Re: Copying, imitation, transformation, replication

Mario Vaneechoutte (
Thu, 17 Sep 1998 08:31:13 +0200

Date: Thu, 17 Sep 1998 08:31:13 +0200
From: Mario Vaneechoutte <>
Subject: Re: Copying, imitation, transformation, replication

Aaron Lynch wrote:

> At 08:30 AM 9/16/98 +0200, Mario Vaneechoutte wrote:
> >
> >
> >Aaron Lynch wrote:
> >
> >> At 09:17 AM 9/15/98 +0200, Mario Vaneechoutte wrote:
> >> >
> >> >I should disagree here. Genes are replicated without transformation. Just
> >> like
> >> >printed texts are. That, together with the fact that both (genes and
> >> texts) are
> >> >physical entities and that both have unlimited informational content
> (unlike
> >> >pottery), is the reason why I would consider the true analogy of memes and
> >> genes
> >> >to be outside of our mind.
> >>
> >> Mario,
> >>
> >> I'd refer you to section 15 of my paper to see just what I am talking about
> >> in relation to genes. When we say that a "gene" is copied, we do not mean
> >> that a DNA molecule's tertiary structure is copied, for instance. This
> >> means that the molecule can look quite different under the microscope. Nor
> >> do we usually mean that its methylations are copied. We especially do not
> >> mean that its placement of different isotopes is copied. Nor its
> >> vibrational states, rotational states, locations of dissociated H+, etc. It
> >> is always with respect to some system of abstractions that an entity is
> >> "copied." We have decided that the most useful system of abstractions with
> >> respect to which we discern gene "copying" is the one centered on several
> >> nucleotide bases.
> >
> >I only claim that you can copy the same informational content using a simple
> >processor like a press or a polymerase, without transformation of the
> >information. When I hear a word, this observation will lead to several
> >transformation in my mind before I eventually can utter a noise which can
> have
> >the same informational content to others. Having materially encoded
> information
> >as in nucleotide strands or as on sheets of paper no such transformation is
> >needed.
> >
> >Of course, I am not talking about the molecule, I am referring to the
> potential
> >of information in these molecules or texts.
> Another way to phrase what I am saying, Mario, is that what we choose to
> identify or not identify as the "information" in the molecule is a function
> of the abstraction system used for doing so. One could, for instance,
> devise a scheme for encoding useful information in the patterns of isotopes
> in the DNA strand. It could then be "information rich" even if it consisted
> of all adenosine bases. In actual life, we have found that the abstraction
> system centered on bases is more useful, however.
> When finding "information" in an uttered word, we are again (perhaps
> automatically) focusing on some qualities of the sound and not others. It
> is a "pattern" of "phonemes" that we count, and not, for instance, the
> sound's absolute volume, duration, ultrasound components, etc. The word
> "meme" spoken by two different people is only "the same" with respect to a
> system of abstractions. You need some kind of abstraction system, even an
> innate or deeply ingrained one, just to determine that there is not
> "transformation" (departure from sameness) of "information."
> With printed pages, we again use abstract criteria to determine "sameness"
> or "transformation" of "information." We do not, for instance, focus on the
> orientation of fibers in the paper. If the ink color differs, then the
> "information" might be the same with respect to a purely alphabetical
> abstraction system, but different with respect to an alphabet-color
> abstraction system.
> --Aaron Lynch

Quick reply. That is not the issue. I am concerned with how replication can occur,
which is not the same as how meaning is extracted. Biology and culture use
differences which make differences (information). How one difference leads to
another difference (how a stretch of nucleotides leads to a protein) is not my
point here. My point is that replication of some differences (like different
texts, different nucleotide strands) can be 'digital', i.e. happen without
transformation (without a series of extracting meaning and transforming it into
other presentations, etc.). This kind of replication is only possible with e.g.
texts and nucleotide strands.Digital replication means that you do not need to
interpret the informational content of a message. Polymerases and presses do not
look at the content. When people are copying a book through writing, they need a
lot of additional information to reproduce the same potential of information (OK,
rewriting without understanding at least the words is probably possible but much
more difficult) and several transformations of the information have to take place.

> ===============================================================
> This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
> Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
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> see:

Mario Vaneechoutte
Department Clinical Chemistry, Microbiology & Immunology
University Hospital
De Pintelaan 185
9000 GENT
Phone:   +32 9 240 36 92
Fax:   +32 9 240 36 59

J. Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission:

The memetic origin of language: humans as musical primates

=============================================================== 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) see: