Re: Memes and associative learning in neurons

Tue, 3 Nov 1998 09:53:12 -0500 (EST)

Subject: Re: Memes and associative learning in neurons
Date: Tue, 3 Nov 1998 09:53:12 -0500 (EST)

On Tue, 03 Nov 1998 10:32:48 +0800 Steve <> wrote:

> Nonetheless, this does
> not alter my original position - which is based in my assumption that
> autopoiesis requires individual organisms within a colony (neurons in
> brain) to make choices that benefit their ecology (the brain) while
> "rewarding" the neurons for their complicity.

Of course, but this is just a restatement of the basic question, 'why
have multicellularity?' This is a question that has been fairly
satisfactorily answered (by Dawkins among others).

> In order to be able to > do
> this, I argue, neurons need to be able to associate experiences at some
> basic level. And this association of experiences is the key to attributing
> meaning to events - hence the relevance of biosemiotics and memetics.

You're going to need some evidence for this one. If I argue the
opposite view (playing Devil's advocate) that all neurons 'need' to be
able to do is fire at the appropriate time and at the appropriate
level, how could you counteract that argument? Brains associate
experiences, but neurons don't (certainly not individually...).

> How then, are memes related to the associative properties of cognition? Is
> associativity the fundamental principle of which all other cognitive
> processes (such as imitation) are manifestations?

> (According to my definition of meme, a
> meme is anything that can be conceptualised within the mind of any organism

But this is precisely where the problem lies. These subjective states
are not replicators (and even if they were they're not quantifiable,
a big problem for any Barthian 'dream of scientificity'). Without
replicators we can have no _evolutionary_ theory. You can have a
theory of mind but it won't be an evolutionary one. In any case, I
think you are proposing to resurrect phenomenology. Why bring back

> - thus, my body parts and their actions are also memes)

Is there anything which isn't a meme in your theory? Pardon me if this
seems to be flippant. It isn't intended to be so. I just worry that
your net is cast so wide it will catch virtually anything.

> From the September
> 1992 issue of Scientific American, A. R. and H. Damasio write:

I won't reproduce the quote from these authors, but how is it relevant
to memetics? I have no quarrel with what they say, I just dispute its
application to an evolutionary theory of culture.

> A sentence that carries with it a specific meaning or conceptualisation is
> a meme. And so is each word of which it is comprised. As is each letter of
> each word. And so on. The word "red" has its association with blood, red
> sunsets, danger, the letter "r" (as we might recall from primary-school
> days, "a" is for "apple", "d" is for "dog", "r" is for "red"), etc.

I accept that text/sentences replicate[s] in a way. But it is the text
on the page which is replicating. But it is a large leap from that to
saying that replication of text is the same as replication of the
subjective associations of that text.

> How far can this subdividing of memes continue? How about at least to the
> neural level? Neurons specialising in "longness" or "redness" or "motion"
> are, I propose, participants in simpler, more essential, neural-level
> meme-cultures.

But were and what are these neurons? This is 'grandmother neuron'

> The only way that complex colonies of neurons can emerge, I propose, is if
> each neuron made choices from its ecology. These choices are subjective,
> they are contextual and they are associative. The neuron's interpretation
> of the world is achieved through its bodily senses (via its synapses),
> hence, it too, has a mind-body relationship.

Sorry, just can't buy this. How can an individual neuron have a
mind-body relationship? How can an individual neuron be 'subjective'?

> What I am getting at is
> that
> conceptualisation is the stuff of life

Ah! Panpsychism! or am I wrong????? You're a panpsychist? Do you
think there is 'something it is like' to be neuron?

> its principles are fully
> general
> and applicable at all levels.

Yes, I think you are a panpsychist.


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