Re: Measuring Memes

Chris Lofting (
Wed, 16 Jun 1999 19:59:11 +1000

From: "Chris Lofting" <>
To: <>
Subject: Re: Measuring Memes
Date: Wed, 16 Jun 1999 19:59:11 +1000

Hi Mark..

>Thanks for mentioning Lamarck. I find no useful insights in Lamarck, and
>forget that he is popular with some. I need to keep Lamarck in mind.
>Given your framework, could you comment on a problem I find interesting?
>I'm interested in the bifurcation of ancient primate culture into human and
>chimp subgroups. Recent work with modern chimps has shown they have a rich
>cultural heritage. Different chimp groups have unique medicinal herb and
>tool practices, just as different human groups do. These chimp practices
>are passed from generation to generation, just as in human culture.
>Does your blending of Darwinian and Lamarckian perspectives offer any
>insights into primate cultural bifurcation?

I think so, but firstly I think there is a 'problem' with the emphasis on
Lamarck rather than on the creation of a context that led to his
interpretations. There are mechanisms at work which we are only now starting
to understand that change the Darwin/Lamarck opposition into a cooperative
emphasis where the characteristics we associate with both of them are
elements of a developmental path.

Lamarck suggested some sort of cooperation at work, a potential teleological
element, that I think is illusion, it is not something literal but more the
easiest method to describe what is going on - it is metaphor but one that
does cause 'problems' to Science, that was until the complexity model
developed which DOES allow for intense feedback processes to lead to an
'emergence', a bifurcation if you like, that reflects such a close
partnership with the immediate context that it is easy to suggest that
giraffes grew their neck to reach the trees -- or the trees grew higher to
accommodate the giraffes!

We need to recognise that we are dealing with millions, even BILLIONS, of
years of develoment which we try to view with our limited experience of
time. As a niche develops so the relationship becomes so strong that we
cannot really tell 'who came first'.

If we look at evolution as a development process that follows complexity
principles we can get a model of evolution that incorporates BOTH Darwinian
as well as Lamarckian perspectives but in doing so the model needs to
break-away from these stereotypings. Hard to do in a system that recognises
personal achievements in theory creation.

I suppose we can de-personalise this by coining some term that puts Darwin
and Lamarck in their place, as originators of serious consideration into
evolution but that is it, they are historical figures rather than having an
ongoing influence on thinking (and in doing so 'corrupting' future research
when we continue to have the Darwin versus Lamarck debate.)

In general, what we seem to 'see' is a process of development that starts
out with some novel form that is placed in a context 'at random'. Genetic
diversity allows for some variations such that one of these may survive the
context to be able to reproduce. There is no internal context sensitivity
here and reproduction is asexual/androgne -- fractal if you like. The form
is predominately reactive to any context-sourced threats, 'out there' is
seen as hostile, oppositional, as the form tries to establish a foundation,
a structure, within which to operate and develop further.

With increased rates of survival, a strengthening dependency develops in
that the resources required to sustain this lifeform are taken from the
context such that a context re-configuration is required to accommodate this
'newbee'; increase in survival puts pressure on the context to supply a
continuous stream of nourishment etc rather than being able to deal with the
occasional 'random' demand.

If the 'newbee' remains context insensitive it can start to 'take over' the
context by starting to multiply uncontrollably, but in doing so can lay
waste to the context such that its own survival is threatened. Population
dynamics being what it is can often deal with this in that we go through a
culling period -- survival of the fittest is the theme. This is still
reactive but those who do survive MUST have developed some characteristics
that are context-sensitive.

At this point feedback takes over in that the moment you have a link, even
the weakest one, it works like a carrier wave. Here you have crossed the
'line' that marks the border between reactive processes and proactive
processes where the latter allows for pre-emption, genetic 'foresight' in
that the intensity of the feedback can speed-up the creation of a 'niche'. I
think this foresight is in the form of an internalised 'copy' of the
immediate context in the form of dichotomisations, very raw in form but
feedback refines these such that a degree of genetic discernment takes place
(note that to describe this I have to use a method that has teleological
implications -- this is metaphor)

This discernment is where we introduce probabilities and these come about
due to the use of dichotomies where recursive processes take the elements of
the dichotomy and 'mix' them, this reflects the change from an oppositional
emphasis (level 1 dichotomisation) to increases in cooperation (level n
dichotomisations). This is fundamental complexity principles at work and
increases in cooperation increase feedback (positive and negative) such that
we have in increase in diversity, more choices are presented or perhaps a
degree of genetic generalisation allows for the context to determine
particular expression; we have a general 'robust' structure which is
flexible enough to quickly adapt to context-derived changes and includes
'emergences', bifurcations of forms that can stand on their own as
'independent' lifeforms - 'new' species. Note that these feedback loops can
lead to a speeding-up of adaptions and the establishment of niches very
quickly once under way.

I think you can see how this can work in the area of memes and this 'genetic
foresight' is, I think, what Steele et al are seeing in the human immune
system with the concept of soma-to-germline gene feedback loops.

(see Steele, E.J, Lindley, R.A., Blanden, R.V., (1998) "Lamarck's Signature"

However, it is also possible that the METHOD of analysis FORCES THIS
PERSPECTIVE. By this I mean that the use of recursive dichotomisations
creates confusion in that properties of the method of analysis are seen as
properties of the thing under analysis. For example, when using
dichotomisations there are states where the ordering of the elements either
does not matter (concept of equivalence) or is indeterminate (and so is the
SAME state as if it does not matter). From this emerges wave-interference
patterns when we analyse, implying that there are 'waves' present rather
than seeing this as a property of the method of analysis!

This said, there is strong suggestion that we have adapted to our
environment by internalising some (all?) of its characteristics and if
complexity is one of these then the bifurcation process, the aka
dichotomisation process, that is tied to complexity is 'in us' and comes out
whenever we think.

The recent number of books etc on the nature of chimps, including 'demonic
males' manifesting the 'violence' angle (opposition) as well as matriarchal
groups manifesting a cooperative angle (sex with all members, between all
members, of the group) demonstrates this probability process founded on the
opposition/cooperation dichotomy.

Here we see the SAME dichotomy we see in the development process in
evolution, suggesting a multiple dimensional development process where we
not only move along the dimension from opposition to cooperation but we can
also 'stop' and develop 'vertically'; certain 'oppositional' traits are
'useful' in a given context and so a niche is formed (perhaps prematurely)
with immediate context feedback processes strengthening the expression of
oppositional behaviour.

We add to this 'memories' in that the external storage of information, as
well as practical education, ensures the perpetuation of 'traditions'. In a
non-verbal environment, learning by example always comes out of the
'middle', the space between birth/death and at the group level is 'eternal',
it never dies...



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