'
'fly pollen invigorates'
'artificial pollen invigorates'

and so on ad nauseum, can we say that my brain is host to _all_
these mnemons, as I produce them? Therefore all I need is an
infinite amount of time to become host to an infinite amount of

If not why not? I devised them, I transmitted them. Which
mnemons am I host to then? Only the plausible ones? Only the
ones I believe? (that won't work as you say that belief is a
different mnemon entirely).

Surely better not to say I am host to any of them. We are not
host to concepts - we produce concepts via language. I can
produce an infinite variety of concepts, some sensible, the
majority nonsense, but I am not host to them. If the human mind
is definable as a set of mnemon instantiations (do you say this?
I don't want to put words into your mouth) then it must be an
infinite set.

Unless you can solve this, then you cannot have mnemon/host
duality for concepts at all.


This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)