Re: The information theoretic view Was: JOM

James McComb (
Thu, 2 Sep 1999 19:02:07 +1000

From: "James McComb" <>
To: "Memetics Discussion List" <>
Subject: Re: The information theoretic view Was: JOM
Date: Thu, 2 Sep 1999 19:02:07 +1000

Richard Brodie:

.....Robin is excited about the information-theoretic model of cultural
evolution, which I think is great, but I'm still happy to keep the word meme
in its accepted (by Dennett/Dawkins et al) meaning as a replicator based in
the mind.

James McComb:

The problem with this conception of the meme is that it stretches the
genetics analogy too far. Memes are not like genes. They are not limited to
a single physical form, like genes are with DNA.

Strictly speaking, a meme is not a brain pattern, artifact or behavior, but
the information it carries. On the information-theoretic view, memes are not
physical objects. Instead, memes should be regarded as 'information' or
'instructions' that is 'encoded' in physical objects.

Memes are, in Robin's words, 'peripatetic'. Memetic information is encoded
in brains (i-form), and it is also encoded in behaviors and artifacts
(m-form). This view dissolves the genotype/phenotype distinction (and with
it any Lamarckian worries). It also solves Derek Gatherer's problem about
the location of mutations. Mutations can occur in both the i-form and the
m-form of a meme.

---James McComb

P.S. Sorry to be argumentative, Richard. I don't really disagree with your
viewpoint as such. I just think that memetics must inevitably progress to an
information-theoretic view.

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