Re: definition of meme (was Re: virus: Re : Complexity was TT)

Alexander Williams (
Wed, 27 Nov 1996 13:54:06 -0500

David McFadzean wrote:
> Well, yes. But the linguistic shorthand is exactly the point of contention.
> When I claim that this message encodes memes, I'm claiming that the
> memes that cause me to write this message will be transmitted to anyone
> that knows how to read this message. Of course the message can be
> misinterpreted or misunderstood (generating different memes than the
> intended ones). Of course this message can be complete gibberish to
> someone or something that can't read ascii English. I'm not claiming
> that an interpreter isn't necessary or assumed. To encode something is
> to create a pattern that contains enough information to retrieve the
> original (or something close enough to the original). That is the sense
> in which I claim this message contains encoded memes.

However, in this case I think the shorthand is getting in the way of
understanding the process.

For a different take on your missive, take my view: The memes that cause
you to write your email to the list cause you to create a very specific
pattern of `literary figures,' transmitted by electronic vectors to all
participant. These figures, in the act of interpretation, cause each
observer's meme-structures/interpreters to give rise to certain other
memes, certain of which attempt to model what my meme-structures suggest
what /your/ meme-structures were involved in whilst composing the
pattern of spoor. Meanwhile, those memes I
reconstruct/are-born-by-interpretation-from your missive rattle around
against my own memes and get corners knocked off, further mutating by
interaction and eventually settle in or get discarded.

In short, I don't think the composition of patterns themselves, whether
it be smears of light or vibrations in air contain enough information to
`retrieve the original.' I think we get `good enough copies' but still,
distinctly different entities from the originals.

> >The fact that algorithms /are/ abstract bolsters my arguments; memes
> >have a lot more in common with abstracted algorithms than manifest code.
> True, but I don't see how that bolsters your argument. Why don't
> you go all the way and claim that no two people share a meme?

OK, `no two people (or better, minds) share a meme.' How's that for
heretical? People share memes which function similarly and which are
shaped by the neural structure that supports them and the patterns made
by other meme-complexes, but to say that my idea of the word `cow' and
yours is the same is ludicrous. They share enough in common that we can
approximate a model of what you mean when you say `cow' and vice versa,
but that's a pretty broad concept in the particulars.

[BTW: Mine's white and black bossie.]

> For any program you care to show me, I can come up with an
> interpreter that doesn't recognize it. So what? Does that
> mean there are no programs? Of course not. All perl5 programs
> are programs, therefore the one I inserted in my message is
> also a program.

If all you had was a Perl4 interpreter then the code you posted wouldn't
be a program at all, it'd be a string of data, perhaps, but not `a

`All dogs are dogs' is not quite a contraversial statement.

> This type of argument is called reductio ad absurdum and is
> standard practice in logic:
> RAA: Take any proposition as a reductio premise (P/RAA),
> deduce an absurd consequence leading to a contradiction,
> and conclude that the negation of the initial proposition
> must be true.
> I didn't imagine anyone would think #6 is true.

Hint: in the futurewhen engaging in reducido ad absurdiam argument, be
certain your absurdity is, in fact, absurd. I should hope my commentary
up til this point would have shown why /I/, at least, don't think its
absurd to say `memes cannot be transmitted' even if your point of view

> You are the first person I've come across to claim that memes cannot be
> transmitted. May I suggest you check out the alt.memetics FAQ
> ( The whole point of memetics
> is to understand how ideas are transmitted culturally.

Have the very precepts of memetics become so entrenched amongst the
community that some of the basic axioms cannot be questioned without
questioning the validity of the entire structure? I'm quite familliar
with the contents of the alt.memetics FAQ as well with a fair amount of
the selected bibliography and, frankly, the insinuation that I'm not is
slightly insulting.

If the entire point of memetics is to understand how ideas are
transmitted culturally, it might be worthwhile to look at ideas which
involve memetics without the limitation of only looking at transference
so that your own vision of the possibilities of the field are not so
limited as others. Taking the position that memes exist but cannot be
transmitted, they can only create patterns in physical reality (yes,
objectivism again) that other memes can interpret in different ways to
spawn new memes is just as valid as the more mainstream view that memes
are inherently transmissable. Both theories have facts which would seem
to support their existances.

Its somewhat disturbing to find the Virus list already so encapsulated
around dogma; one would think a Virian Church would eschew dogma in
favour of almost constant catyclismic change.

Alexander Williams {   ||Member: Evil Geniuses
          }    ||For a Better Tomorrow
============================================// => Charter Member <=

"Perhaps we should lower our mental trousers and compare the size of our consciousnesses?" -- Jan Sands to Marvin Minsky ==================================================================== <>