Re: Where does Blackmore's Replicator Power Come From?

Chris Lofting (
Wed, 31 Mar 1999 00:52:57 +1000

From: "Chris Lofting" <>
To: <>
Subject: Re: Where does Blackmore's Replicator Power Come From?
Date: Wed, 31 Mar 1999 00:52:57 +1000

-----Original Message-----
From: Paul Marsden <>
To: memetics <>
Cc: Rogan Jacobson <>; Rob Clewley <>;
Richard Brodie <>; David Hales <>;
Derek Gatherer <>; Nick Rose
Date: Tuesday, 30 March 1999 2:00
Subject: Where does Blackmore's Replicator Power Come From?

>I would like to run an idea past you in order to evaluate its worth.
>Memeticists often speak of self-replication, replicators, and some hold
>memes are interactors as well. That debate has been done - and I do not
>to repeat it here. But if e take memes to be non-genetically transmitted
>information (i.e. culture), or indeed a sub-unit of it; socially learned
>behaviours, units of imitation, representations, instructions or
>then it is difficult to see how this non-genetic information can properly
>called a replicator, it may be replicated, but it doesn't actively
>replicate, unless a miracle ingredient, such as Blackmore's "replicator

So in this sense there is no replication in the sense of diversity (the
many) but more the 'eternalisation' of the 'one'. This is an example of
tradition. In this context we *avoid* diversity where this avoidance is

Now, our brains may be hardwired to appropriate behavioural
>strategies (or any other conceptualisation of a meme you many choose) under
>certain circumstances, and these might be called memes, but that leaves
>memes with an entirely passive role. However, having read Cloak (1986) I
>think there might be a sense in which cultural information may act as a
>replicator - and this is it: (Comments Please)
>One central insight of memetics is that this process of differential
>replication or imitation will result in some cultural information being
>spread simply because it is good at being spread, rather than for the
>benefit of the agents that are spreading the culture. This memetic Úlan, or
>replicator power as Blackmore calls it, is a simple consequence of the
>casual logic of natural selection. It is perhaps unfortunate that Blackmore
>does not make explicit the mechanism by which memes may legitimately be
>understood in terms of replicators, because this leaves the reader and
>critic in danger of misunderstanding the whole paradigm and conceptualising
>culture as some kind of active parasite. It would be more proper to say
>cultural information is replicated rather than replicates itself.
>Nevertheless, cultural information does have a self-replicative effect, or
>more properly, an effect of self-emplacement, by virtue of the fact it
>modifies the environment within which it operates.

.....and so becomes entangled with the context and given the chance makes a
niche for itself, e.g. tradition.

The causal logic here is
>identical to that of natural selection of genetic information.

doesnt the gene element have to remain 'active'? A gene with a choice of
expression means a gene that is 'general' in that there are many ways to
express the 'one'; context selects. With memes we try to retain the single
expression and so are context-free; self-contained.

The advantage of this is the context-independent nature. Traditions are
brought to the 'new country' and maintained even though the local cultural
and geographical elements have changed.

Imagine a
>population of information processors in an environment of information. Some
>processing is completely transparent, that is, the input is identical to
>output, whilst other processing modifies the informational environment by
>outputting information that is different to the input.

Tradition is changed in this way in that contextual sources can start to
influence. Long term tradition can be seen as being corrupt and so a
'pruning' takes place to 'restore' the 'true way'.
Tradition can also be seen as smothering development and so changes are made

In this sense tradition is parasitic (oppositional, destructive). It can
also be symbiotic (cooperational).

The usual
>evolutionary scenario is to imagine that the processing activity of the
>processors results in differential survival chances for the processors, and
>given a replicating population of processors and heritable processing,
>differential replicative success. Processing that enhances survival and
>replication chances, because it allows the processors to exploit an
>environment upon they are dependent, tends to increase in prevalence,
>because those processors have a higher probability of successfully
>replication. Now, given a degree blind variation in replication, and an
>environment of insufficient resources for the population, relatively
>maladaptive processing may become extinct, whilst relatively adaptive
>processing will become the norm, until a new blind variation is selectively
>retained because it has relatively more evolutionary fitness. In short, the
>population will evolve through a mechanism of natural selection, processing
>that enhances the chances of that processing's self-emplacement will spread
>through the population.
>However, by shifting the focus from the processors to the information that
>the processors are processing,

....we dont look at words but the emotion-based patterns they point to...

a second evolutionary mechanism may be
>identified, the natural selection or self-emplacement of the information

information has a 'life'?

Because some processors output information that is different to the
>input, the informational environment is changed, and because output will
>depend on input, outputs will have some causal effect in determining the
>probability of a similar output being elicited.

I think information is reducable to the identification of objects and/or
relationships. 'different' output can be in the form of metaphor/symbolisms
used to differentiate one object/relationship from another. This can lead to

In other words, some
>information may result in outputs that enhance the likelihood of that
>occurring again, whilst others may modify the environment to make such a
>reoccurrence less likely. As more information is processed, information
>increases the chances of its own output will naturally increase in
>prevalence whilst information that reduces the probability will decrease.

Fads do this. But long term there is a qualitative element that determines
long term survival.

>Over time, information that acts so as to increase the probability of this
>self-emplacement will become more prevalent, and if there is more
>information than can be processed, only that information that has a force
>self-emplacement will be processed. In other words, Blackmore's "replicator
>power" can be seen as the product of the non-miraculous causal logic of
>natural selection, that is, self-emplacement.

Since information is reducable to the object/relationship distinctions so
there must be 'archetyal' patterns that dominate. We use discernment,
qualitative logic, to map these.



This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)