Genes versus Memes

Tue, 8 Feb 1994 20:11:45 -0500

>Again, your critique here is telling IF and ONLY IF we take the
>following as givens:
>[1] "memes" exist as the natural, generative, basis for culture and
>therefore that cultural change is the result of changes in memes possessed
>by people (false on the face of it unless this is held to be
>*definitionally* true -- about such matters I cannot argue)

Why? It is not "definitionally true" but I don't see why it would be false
either. Please elaborate. If memes = programming code, and the code is
modified, the organism will be carrying out different instructions. Hence,
change in memes = change in culture.

>[2] assume that they are capable of being subjected to such an analysis
>(highly questionable if nothing material is involved, which seems to be
>the case -- how does one go about doing the memic equivalent of
>gel-electorphoresis?? Unlike genes, memes do not have a physical
>existance and hence are not *objects* for study)

Again, I miss your point. Do computer programs have a material existence?
"Objects" do not have to be material. In the computer science world, an
"object" is anything that can be modelled on a computer (hence,
Object-Oriented Programming.)

>[3] the only "good" analysis is based upon a tally of them (whatever
>they might be and however they might be studied). This, of course, can
>only occur if you presume application of a replicator based analysis is
>your SOLE option.)

What is a "replicator based analysis?" If you mean it is worth analyzing
how memes utilize organisms to replicate, then this is at least part of the
sort of analysis I am talking about.

>I have this tendency to think that organisms (including their
>interactions) are where it is at (with consideration made for
>replicator- or [as I would rather put it] trait-based analysis when the
>data seems to demand it!). Here, I think that a lot of the confusion
>comes from a problem population genetics confronted successfully a long
>time ago -- when we tally fitness do we count genes or individuals with
>those genes? Seen as an accounting exercise, you can appreciate that
>the results will have to be congruent, and that the choice of one or
>the other is based in *methodology* NOT *theory*.

Clearly just as genes and organisms are codependent, so are memes and
cultures. Some organisms will spread certain genes more rapidly than
others. Some cultures will spread certain memes more rapidly than others.
Some 'memes' will prefer certain 'system environments' (cultures) to
others. Most of my computer programs (memes) run better on Mac System 6.0.7
than 7.1.

> Dave Rindos
> Australian Foundation for Archaeological Sciences
> 20 Herdsmans Parade Wembley WA 6014 AUSTRALIA
> Ph:+61 9 387 6281 (GMT+8) FAX:+61 9 380 1051 (USEST+13)

OK, here's how I see the difference between genes and memes:

1). The rate of genetic replication is based on the "reproductive fitness"
(how many offspring with the gene survive long-term) of the organism. The
rate of memetic replication begins but doesn't end with biology or
reproduction. Having lots of offspring may mean they are all brought up
with the meme, and surviving longer may mean the person has a longer period
of time with which to expose others to the meme. Physical health may
influence memetic propagation in that a vigorous person may have more
opportunities to spread memes than a sick one. And clearly genes that
influence brain development are important.
However, organisms that do not reproduce can still spread memes. (e.g.,
the Pope.) Further, adaptively defective (biologically unfit) organisms
(the Elephant Man), self-destructive organisms (e.g. martyrs), and mentally
deranged organisms (e.g. Charles Manson) can all spread memes. So there is
a certain gene/biology-independence of memes.

2). The rate of memetic replication is based on: 1. The communication
infrastructure the organisms has access to. Clearly, the organism can
spread memes over a greater area more quickly by Wide Area
telecommunications Networks than it can by papyrus or the spoken voice. 2.
The inherent replication factor in the memetic system. Proselytizing
memetic systems will spread more rapidly than non-proselytizing ones which
rely only on imitation or 'conversion.' 3. How well the meme is able to
adapt to new 'system environments' (cultures.) The "Angel" meme was able to
jump from Persian Zoroastrianism to Judaism, with slight modifications.
To propagate a meme, the organism must communicate it to others who do
not possess it already, and they must then accept it into their cerebrum.
People who already possess exclusive memetic systems ("the one True Way")
are unlikely to accept new memetic systems. Probably those memetic system
which are most successful are those which contain propositions which
suggest they are beneficial to the organism, whether they are or not.

3) Memes can now be spread by non-organisms. Artificial Intelligences can
easily do so, and have done so on the Net on numerous occasions.

Seeker1 [@Nervm.Nerdc.Ufl.Edu] (real info available on request)
Anthropologist, Cybernaut, PoMoDemite, Noetician, Situationiste, et al.
University of Florida, Gainesville, Cosmic Nexus of the Universal Matrix
"'Tis an ill wind that blows no minds!" --Malaclypse the Younger