[Fwd: [Fwd: L- and G-memes (was: Re: Measuring Memes)]]

t (Mario.Vaneechoutte@rug.ac.be)
Tue, 22 Jun 1999 11:45:05 +0200

From: <Mario.Vaneechoutte@rug.ac.be>
Date: Tue, 22 Jun 1999 11:45:05 +0200
To: "Memetics, discussion list" <memetics@mmu.ac.uk>
Subject: [Fwd: [Fwd: L- and G-memes (was: Re: Measuring Memes)]]

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Tim Rhodes wrote:

> I probably didn't put that as well as I could have. Let me try again.
> If we see memes as akin to genes, we're likely to look to genetics
> (population or otherwise) for mathematical models which we can use to apply
> to the behavior of memes. Aaron and Derek may dispute exactly which of
> these formulas to use or how to apply them, but their general usefulness
> isn't really in question if you've already decided that memes are
> replicators and involved in natural selection.
> But if we see memes as something else, as information that is acted upon by
> an external agency rather then just copying itself, do we need to use a
> different set of equations? If, as you say:
> "Present day culture (cultural selection) then is considered to be in an
> earlier developmental stage than biology (natural selection), a stage which
> is best compared with prebiotic chemical interaction at the time when
> informational molecules (nucleotides) were developed."
> Do we then have any examples of how evolution and selection would act in
> that prebiotic state from which to model the actions of the non-autonomous
> meme?
> Is there enough difference between "evolution" (as in culture) and "natural
> selection" (as in biology) for us to worry about that mis-match?

Maybe my attempt to define selection, cultural selection and natural selection
(as also explained in the origin of life manuscript) may be of some help
here:"Selection is a general principle. It occurs when variations on a theme
exist. None, one, more or all variations will be able to exist in the given
environment. Radioactive decay is an example of selection among variations on
the theme of physically stable atomic configurations in a universe (environment)
with certain parameters for fundamental laws. The difference with cultural and
natural selection is that there is no amplification/replication of the fit
variations.In cultural selection, different answers to a problem (variations on
a theme) may be valued differently by the environment (in casu the scientific
community). The most valued hypothesis will be amplified, other hypotheses may
disappear. The difference with natural selection is that the amplification
efficiency of hypotheses is not encoded in these hypotheses: hypotheses do not
self replicate, but are replicated by scientists, presses, computers.
In natural selection, the only theme is amplification efficiency itself and
selection among the different variations on the theme of autonomous replication
automatically leads to amplification. At first sight this is a powerful
principle, but with respect to developing more complexity, biology is hampered
because of limitations in searching information space: only those variations
which do not diminish autonomous duplication efficiency can exist. To the
contrary, the evolution of cultural information does not depend on its ability
to replicate autonomously. Therefore any idea or recombination of ideas
imaginable is possible. Hence, the difference between cultural selection and
natural selection: if science were to proceed by natural selection, this would
mean that the texts produced by science also should contain all the necessary
information on how to make a new text. Any changes to these texts which would
undermine the ability to self reproduce would disable the text to spread any

> (Hmmm, I'm not really sure if that was any clearer or not...)

It was to me.To answer another question (see above): Since we know virtually
nothing about prebiotic events, my idea was that our knowledge of cultural
evolution could be applied to better understand prebiotic events (and not the
other way around which you asked for).

> I'll tell you where I think I'm going with this. I have an idea which is
> cooking away at the moment--although it's still quite half-baked--which sees
> both the meme-in-the-mind and the meme-in-the-behavior/artifact as
> equivalent; as two different manifestations of the same meme. Such that it
> would be misleading to talk about either memes as being passed from
> brain-to-brain using behaviors, or from behavior-to-behavior using brains,
> since either view only covers one part of the story.

I think this idea of memes as patterns is an interesting approach, and has also
been proposed by - if I am correct - Rob Clewley (see e.g. the webpage of the
Memetics Symposium in Namur, August last year)

> I'm using the following thought experiment:
> Suppose we call both the instructions in the mind and the manifestations of
> them "memes". But we still make a distinction between the two in regards to
> how the meme can mutate and what types of selection pressures will act upon
> it in either of those two forms. For simplicity sake, I'm going to call the
> memes-in-the-mind "Lynch's memes" or L-memes and the
> memes-in-behavior-and/or-artifacts "Gatherer's memes" or the G-memes.
> (Despite that fact that this will probably result in shouts of disgust from
> both Aaron and Derek. :-)
> So, imagine that there can be no such thing as heredity between one L-meme
> and the next. And equally, there is no real heredity between G-memes and
> their descendants. But rather, that L-memes may be replicated (loosely)
> into G-memes and that G-memes may, in turn, be replicated (equally loosely)
> into L-memes. So that we can never say that a meme is "passed down", but
> rather that in retains characteristics while undergoing a L-G-L-G-L-G
> transcription.
> Now, this might seem like a very small distinction, but I really don't think
> it is. There'll be a whole different set of rules governing the
> transcription of an L-meme into a G-meme than there would with be for
> transcribing a G-meme into an L-meme. For instance, if an idea (an L-meme)
> is changed into an action (a G-meme) the type selection pressures it
> undergoes--which will relate to why that idea was chosen for enaction over
> others--will be different than those in play when the witnessed action
> becomes stored in anothers memory (as an L-type meme). In the later case,
> issues of simple physical proximity, the focus of attention, or the seeming
> similarity to other memes previously transcribed may play a greater role in
> selecting which G-memes successfully make the change into L-memes than
> vise-versa.
> And in the same way, the types of variations or mutations that take place as
> an L-meme becomes a G-meme will be different in kind from those that occur
> as a G-meme becomes an L-meme. And these differences would also, therefore,
> need to be acounted for in any future models of meme behavior.
> >From this point of view--seeing the memes as the characteristics that
> survive in different forms throughout the L-G-L-G (or for that matter
> "G-L-G-L") process--any arguments about whether a meme resides in the brain
> or is actually in the behavior, would appear similar to a debate about
> whether the hydrologic cycle begins with mountain rains or ocean
> evaporation. (And as such, ultimately just about as useful to boot!)
> I also think this viewpoint has certain implications about fidelity though
> the L-G-L-G cycle and what characteristics we should expect to see surviving
> the process successfully. But my ideas in this area are still even more
> rudimentary and less thought out than the mess I've presented you with
> above.
> -Tim Rhodes.
> BTW, it's more than likely I've pilfered some or all of these ideas from
> someone or from an article somewhere, but at the moment I can't remember
> what or from where that might have been.

That is what we all do. Creativity is creation of new combinations or in other
words, it is recombination, it is not creation de novo.

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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