Re: memetics-digest V1 #136

Fri, 29 Jan 1999 13:54:47 +0200

Date: Fri, 29 Jan 1999 13:54:47 +0200
Subject: Re: memetics-digest V1 #136

> From: Alex Brown:

> Date: 29th January 1999

> Subject: Re: Memes and Things

> From: "Hans-Cees Speel" <>
> Date: Wed, 27 Jan 1999 13:35:41 +0100
> Subject: Re: Memes and Things
> > Some ideas on the perennial question:
> >
> > 1. The meme is not a thing, it is a relationship of similarity between a
> > number of things. It is, in other words a statistical concept which
> > classifies behaviour, artefacts or events in terms of their recurrence
> > (their familiarity). This is the only way we can identify it or even speak
> > of it.
> In my book a meme is not just similar, but also a unit of heridity. If
> this is not so, I do not call it a meme. Just my thoughts, but
> important I think, if you want to stay in the evolutionary paradigm

I think there may be some misunderstanding here. My approach to memetic definitions and processes is entirely based on the
evolutionary paradigm. In point 4 of my previous post I say:

"The mechanism of self-organization involves the cumulative selection of similar or almost similar behaviours from the
range of possible behaviours already operating within the environment (integration)....." and in Point 7. I say:

"7. Memes act as the memory of a cultural system by providing a selective repertoire of acts assimilated out of past
experience. New meme-sets are constructed by modifying and adapting previous sets again through continuous communication
and exchange and selection in changing environments. Memes therefore evolve....."

The 'similarity' of behaviour to which I refer identifies the existence of memes. It is a product of evolutionary
processes, the first and most general of which is 'self-organization' which provides the base upon which cumulative
selection can work.Self-organization is founded on the fundamental principle of dynamic systems that the elements (or
agents) within a given system can interact with one another. Without this we have nothing. In a stable environment
communication and exchange between agents produces cumulative selection of their various behaviours during which a common
language (behaviour) is formed (emerges out of) of their most probable (similar) features. Variety is produced by the fact
that these memes (virtual entities) are customized by individuals for use in particular contexts. In other words there are
many different versions of the same behavioural template (in biological terms: individual members of the same species).
Since communication is continuous, so these variations are in turn subject to exchange and selection causing a shift in
the character of the meme-set. As I said before - so the meme-set evolves. The hereditary principle is exactly there.This
is also mentioned in my previous post where I refer to memes as the memory of a cultural system. What else is the
hereditary principle if not the utilization of memory? Recombination of the organism's past behaviours is the only
mechanism available for generating new and appropriate behaviours for action in current environments. It is the only
available (collective) language with which to model these environments. Biological memory resides in the genetic code.
Cultural memory resides in behaviour and artefacts.

So here we have it: Reproduction by selective exchange, Variety (by recombination), heredity (memory). Oh, one other
thing: Time. I would think this is a fairly orthodox evolutionary approach.


Alex Brown

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