Re: when is a meme selfish?

Robin Faichney (
Fri, 27 Aug 1999 16:30:00 +0100

Date: Fri, 27 Aug 1999 16:30:00 +0100
From: Robin Faichney <>
Subject: Re: when is a meme selfish?
In-Reply-To: <>

I really don't think it's helpful to change the Subject line that way,
Wade. It makes it difficult for people to follow one thread among
others. I've changed it back.

In message <>, Wade T.Smith
<> writes
>On 8/27/99 08:14, Robin Faichney said this-
>>there is probably sufficient
>>information in the toaster itself not only to allow the construction of
>>an unlimited number of similar toasters,
>Yes, this forensic data is part of the object as an object of manufacture
>(assuming a culture capable of such technology....) Likewise there is
>molecular information as part of its physical presence.
>This is not, I think, what we are talking about.
>This is what we are talking about-
>>The fact that the information is only available under
>>certain circumstances does not mean that it is not there.
>And I disagree with you. Other than forensic information, I see no reason
>to assume there is any cultural information without the culture to see
>it. Like I said, in the culture of the cargo cult, there is no
>information other than religious totem to a toaster. Those 'certain
>circumstances' are the entirety of cultural information.

That's why we talk about "encoded" information. Of course, it is not
actually "in" the item, any more than what I'm trying to convey just now
is actually "in" these squiggles on the screen in front of you. What it
is actually in, is the relationship between the info carrier and the
info decoder, between these squiggles and you. (Or between them and me
while I'm typing, and between them and you while you're reading.)

My point is that memes are *encoded* in all of brains, behaviour and
artefacts, and nowhere are they "in the clear". Just as genes are
*encoded* in DNA, where the decoding mechanism is the remainder of the
cellular mechanism. What the genes are actually in, is the relationship
between the DNA and its biochemical environment -- what matters is the
interaction between these. Just as it's the interaction between the
encoded meme and its environment that matters, whether that's brain
stuff or observant conspecifics. It's all en/decoding, or in more
general terms, information processing.

Robin Faichney
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