Re: On influencing factors

Fri, 13 Nov 1998 09:06:15 -0500 (EST)

Subject: Re: On influencing factors
Date: Fri, 13 Nov 1998 09:06:15 -0500 (EST)

On Mon, 9 Nov 98 11:34:34 -0600 Mark Mills <>

> You are in too much of a hurry to consider neurons.

I think you mean I'm in too much of a hurry to _not_ consider neurons,
or too much of a hurry to reject neurons.

> You are not really disagreeing with me. You are just putting off a
> change of heart. What do you want to do in 2045, when the secrets of
> the neural system are understood? Toss out 45 years of memetics?

No, because by that time we'll have memetics well established as a
behavioural science.

> think researchers in 2045 are going to be kind to your work?

Well I hope so, but obviously I can't tell really.

> I do not share your concern for instant success.

Hmm... 'instant' is too strong a word. I don't so much want 'instant
success' as something to engage with experimentally in the short term.

IHMO, the term 'meme'
> will contribute value only if we consider neurons and the genetic model.
> It is the only thing we are doing that is unique.

No, on the contrary, I'd have to say that a really rigorous analysis of
variation, transmission/repliction and selection in behaviour _is_
unique and valuable. By contrast there is no shortage of neurobiology
research. Most of it's not unique and some of it isn't valuable
(apologies to neurobiologists for this sweeping statement - I mean not
valuable to memetics)

> I don't think we will have to wait until 2045 for neural research to
> reach the level of meme.

We'll see. I'm not waiting anyway. I'm getting on with doing my
thing (mainstream academic memetics).

> If one is looking for memetics in neural
> systems, it makes good sense study simple neural systems, snails and sea
> slugs, etc.

No, sorry can't agree at all. Come on now Mark, snails and sea slugs
do not have 'culture' in any sense of the word. Chimpanzee 'culture'
is one thing, but snails....?

> Personally, I think a memetics founded on neurology will offer insights
> into the evolutionary trajectory of the Internet. I have a great deal of
> interest in this. My hunch is that memes are the expression of
> self-organization within neural systems, just as genes are an expression
> of self-organization at the molecular level.

Well, there's nothing wrong with having a hunch, but I'd much
rather like to see you make a formal case for it.

If the net is an
> of our neural systems,

'If'........ but it isn't, is it?

> In conclusion, I don't see any significant advantage to ignoring the
> neural foundations of memetics.

Well, I do, but there's no point in me going all over that again. It's
all in my latest JoM article.

There is no denying the role of the
> neural system in memetics. Without a neural system, cultural evolution
> doesn't happen.

Yes, but culture is an independent, or at the very least 'leashed'
(Wilson) replicator. We have 2 informational systems here, genetic and
memetic. If you're trying to collapse the memetic into the genetic,
then your edging away from memetics and into sociobiology. Fair
enough, but I'll stay in memetics.

If we are going to establish a foundation that
> researchers are willing to invest their careers upon, it needs a firmer
> basis than the expediency expressed in 'I don't want to wait until 2045.'

Well, no it doesn't. At Meme Lab we've already invested our careers
in it.


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