Re: i-memes and m-memes

Robin Faichney (
Mon, 30 Aug 1999 20:02:42 +0100

Date: Mon, 30 Aug 1999 20:02:42 +0100
From: Robin Faichney <>
Subject: Re: i-memes and m-memes
In-Reply-To: <>

In message <>, Wade T.Smith
<> writes
>>I've been talking about "encoding" all along.
>I did read on, and I mean 'encoding' as well. It is my position that an
>object contains no encoding whatsoever,

Of course it doesn't! How could it?

>that such encoding is part of the
>culture and not part of the artefact.

Obviously. That's what "encoding" means.

>Remove the culture capable of
>decoding an artefact, and the object lapses to the inert. This inertia is
>not a result of its 'encodings' being unavailable to another culture, but
>the loss of the encoding structure, which _is the culture itself_.

You honestly thought I believe that things contain their own encoding?
Please tell me what I said to give that impression -- I really need to

>Maybe we need an operational fulcrum here under the plank 'symbol'. Or I
>do. Again, in my simple mind game with myself, looking at my bathroom
>scale, asking myself what information is in _that_ object, I came away
>with none.
>And I think this is unique to 'human culture'.

Wade, if you were a bird, you'd be squawking about the uniqueness of
avian culture.

>Right now, I do not see
>birdsong as cultural, but more as a behavioral artefact without an
>encoding structure other than genetic, closely tied to territorial
>imperatives and instincts, but, I am willing to be moved from that
>position, if only definitionally, a la Blackmore.

Birds learn aspects of their songs from older conspecifics. Tell me
that's not cultural.

>>But you take "contains" too literally.
>I _do_ take things literally. I appreciate it. It helps people like
>myself, laymen without jargon, to understand things.

No, it does not. Where something isn't meant literally, to take it so,
is to misunderstand it.

>The object itself,
>to me, literally, contains no information,

It contains information in the physicist's sense, which is inversely
proportional to entropy, and is basically just the form or structure of
the thing.

>certainly not 'potential'
>information, whatever that means, and certainly not a 'potential meme'
>whatever that means as well. And, yes, I think it contains no
>'encoding' either.

It does not "contain encoding" -- that phrase doesn't mean anything.
Encoding is a function of the relationship between two or more items of
information, where that includes physical (physicist's) information. If
you don't understand that, I think you should say so, rather than
claiming you disagree with it, which just causes further confusion and
wasted time and effort.

>It may be, or contain, a symbol of this encoding, but if we have
>to talk of behaviors being memetic, we need to see the behaviors
>themselves as objects, and, since perfect behavior is impossible (in
>it is subject to the same replicative errors as are all objects in this
>forensic universe), then the behaviors are themselves symbols of the

I haven't a clue what you mean by that sentence. (See what I mean?)

>Because, if any object contains memes, then _all_ objects contain
>'potential memes' and, well, such universality is nice, but hardly

No object literally "contains" either memes or potential memes.

Robin Faichney
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