RE: Generalizing symbolic memetics

Aaron Lynch (
Mon, 01 Mar 1999 17:13:48 -0600

Message-Id: <>
Date: Mon, 01 Mar 1999 17:13:48 -0600
From: Aaron Lynch <>
Subject: RE: Generalizing symbolic memetics
In-Reply-To: <2CDFE2C8F598D21197C800C04F911B200CAEA5@DELTA.newhouse.akzo

At 09:28 AM 3/1/99 +0100, Derek Gatherer wrote:
>Nope, sorry Aaron, you specifically say that your calculus of mnemon
>instantiations deals with units of memory instantiation. I therefore
>can't swallow this turnaround that they are not representations of
>propositional operations going on inside the brain. You are always
>talking about 'hosts' etc.... If you have changed your mind, then there
>is no shame in coming out and saying so. I changed my mind about many
>aspects of memetics, and have made it quite clear in my various articles
>how I have done so.

This is not so much a change of mind about what sorts of things I consider
to be memes. However, the generalization of the event diagrams to cover
things I do not consider memes may help demonstrate what those diagrams are
about: transitions in the population. I believe that at least some
behaviorists can agree that there are instances of Hutterites becoming
non-Hutterites. If we are not modeling this as involving someone converting
the Hutterite out, we can represent this rather dryly with the statement
"Hutterite transitions to non-Hutterite." In symbolic shorthand, this
becomes H --> ~H. This can happen with or without the person practicing
(internally or externally) anything we might call a "propositional operation."

I also suspect that at least some behaviorists can seriously consider the
possibility that a non-Hutterite Marxist influences (e.g., conditions) a
Hutterite non-Marxist to become a non-Hutterite non-Marxist. Now writing
all those details out longhand becomes more cumbersome, hence the
shorthand: ~H*M + H*~M --> ~H*M + ~H*~M.

I happen to still think that it is useful to use abstractions based on the
notion of internally stored information, but that is a long argument we are
unlikely to resolve. Nevertheless, it is possible to represent transitions
symbolically even if the symbols refer to behavioral patterns rather than
indirectly observed internal information.

> >I also wish to point out to anyone trying to give just a
>cursory read to
> >the paper that the event diagrams are not representations of
> >operations going on inside the brain, but transitions going on
>within the
> >population. The focus is on developing a population theory, not
>a theory of
> >mind.
> Now let's look at what you go on to say:
> >B*~T + ~B*T --> B*~T + B*T (baseball-playing non-tennis-player
> >non-baseball-playing tennis-player yields baseball-playing
> >non-tennis-player plus baseball-playing tennis-player.)
> If I'm not mistaken, that nomenclature eg. A~GB~C + etc ----> is
>the much discussed calculus of mnemon instantiations. Yes??? So does
>it refer to memeory instantiations or not??? Do you want to have it
>both ways??? I don't think you can. Either the calculus of mnemon
>instantiation is about mnemons or it isn't.

Clearly, the term "calculus of mnemon instantations" would not do when
talking about behavior patterns (abstractions about people's behavior,
whether they are called "memes" or not). Another term would have to be used
for generalized use of the diagrams. Perhaps "calculus of culture
instantiations" or some such would work better for the generalization. Even
if *I* prefer to talk about abstractions of memory content, the general
method of working with cultural transition diagrams does not need to refer
to memory. (Although as a terminological point, I only use the term "meme"
in reference to memory content or internally stored information.) As long
as we can agree that there is some basis for labeling and counting
individuals, then transition diagrams can be used while setting aside the
question of just what it is that forms the basis for the labeling. Consider
an "internalist" and an "externalist" were working on the same research
project, such as studying Hutterites. The "internalist" accepts a certain
behavioral test as the indirect test for what he believes is internally
stored information. As long as that test is the same test the "externalist"
uses in identifying a behavioral pattern, then the two can work side by
side on the project and use the same transition diagrams while disagreeing
on the nature of what they are labeling. A disagreement on how to use the
term "meme," however, may lead them to avoid that term in a jointly
published paper.

> > The forms of such events and occurrence rates are useful in
> >constructing computer simulations of movements or developing
> >models thereof, to give the actual quantitative population
> No, sorry, I dispute that the calculus of mnemon instantiations
>is useful. Especially since we are now uncertain if it refers to memory
>instantiations or to behaviour. We'll have to clarify that.
> Derek

--Aaron Lynch

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