Re: virus: Discoveries and Inventions

Dave Pape (
Fri, 7 Feb 1997 13:06:28 GMT

At 22:03 06/02/97 -0500, Reed wrote:

>>Not at all. Indeed and truly no. Free memes are... unstable and senseless
>>memes. "Vacuum-packed Klondyke homeopaths". That's a meme freed of selection
>>pressures. In fact, probably without heavy selection pressures to drive
>>them, we'd never even be able to develop memes to distinguish between our
>>parents' faces.
>Recognizing parent's faces? You're getting close to the line where I ask
>how you differentiate between a meme and a reflex or a heritable encoded

I don't think that recognising your parent's faces is reflex behaviour,
because I can't imagine a workable way in which facial-appearance genes
passed on by parents could wire offspring's brains to recognise their
expression in the parent's appearance. I think it's learned behaviour, but
is NOT based on memes (cultural information) per se.

I'd say reflex is behaviour emerging from activity in a hardwired, direct
connection between perceptual neurons and motor neurons. Insects' nervous
systems (NSs) work largely by reflex... they don't learn much, I don't think.

Reflex is an inflexible, not-very-adaptible, way of reacting to perceptions
of the world, and I can see a selection pressure working on competitors
within species which might allow NSs to develop with less hardwired neural
groups BETWEEN perceptual groups and motor groups.

This is what I think of as a Central NS. Animals with CNSs are better at
LEARNING. And I would propose that learning is the emergence, from the
interaction of cognitive processing units, of an ecology of cognitive
relationships (ideas), but ideas which aren't culturally transmitted (ie
aren't memes). I believe that recognising your mum and dad's faces (a trick
distinct from just being able to react to "A FACE") falls into this category
of idea: an ecology of sub-ideas, but non-cultural ones. The private,
personal, non-reproducing (maybe) version of a meme.

Memes... well, they're a special case of these ideas, ones which are
transmitted and which replicate in other CNSs.

>I also think you are using the meme like the word "smurf". No offense
>intended, I just have difficultly seeing how a useful concept can be so
>broad as to include parental recognition and existentialism (aren't they
>one and the same? [this is a joke]). Sounds a little like "god" to me...

Hey, but what about the concept "organism"? It is attached to unicellular,
and luticellular life-things, and I believe that multi-cellular organisms
(also referred to by some as metacellulars) are emergent metasystems of the
interaction of single cells in a colony.

So, Volvox is a simple colony of cells, organised (wahey!) as a hollow
sphere rolling about in the sea, and I'm a more complex, more organised,
organism. We're worlds apart- my cells show much more differentiation of
function and interdependence than Volvox's, I look more like an ecosystem of
different types of cells- but we're both still organisms.

So parental recognition in terms of reacting differentially to faces is not
really a meme (by my explanation above), parental recognition by language is
a simple meme (a Volvox-type memetic organism), and existentialist
philosophy as a whole is a large-scale, highly organised and differentiated,
multicellular ecology/colony of memes.

Dave Pape
If you mapped memespace onto a 2D plane, then made a 3-D graph with
Activation Level as the vertical axis, and animated shots of the graph over
time, it'd look like the progress of some crazy Hokusai ocean.

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