Re: i-memes and m-memes

James McComb (
Wed, 1 Sep 1999 17:36:36 +1000

From: "James McComb" <>
To: "Memetics Discussion List" <>
Subject: Re: i-memes and m-memes
Date: Wed, 1 Sep 1999 17:36:36 +1000

James McComb:

Once the decoding system is lost, memetic information is not necessarily
lost forever. Don't forget the phenomenon of independent re-discovery, which
is so common in scientific and mathematical memes.

Robin Faichney:

What's rediscovered is not the meme, but the phenomenon that inspired it.
Yes, it's the same meme that is inspired, but that is due to background
similarities in the discoverers, i.e. *that* decoding system is *not* lost.

James McComb:

'*that* decoding system is *not* lost'... You imply that if two discoverers
arrive at decoding systems that are functionally identical then they possess
the SAME decoding system. This is only the case where the discoverers are
part of the same culture. This is because not only memes, but also their
associated encoding/decoding systems evolve over time.

For example, Newton and Leibniz independently invented the calculus.
However, they were part of the same mathematical culture. This is because
they each inherited ideas from the same earlier mathematicians. So, you
might say that there is one encoding/decoding system (the calculus), arising
in the (European) mathematical culture through Newton and Leibniz.

But what about when culturally isolated communities making the same
discoveries? Say, the Phoenicians and the Chinese independently inventing
ideographic writing? This is best seen as a case of parallel evolution. The
encoding/decoding systems (ideographic writing) are ANALOGOUS, rather than

In summary: When a decoding system is lost, it is not necessarily lost
forever because an analogous decoding system can arise through parallel

I don't know whether that's really a defence of my earlier statement, but
it's interesting! :)

---James McComb

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