Re: Ontology (was Meme Conference)

t (
Wed, 19 May 1999 10:03:54 +0200

From: <>
Date: Wed, 19 May 1999 10:03:54 +0200
Subject: Re: Ontology (was Meme Conference) wrote:

> In a message dated 5/17/99 8:52:34 AM Central Daylight Time,
> writes:
> << Look for memes in a different place than Dawkins suggested and the
> equivalence with genes pops out. Of course their role at present is not the
> role genes acquired, but if you ask me this is a developmental difference
> between biology and culture, whereby prebiotic chemistry inadvertently - but
> probably inevitably - has resulted in an autonomous duplicator, the cell,
> something which has not yet happened in culture. >>
> Do you think that it will? Do you have any ideas about what such a thing
> would be like?

No, I don't have an idea myself. But some physician/mathematician, Frank Tipler
has written a book about a future with self replicating space travelling machines
which gradually populate the universe (whereafter so much knowledge is gathered
that the past can be reconstructed in detail so that we are resurrected!! Haha.
Who said that I was speculative?).Does anyone know of research that is being done
to develop such devices (it will be a tremendous task)?

Anyhow, it occurs to me that we are inadvertently working in that direction: we
are transforming our capacities into electronic forms: speech, vision,
locomotion, auditory capacities, pattern recognition, computing, ... Robots can
do it already to a certain extent. And we have done the same for photosynthesis:
photovoltaic cells have been developed, sufficient to provide such a 'being' with
the necessary energy. (Much alike, simple photosynthesis was probably invented
before the first cell and fueled prebiotic protometabolism.)

If it occurs, I hope it is something more original and interesting than Tipler's
idea. But when it happens (and I think the following answers a question of
Derek), these beings will not bother about bothering us. They'll simply leave us
behind. Megayears later they may wonder about their origins and be surprised that
something simple like human culture actually did it and that it happened on this
unimportant planet. Just as we cannot understand that life originated as the
result of simple chemistry in some hot acidic pond or deep sea vent some 4
billion years ago. After all, the cell is the most complex principle that has
ever been developed, thus far and thus it is a tremendous achievement for simple,
not goal directed chemistry.

What has this got to do with memetics? As I tried to explain before there are
several ways in memetics. One is studying the evolution of information, wondering
about differences and similarities between biology and culture (genes and memes.
After all Dawkins formulated the word 'memes' as an analogy with genes). The
other is studying how ideas, behaviours, fashions, hypotheses spread, wondering
about the human mind. I started with the human mind and its relationship with
ideas, but doing so got also intrigued by the evolution of information in


Mario Vaneechoutte
Department Clinical Chemistry, Microbiology & Immunology
University Hospital
De Pintelaan 185
9000 GENT
Phone: +32 9 240 36 92
Fax: +32 9 240 36 59


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