Re: virus: Does a dog have meme-nature?

Reed Konsler (
Tue, 11 Jun 1996 15:51:15 -0400

Well, you've come up with an unusual definition for meme, which I think
muddies the issue. No one thinks a meme is "physical wiring". Memes are
software. But it's generally agreed that the meme is the internal
information, not the expression.

In light of the responses I regret using the word "meme" in my previous post.
I'm not attempting to "muddy the issue" of what a meme is or isn't. That
single concept, however you choose to categorize it, is not so significant; one
meme among many, if you will.

There is information recorded in the environment which at no time occupies a
single human mind, but which we nevertheless use frequently. Take a good
atlas. While each of us has a pretty good mental map of the places we frequent
none of us can remember such a vast amount of information. Can you fill out
your taxes is your head?

Here's a computer analogy: The brain is a computer. It holds software (memes)
is something like onboard RAM and ROM (though those distinctions are not as
clear in the brain). This computer has some maximum processing and storge
capacity. As a result, like any good engineer, nature has designed a off-line
storage system. The computer uses a set of memes to record information and a
set of "distinction-memes" to read it again. Most likely these systems were
appropriated from other uses and are not 100% efficient at their task.

Real computers use similar systems, hard drives, CD ROM, etc. Hard drives are
an interesting case. If the hard drive read/write system is fast enough you
can create "virtual memory" by using the off-line storage system to store parts
of the program you are currently using. If it's really fast you can actually
keep most of the program recorded (off-line) on the drive and only a small
portion in active memory.

It would be folly to argue that computaion goes on outside the computer. I'm
not arguing that memetic evolution goes on outside the brain. What I am saying
is that the environment is not just the medium of memetic exchange, it is also
the place where we store the vast amount of information/programs we use daily
in "virtual memeory". It is often FASTER to look something up that to figure
it out or remember it.

We are in a symbiotic realtionship with our tools to the extent that we cannot
think at the level of complexity we are accostomed to, without them.

I'm not trying to capture the word. If meme means what is in the brain then so
be it. To concentrate solely on this definition ignores a great deal of
information we use and, I would say, neglects an important component of