Re: Meme Machine reviewed in Science

Chris Lofting (
Wed, 21 Jul 1999 02:45:21 +1000

From: "Chris Lofting" <>
To: <>
Subject: Re: Meme Machine reviewed in Science
Date: Wed, 21 Jul 1999 02:45:21 +1000

-----Original Message-----
From: Mark M. Mills <>
To: <>
Date: Tuesday, 20 July 1999 10:47
Subject: Re: Meme Machine reviewed in Science

JS and Chris,

Let's put the definitions aside for a moment. It would be silly for me to
on without knowing your opinions regarding the status of memetics in
communities. That's what I'd like to know. How do you think memetics
in the larger scientific community? What do you think is working to
the acceptance of memetics as a science, something on par with genetics?




Mark, et al,

I am endevouring to get through MM (half way) and find that the book lacks
'resonance' (I get easily distracted by the content of the other books I am
reading which seem to resonate more - e.g. Brian Butterworth's "The
Mathematical Brain", )

I think one primary problem in MM and with memes in general is the treating
of a meme as if it had a life of its own in that it was an object of some
sort, it is something outside of our control. In a sense it is and yet it
isnt, there is a 'middle' state which to me means that the definition of
meme is not complete.

Blackmore comments that "Memes are replicators and if they can get
themselves copied they will".

This sort of statement does not help the cause. This statement tries to take
relational processes and objectify them and give them pre-emptive skills, an
intent, and this sort of emphasis, for me, creates a negative vibe, there is
something else going on here; Blackmore's passage is closer to creationism
than to science and evolutionary theory. THERE IS NO INTENT. IT IS OUR

In any development process, the further you go down the line the stronger
becomes the outcome. There is no intent in this, it is just inevitability.
AS we watch the glass fall off the table and head towards the floor, there
is not intent involved.

It is contextual characteristics in the form of feedback processes that
guarantee the outcome. Our brains have developed powers of perception such
that we can see these above mentioned outcomes coming and in doing so come
to the conclusion that intent is present. There is no need for this.

In the consideration of any development process, there is a dimension that
exists that has reactive, random processes at one end and the perception of
proactive, intended processes at the other end; the former treats context as
hostile or even as non-existant, whereas the latter favours a cooperative

As anything follows this dimension so a point comes where that thing crosses
over from a perceived reactive state to a perceived proactive state, the
latter state being where it is easier to describe the process using a
teleological arguement -- the guiding hand -- but this is metaphor and we
need to be careful how we use it. Blackmore's comment (and more in the book)
seems to use this 'intent' indiscriminately and so can alienate one from her
arguement in that there is a degree of literalness that seems to creep in.

To get a grasp on memes you need to get a grasp on conscious and unconscious
processes involved in psyche development. If I go to a movie and the star
smokes a cigarette in a 'novel' way, and the next day/week it is pointed out
by someone that I have adopted the same style the question arises as to
whether this is a conscious or unconscious act.

If it is a conscious act then the act is not linked to being a meme since
the individual concerned has decided that it would possibly be to their
advantage to adopt the particular method for smoking a cigarette. If the
method is seen as an unconscious act then even the individual concerned
could see the method as the manifestation of a meme; they were unconscious
of their actions.

In any sort of communication, one of the primary goals is rapport, aka
resonance where good rapport means individuals become entangled with each
other, they 'speak' the same language.

This conscious *and unconscious* mimicry reflects what? and invasion by some
alien thought process? I think not, I think it reflects sociological,
group-mind behaviours that are deemed advantageous within a group or else
perceived to be so by an individual or group. Any individual at any moment
is making the best choices they can within their perceived context. This
includes opening oneself to sociological influences that include doing
things because the group is doing things; one lets go of any conscious
filtering, the conscious blocking of data, and 'goes with the flow' which
can lead to extreme behaviours that the individual will later claim no
responsibility for.

Denial of a social 'self' automatically forces the 'invasion' concept where
memes turn-up and infect you and it is no fault of your own.

Blackmore writes:

"This problem -- why I cant get that tune out of my mind -- provides a good
example of memetics at work..."

There is a degree of alienation here, alienation from the unconscious
processes that go on at all times within all of us. This alienation, this
insistance that only what I consciously perceive is 'me' and all else is
'not me', stems from a failure to consider/understand data covering the
level of unconscious processing that occurs in all humans.

(I have not found the term "unconscious" mentioned in Blackmores book, nor
the index give any listing of "emotions" or "affect". A ref list entry does
exist for Damasio's "Descartes' Error" however there does not seem to be
anywhere an *extensive* discussion on what is for me the prime arena for
memetic activity, biochemistry in the form of complexity-driven biochemical
processes manifest as patterns of emotion. It is in these areas, the
combination of neurons and neurtransmitters/neuromodulators, that emergences
can take place and it is in these areas that simple uptake issues for
specific neurotransmitters/neuromodulators can lead to the darkest, or
lightest of thoughts.

Blackmore summarises (or should I say writes-off) emotions as:

"It is almost a truism to say 'you can't possibly know how I'm feeling'.
Emotions are private and notoriously difficult to communicate." hmmm... I
dont think Hollywood would agree on that. There are very rich sets of
emotion that are objective in that they are species based and without them
we would not be able to communicate.)

We can see the failure to consider the unconscious as an active partner in
'whole self' in Blackmore's comment:

"Think for a moment about yourself. I mean the 'real you'., the inner self,
that bit of yourself that really feels those heartfelt emotions, the bit of
you that once (or many times) fell in love, *THE YOU THAT IS CONSCIOUS* [my
emphasis] and cares, thinks, works hard, believes, dreams and imagines; *I
MEAN WHO YOU REALLY ARE* [my emphasis]" p 219... this, IMHO, is rubbish.

Later in the same chapter (17) she states that "If we look in side the brain
we do not see a self" Note that what we do see is a full body image
contained in the brain and in the right hemisphere we see a concept of self
that when damaged can lead to neglect and even the denial that parts of us
even exist; does not this reflect a general location of "self-image" both
literal and metaphoric?

In passing also note that there is evidence for depression, a definite
self-image 'problem', to be linked to right hemisphere functionality (in
most people) Also note that the right hemisphere favours relational markers,
and so 'self' would thus be more seen as a series of connections which, if
broken in some way, would affect self-image assessment. (the break is not
noticed, there is more of a contraction in perceived connectivity and so
neglect/denial of the 'broken' parts/links)

Blackmore's statement re '..we do not see a self' is expressed as an
absolute and used to further her arguement, but the 'facts' gained from the
neurosciences suggest that her statement is false and so all else that
develops from it comes into question.

Furthermore, if we look at the development of feedback processes there is
the suggestion that consciousness, that which Blackmore calls the 'real you'
is but a small part of the 'whole' you, this consciousness serves more as a
filtering process, a wall that is used to protect 'in here' from 'out there'
(or in some cases 'out there' from 'in here'!) and this wall can be bypassed
especially when using wave processes (e.g. hypnosis, rhythm etc) These wave
processes get consciousness to 'resonate', to 'bathe' in the signal and so
allow for other data to slip through, we lower the individual defences and
so enter the sociological self mode that allows openess to social demands.
(Also consider the creative aspect of the unconscious where we work on
problems out of consiousness).

If we visit star trek for a moment, one way to get through shields is to
find out their frequency and use that in our weapon systems to slip through
the barrier; resonance removes barriers.

In the human brain the RIGHT hemisphere (in most) is highly responsive to
frequencies in that they manifest sensory harmonics that the right
automatically tries to analyse and relate to a context, and there is strong
evidence that the emphasis for the right to favour contextual analysis links
the right to 'unconscious' activities.

Of all of the many systems/sub-systems operating in humans, it is emotion
that emerges as the source/playground for memetic activity in that there are
patterns of emotion that we all share as a species and empathy/sympathy are
examples of these emotion-based patterns expressed as behaviours that
reflect resonance at work. The RIGHT hemisphere is superior at emotion
processing (the left is too single context and so too black/white) and is
also superior at metaphor analysis, getting 'behind' the presented message
to respond to the 'true' meaning; something that is also tied to memetic

Considering all of this in the context of memes, there is 'something' going
on but I think the manner in which memes have been discussed/presented etc
is intuitively 'missing' something and it has to do with resonance and the
bypassing of the individual self (independence bias) to a more connected
self (dependence bias). Included in this is a social self identity, in the
form of the individual's unconscious that can function at the level of
making choices etc that, when seen in the light of conscious analysis may
seem 'alien'...but then isnt this what deep analysis is all about --
reconnecting or rebalancing the whole brain-mind? We bypass some of this
through the use of drugs but if the drugs are not available, mind
interactions can also get results. Erickson Hypnosis techniques are often
used to put people in a 'lite' trance and so make them susceptable to
suggestion; again the bypassing of the 'wall' through rhythm and/or
double-meanings that relax/confuse consciousness to get through to the
unconscious. You cannot deal with memetics without consideration of
hypnosis/unconsciousness influences.

Mark asks "What do you think is working to advance the acceptance of
memetics as a science, something on par with genetics?"

At the moment, nothing. Despite the writings of Dawkins, Dennett, Blackmore
etc there are rich areas that have not been touched and as long as they
remain untouched so there will exist a 'gap' in memetics that others outside
of memetics will intuitively 'feel'....Well, I do :-)



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