Re: All this fuss

Bill Benzon (
Thu, 17 Sep 1998 16:37:08 -0400

Date: Thu, 17 Sep 1998 16:37:08 -0400
From: Bill Benzon <>
Subject: Re: All this fuss

Aaron Lynch wrote:

> Now consider memetic evolution theory. If those who have learned to play
> baseball make more efforts to spread knowledge of the game than do those
> who have learned tennis, it is possible for one to just happen to notice
> this.

Is this actually so, or are you just positing it as an example?

> But someone aware of the peer to peer conversion aspects of memetic
> evolution theory is much more likely to think of measuring the conversion
> rates and conversion behaviors of those knowing how to play the two sports.
> Positing neurally stored information gives added explanatory power: we can
> easily see how those operating with an internally stored game concept
> calling for several basemen, several outfielders, and a pitcher on each
> team might continue recruitment until they get 2 X 9 +/- players, while
> those operating with a game concept calling for one person on each side of
> a net might stop recruitment at 2 players.

But neural storage is really beside the point. As far as this particular
example goes, game knowledge could just as easily be stored in one's immortal
and incorporeal soul, or in a computer hardwired into one's spinal column.

So you're suggesting that those who have to recruit 9 players are more likely
to proselytize than those who only need to recruit 2? OK. I'll buy that.

But I don't see why anyone needs memetics in order to go looking for these

> My equations, and more broadly, the quantitative methods based on event
> rate parameters, help first of all by suggesting parameters to measure.
> They also provide a basis for making specific predictions in cases where a
> meme is favored parentally but disfavored in peer to peer conversion, for

Hmmm....You know, a woman named Judith (?) Harris has just published a book
(_The Nurture Assumption_ I think it's called) that's causing quite a stir, the
kind of stir that makes judicious people suspicious of any 2nd-hand reports.
She's arguing that childrens' relations to peers are as important, more
important, in determing what they do than relations to their parents. (What
I'm waffling on is just how much Harris wants to discount parents, completely,
somewhat? I can't tell from the 2nd-hand reports I've got and I haven't read
the book myself). So perhaps here's an empirical opportunity for memetics (for
someone certainly). Given the cultural repertoire of a group of teens (say
13-18); where does that repertoire come from? What are the relative the
effects of parental transmission and peer transmission? As there anything in
memetics that would help us to sort this out in a way inconceivable from any
other framework?


William Benzon
Senior Scientist
Meta4 Incorporated
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