RE: i-memes and m-memes

Wade T.Smith (
Mon, 30 Aug 1999 22:27:45 -0400

Subject: RE: i-memes and m-memes
Date: Mon, 30 Aug 1999 22:27:45 -0400
From: "Wade T.Smith" <>
To: <>

>They don't literally "contain" any more information than
>any other similarly complex physical object.

First- yes, I don't understand. I am here to start to understand. I am
almost quite literally that nine-year old child someone who really knows
something should be able to explain this something to- I am not looking
to redefine common usages and words, but to be able to turn to my
daughter when she asks 'what did you do on the 'net today, Daddy?'

We have memes, and symbols, and maps, and territories, and information,
and artefacts, and objects, and ideas, and data, and facts, and fables,
and all these other things working into and in memetics- it's a real grab
bag from all sources.

We now have the Iceman being interpreted by someone with some
correspondence to acupuncture points. (Of course, there are _quite a few_
acupuncture points- I daresay playing pin-the-tail-on-the-Iceman would
create a pattern just about as correspondent.... And, hell, we _do_
attempt to find these sort of cultural correspondences when faced with
the unknown. This is memetic mutation, yes?) Anyway- it seems that the
amount of disciplines and studies and realms of knowledge that can be
brought to bear, are, and the influx of new people always brings strange
and different, and somehow correlative viewpoints to just about every
discussion. This leads to madness, sometimes.... But I'm sure many of you
go off and say, hmmm- that's an interesting point of view, let me try to
see from that direction.

And that, in a nutshell, is what is so fascinating to me about all this.
It is a theatre of the mind.

Anyway- to my point, poor as it is-

1. Objects and information.

To me, memetic objects (as opposed to naturally formed objects) are
objects _formed_ in the act of encoding information. (I am using Robin's
terms as best I know at this moment.)

They are _not_ encodings of this information.

And if that is what you are saying, Robin, then I have got it.

If it is not, if what you are saying is that memetic objects _are_
encodings of information, then I do not agree with you.

But, I am trying to listen. I have not made up my mind here.

2. Birdsong/whalesong/non-human culture....

Well, I am ready to call culture a continuum, and to put us all in it.

But, somewhere in this continuum, I really don't think that if I were an
avian, that I would be singing the praises of avianness.... I really
think, that if I were a bird, and an 8 year old boy, say, with a really
good whistling ability, started imitating the bird song he heard, I'd be
confused. And once he started whistling 'Dixie', I'd be, well, the birdie
equivalent of really bloody confused, and gods might have to be

On the continuum of culture, which is a valid way of looking at it,
birdsong is a preliminary step, a first fractal permutation, if you will,
leading to the whistling of 'Dixie', and the overtures of Rossini.... I
really don't think any bird is going to use a memetic artefact other than
its behavior to make birdsong, and that is where I think the continuum
needs some line of demarcation, where, for lack of a better line, the
human begins.

If there is a real consensus that there really isn't a kind of quantum
leap between birdsong and symphonies, then I'll gladly pack my
humancentrism in a strong valise and send it into the lake. Or we need
the reason cultural evolution was punctuated with such unequilibrium.

And I still like that phrase 'cultural evolution is an intuitive myth'.
Boy, do I like that phrase.

I enjoy that this all hurts, sometimes. But I don't enjoy getting hurt.
But, that happens too.

- Wade

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