Re: virus: Discoveries and Inventions

Dave Pape (
Sun, 16 Feb 1997 20:21:17 GMT

At 09:56 13/02/97 -0600, Ken wrote:

>> 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.
>Careful. Even if recognising your parents' faces is learned, perhaps
>*learning* whose faces those are *is* reflex.
>Bootstrapping one's first language is another example[?] of "reflex
>learning". This procedure can convert pidgins into languages -- cf.
>Nicaragua's school for the deaf, where the children under seven took the
>pidgin the older children were using, and *converted* it to a language
>[suddenly the instructors must learn the language, or else they can't teach!]

Ah: Stephen Pinker bites my arse. For anyone who's not clear, Pinker reckons
(and his evidence is pretty tuff) that there's wiring in the human brain
that primes us to pick up language as kids, but which stops helping us when
we grow up. So kids can't help BUT learn grammatical language (as long as
they've got functional brains and are exposed to linguistic adults), but
adults can't get their heads round real generative grammars in new languages
that they try to learn.

OKAY. Here's the example.

Experimental chamber, two levers, one banana behind plastic window, one
hungry monkey. If monkey pulls one lever, window opens, monkey can eat
banana. If monkey pulls other lever, electric shock to feet.

We observe monkey at first pissing about in the chamber doing all sorts of
uncoordinated things (uncoordinated in terms of strategies for
banana-hunting). After a few goes, however, the monkey learns to zero in on
the banana lever whenever placed in the chamber. Dunno why I put the shock
lever in there... oh yeh: giving animals electric shocks is a good laugh.

But my central point here is, that's learned behaviour, no memetic
transmission, and (I'd argue) no genetic predisposition to pull any
particular lever when near bananas.

I reckon that the response is learnt by an association between smaller
responses ("pull this thing", "grab banana", "avoid this thing"), none of
which are necessarily memetic. So, I'm still arguing for an ecological
structure of non-memetic ideas in personal minds, just like in human minds
(and group minds) you can get ecologies of memes and metamemes. Sorry,

Dave Pape
Ran out of sig. ideas.

Phonecalls: 01494 461648 Phights: 10 Riverswood Gardens
High Wycombe
HP11 1HN