Re: Measuring Memes

Robin Faichney (
Mon, 14 Jun 1999 11:45:34 +0100

Date: Mon, 14 Jun 1999 11:45:34 +0100
From: Robin Faichney <>
Subject: Re: Measuring Memes
In-Reply-To: <>

In message <>, Mark Mills
<> writes
>>I must have some notion of the definition or lack of
>>definition of memes before I can begin an analysis. Thus far it appears
>>there are a number of definitions.
>While unable to find any one definition 'true,' I have a system for
>categorizing memetic definitions. Perhaps you will find it interesting.

I'm with you on most of this, Mark, but I think there's a little more to
be said about substrate in/dependence.

Microbiologists are inevitably reductionists. They are more interested
in causes than effects. Not only do they tend to ignore higher level
organisational structures, but they take for granted the DNA's decoding
mechanism, the cellular context in which it finds itself, to concentrate
on DNA sequences as the variables of interest.

Those of us who are more interested in higher level phenomena must take
into account not only higher level structures, but also the decoding
mechanism, the context of any particular entity that seems significant
to us. Both genes and memes, on any account, are codes, and in general
terms, the decoding is just as important as the code itself. Where the
microbiologist has a relatively well-defined context -- the cell -- and
so can often get away with taking it for granted, for memes there is no
such thing, as far as I can see, at this stage, anyway.

Now, there is a connection between substrate in/dependence and context.
When we take the latter explicitly into account, and say what really
matters is not the code alone, but the outcome of the decoding process,
then that logically implies substrate independence.

I can't "complete this thought" here, because there are too many loose
ends. There are deep implications regarding reductionism versus holism
generally, and the nature of levels of description/explanation, which
I've been thinking about for quite some time, without coming up with any
formulations that are both concise and convincing. But I think that one
conclusion is already fairly clear (or if it's not, I'd appreciate help
to make it so): for memes, substrate dependence is not an option.

(If anyone is interested in my presently inconcise and/or unconvincing
ruminations on levels of description/explanation etc., they're on the
website in the sig.)

Robin Faichney
Visit The Conscious Machine at

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