Memes

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Memes

Postby wolfhnd on November 18th, 2015, 9:48 pm 

We need to rehash the meme idea. If it offends some people because it sounds too much like genes I understand but considering the state of the social sciences it's as good a place to start as any. For me if memes are ok with Daniel Dennett they are good enough for me.

"Starting with the simple tale of an ant, philosopher Dan Dennett unleashes a devastating salvo of ideas, making a powerful case for the existence of memes — concepts that are literally alive."

https://www.ted.com/talks/dan_dennett_o ... anguage=en
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Re: Do societies posses Identity, Subjectivity, Qualia?

Postby Serpent on November 19th, 2015, 12:30 am 

What does he mean : No other species subordinates its personal interest to the interest of the collective? He started with an ant that had been hijacked by a parasite. What about the billions and billions of healthy ants that routinely subordinate their own interest to the interest of their collective? All the hive creatures do this, and they have been around far longer, and are far more stable, than humans.

I have two major problems with memes.
One is, he keeps comparing them to viruses, or other organisms with origins independent of the host species; that thrive and replicate for reasons unrelated, and often inimical, to the welfare of the host.
The second, and perhaps more fundamental one is the imprecise definition. If a thing can be as small as a word or as big as the concepts of liberty, how am it to identify this thing accurately when I come across an example of it? A strain of virus at least all looks alike, so you can't mistake one for a dust mite or a cockroach or a burdock. I always have trouble accepting ill-defined terms and unmeasured units.

A parasite is a different species, with an agenda of its own. An idea - however bad or ultimately harmful - is the product of human thought. It was createdby humans for a human reason - presumably a reason that was, or at least was believed to be, good for humans, or at least the one human who originated it. Many of the infectious ideas he mentions were invented by some clever human to convince other humans that subordinating their own personal interest to the greater interest of their collective also serves their personal interest: that there was something in it for them. Something important.
This turned out to be true in many, perhaps most, cases.

Because they're more imaginative than ants, humans need more chivvying. They're inclined to follow their own immediate desires, which hardly ever coincide with everyone else's. Nevertheless, if they fail to co-operate, their own interests, welfare and reproductive capability are compromised, or jeopardized. Some of the ideas that convince people to co-operate are easy to subvert, to co-opt and corrupt. Some are hard to grasp, and when simplified, no longer have the intended effect. And so much depends on who is presenting them.

Imagine Donald Trump giving this same talk. Same words and gestures; different man, different style. It would have an entirely different effect; would convince a different audience.

I suspect the comparative infectiousness of ideas is mostly down to charismatic transmitters: individual humans.
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Re: Do societies posses Identity, Subjectivity, Qualia?

Postby wolfhnd on November 19th, 2015, 1:34 am 

Serpent » Thu Nov 19, 2015 4:30 am wrote:What does he mean : No other species subordinates its personal interest to the interest of the collective? He started with an ant that had been hijacked by a parasite. What about the billions and billions of healthy ants that routinely subordinate their own interest to the interest of their collective? All the hive creatures do this, and they have been around far longer, and are far more stable, than humans.


At least get the quotes right! What he said is no other species subordinates genetic interest to other interest. You also switched out the colony with the individual. A meme doesn't reside in a single individual but spreads, unlike the fluke in the ant, to the entire colony. The colony then becomes defined not by it's genetic interest but by the meme.


I have two major problems with memes.
One is, he keeps comparing them to viruses, or other organisms with origins independent of the host species; that thrive and replicate for reasons unrelated, and often inimical, to the welfare of the host.
The second, and perhaps more fundamental one is the imprecise definition. If a thing can be as small as a word or as big as the concepts of liberty, how am it to identify this thing accurately when I come across an example of it? A strain of virus at least all looks alike, so you can't mistake one for a dust mite or a cockroach or a burdock. I always have trouble accepting ill-defined terms and unmeasured units.


A virus can vary from 5 to 14,000 nm long so you size analogy is obviously not going to break the concept.

Viruses are not alive and their origins are intimately tied to the evolution of the host species. The most successful viruses at least in numbers cause only minor damage to the host or may even provide a benefit.

"Mucus is also home to phages, viruses that infect and kill bacteria. They can be found wherever bacteria reside, but Barr and his colleagues noticed that there were even more phages in mucus than in mucus-free areas just millimeters away. The saliva surrounding human gums, for example, had about five phages to every bacterial cell, while the ratio at the mucosal surface of the gum itself was closer to 40 to 1"

"The team found that the phages are studded with antibodylike molecules that grab onto the sugar chains in mucins. This keeps the phages in the mucus, where they have access to bacteria, and suggests that the viruses and the mucus-producing tissue have adapted to be compatible with each other,"

http://news.sciencemag.org/2013/05/frie ... t-bacteria

Some people would argue that the religion meme is beneficial others not so much the important point is that just like viruses they can be both. The biological world is almost infinitely complex and it's is a kind of reverse anthropomorphism that prevents many from seeing that it is more complex than human "creations".


A parasite is a different species, with an agenda of its own. An idea - however bad or ultimately harmful - is the product of human thought. It was createdby humans for a human reason - presumably a reason that was, or at least was believed to be, good for humans, or at least the one human who originated it. Many of the infectious ideas he mentions were invented by some clever human to convince other humans that subordinating their own personal interest to the greater interest of their collective also serves their personal interest: that there was something in it for them. Something important.
This turned out to be true in many, perhaps most, cases.


This simply isn't true. Human ancestors did not start using language and tools so they could grow big brains but language and tools enabled and "caused" big brains by mindless selection. The reverse is equally true, did humans "discover" nuclear physics so they could build atomic bombs? Most ideas are simply mutations or extensions of preexisting ideas and few people are conscious of how they acquire those ideas. Prehistory doesn't leave us much of a record to go on so there are obvious limits on how far back in time we can trace the ancestors of today's ideas but we can get a good idea of how far back we can trace them by looking at the etymology of words. To some extent creativity is an illusion not only are many things discovered by accident but no complex "creation" is independent of thousands of years of cultural evolution that certain didn't have the creation in mind at it's origin.


Because they're more imaginative than ants, humans need more chivvying. They're inclined to follow their own immediate desires, which hardly ever coincide with everyone else's. Nevertheless, if they fail to co-operate, their own interests, welfare and reproductive capability are compromised, or jeopardized. Some of the ideas that convince people to co-operate are easy to subvert, to co-opt and corrupt. Some are hard to grasp, and when simplified, no longer have the intended effect. And so much depends on who is presenting them.


This is simply analogous to mutations. Most mutation subvert, co-op or corrupt.

The important point is , who designed the desires?, certainly not the person they are represented in. The reluctance to attribute "instincts" to humans is confounding. The cost of having the ability to override desires or instincts is that those instincts are less precise than in other organism. If we were ants with precise instincts then memes would have little power over us.

Certainly some people are better vectors for memes than others. Some people are also easier to infect and the more complex the meme the fewer the number of people that will be susceptible to it.



Imagine Donald Trump giving this same talk. Same words and gestures; different man, different style. It would have an entirely different effect; would convince a different audience.


Bats are perhaps the most common carriers of rabies yet they are not as dangerous as an infected dog. Some host just like some viruses are more dangerous than others.


I suspect the comparative infectiousness of ideas is mostly down to charismatic transmitters: individual humans.


There is nothing individual about humans and that is the hard problem. People simply will not accept that they are as much a product of their environment as their genes when it doesn't suit their egos. You certainly wouldn't be here typing if your parents had raised you in a box. You also wouldn't be able to speak intelligently without thousands of years of language and cultural evolution. You arguably wouldn't be able to think without language. We have transmitted to us without being conscious of it the thinking tools that are essential to our concept of human consciousness.
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Re: Do societies posses Identity, Subjectivity, Qualia?

Postby Serpent on November 19th, 2015, 3:46 am 

wolfhnd » November 19th, 2015, 12:34 am wrote:
At least get the quotes right!



----- The secret of happiness is: Find something more important than you are and dedicate your life to it. Most of us -- now that the "Me Decade" is well in the past -- now we actually do this. One set of ideas or another have simply replaced our biological imperatives in our own lives. This is what our summum bonum is. It's not maximizing the number of grandchildren we have. Now, this is a profound biological effect. It's the subordination of genetic interest to other interests. And no other species does anything at all like it. -----

Okay, there is the quote. Actually worse than I remembered. I very much doubt we're giving up the maximum number of grandchildren for an idea; I think we're more probably doing it for some personal pay-off. Like living more comfortably when we raise 2 children and send them to grad-school than start with 18 babies, bury 9 children and end up with 9 unemployable adults. We got a little smarter than our genes - but only after we had indoor plumbing.

What he said is no other species subordinates genetic interest to other interest.

"Other" being? For an ant, the survival of the collective - on which its own survival depends. For a brainwashed adolescent, the suicide mission that will take him heaven in a blaze of glory. For a revolutionary, his national identity, an end to humiliating subservience. The payoff may not appeal to us, but there is one.

You also switched out the colony with the individual. A meme doesn't reside in a single individual but spreads, unlike the fluke in the ant, to the entire colony. The colony then becomes defined not by it's genetic interest but by the meme.

He switched out the infected individual. Why bring in the fluke at all? It's not an ant-product; it's from outside. No ant colony becomes defined by an idea, but it can be destroyed by a parasite.
A meme can't reside in an entire human colony, until after it's been invented, articulated, expounded and broadcast. It has to reside first in an individual.


A virus can vary from 5 to 14,000 nm long so you size analogy is obviously not going to break the concept.

It's not about size, it's about classification. We can identify a strain of virus and produce a specific vaccine. Try to identify and classify a thing that's sorta tiny-hugish spiky-smooth adamantine squishy, narrow-round, sometimes lies quietly in a dictionary but might lead a horde of Visigoths rampaging across Europe.

Viruses are not alive and their origins are intimately tied to the evolution of the host species.


It doesn't matter how viruses evolved. Lots of creatures co-evolved and influenced each other. Lots of biological processes take place in juxtaposition and are interdependent. None of them were human inventions for a human purpose. The analogy simply isn't valid.


[A parasite is a different species, with an agenda of its own. An idea - however bad or ultimately harmful - is the product of human thought. .... the greater interest of their collective also serves their personal interest: that there was something in it for them. Something important.
This turned out to be true in many, perhaps most, cases.]

This simply isn't true.

Which part? That humans need more organizing than less intelligent species? That there is payoff in co-operation? Or that clever humans persuade the less clever to get with their program?

Human ancestors did not start using language and tools so they could grow big brains

No, they did it so they could eat better. We do pretty much everything to eat better or get prettier virgins. If not now, maybe in heaven.
To some extent creativity is an illusion not only are many things discovered by accident but no complex "creation" is independent of thousands of years of cultural evolution that certain didn't have the creation in mind at it's origin.

I see that - and will see it more clearly when I've reflected on it. In fact, I think is probably the most convincing thing you've said on the subject. It almost illuminates the meme analogy.
But then, if considering it in this kind of terms, we could possibly keep them in proportion.
Unless they're more like snowballs.... That could work.


[.... Some of the ideas that convince people to co-operate are easy to subvert, to co-opt and corrupt. Some are hard to grasp, and when simplified, no longer have the intended effect. And so much depends on who is presenting them]

This is simply analogous to mutations. Most mutation subvert, co-op or corrupt.

Not on purpose! Ideals get corrupted with a definite aim for a definite interest.

The important point is , who designed the desires?

They don't need designing. Every living thing has them. In fact, if I were to posit a simple test for life, it would be desire. Organisms always want something.

The reluctance to attribute "instincts" to humans is confounding.

Don't worry about me; I'm fine with instinct. I'm mostly okay with overriding them, though I also see that we fail in this endeavour more often than we ever admit, and understanding that inevitable failure is a useful ring through the nose when you want to lead people.

[Imagine Donald Trump giving this same talk. Same words and gestures; different man, different style. It would have an entirely different effect; would convince a different audience.]

Bats are perhaps the most common carriers of rabies yet they are not as dangerous as an infected dog. Some host just like some viruses are more dangerous than others.

Here you go again. Dennett and Trump are not different species - they probably have more DNA in common than I have with either of them. The meme idea is not a disease: it's just a notion - not dangerous, not infectious, not biological, not species-changing. Just a notion, like putting fluoride in toothpaste. One guy can sell it; another might get booed out of the market.

We have transmitted to us without being conscious of it the thinking tools that are essential to our concept of human consciousness.

Sure, but we're still not homogeneous.
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Re: Do societies posses Identity, Subjectivity, Qualia?

Postby wolfhnd on November 19th, 2015, 5:41 am 


but we're still not homogeneous.


Are any two viruses the same? Are any two of anything the same? Memes as I said are a topic for another thread.
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Re: Memes

Postby mtbturtle on November 19th, 2015, 7:12 am 

I find avoiding the use of the term meme and evolution, using idea and change demystifies and makes how weak the analogy is clearer.
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Re: Do societies posses Identity, Subjectivity, Qualia?

Postby Lomax on November 19th, 2015, 7:39 am 

Serpent » November 19th, 2015, 5:30 am wrote:I have two major problems with memes.
One is, he keeps comparing them to viruses, or other organisms with origins independent of the host species; that thrive and replicate for reasons unrelated, and often inimical, to the welfare of the host.
The second, and perhaps more fundamental one is the imprecise definition. If a thing can be as small as a word or as big as the concepts of liberty, how am it to identify this thing accurately when I come across an example of it? A strain of virus at least all looks alike, so you can't mistake one for a dust mite or a cockroach or a burdock. I always have trouble accepting ill-defined terms and unmeasured units.

Both of these problems would apply to genes as much as to memes, wouldn't they?
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Re: Do societies posses Identity, Subjectivity, Qualia?

Postby neuro on November 19th, 2015, 9:07 am 

Serpent » November 19th, 2015, 8:46 am wrote:A meme can't reside in an entire human colony, until after it's been invented, articulated, expounded and broadcast. It has to reside first in an individual.

Well, this is the point I'm not sure about.
Looking at Art's history (or even literature) one finds that subtle but crucial changes in perspective on things and values have occurred that were absolutely not clear to anybody at the time, not even to the authors of artistic masterpieces in which such changes, that emerged as novel cultural feature only after quite a long time, were already expressed in some form (as seen with the eye of posterity).

This is why I believe that the word meme has an interest, because it is not an idea, born in the mind of a person and communicated to others, but something that IS GENERATED in a different way.

BTW, mtb, I believe that the important thing is not to use a word, which should have some specificity, as if it were another word. A meme is not merely an idea. Evolution is not merely a change.
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Re: Do societies posses Identity, Subjectivity, Qualia?

Postby mtbturtle on November 19th, 2015, 9:19 am 

neuro » Thu Nov 19, 2015 8:07 am wrote:
BTW, mtb, I believe that the important thing is not to use a word, which should have some specificity, as if it were another word. A meme is not merely an idea. Evolution is not merely a change.


As far as I've ever been able to discern meme is synonymous with idea, and the process of change in ideas is not at all similar to Evolution.
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Re: Do societies posses Identity, Subjectivity, Qualia?

Postby Serpent on November 19th, 2015, 11:55 am 

Lomax » November 19th, 2015, 6:39 am wrote:
Serpent » November 19th, 2015, 5:30 am wrote:I have two major problems with memes.
One is, he keeps comparing them to viruses, or other organisms with origins independent of the host species; that thrive and replicate for reasons unrelated, and often inimical, to the welfare of the host.
The second, and perhaps more fundamental one is the imprecise definition. If a thing can be as small as a word or as big as the concepts of liberty, how am it to identify this thing accurately when I come across an example of it? A strain of virus at least all looks alike, so you can't mistake one for a dust mite or a cockroach or a burdock. I always have trouble accepting ill-defined terms and unmeasured units.

Both of these problems would apply to genes as much as to memes, wouldn't they?

No they would not. A gene is the same size - give or take two microns - in every organism. It has the same function in every organism. It has the same mode of transmission in every organism. It is definable, identifiable and spliceable.

Meme is given, willy-nilly to all kinds of ideas, from the tiniest and least consequential (like the name of a barnacle) to the most sweeping (like imperialism). This is not a difference in microscopic measurement - these are several orders of magnitude. The comparison would be a microbe to a rhinoceros: sure they have something in common, but you ought to be able to classify them as not the same species.
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Re: Do societies posses Identity, Subjectivity, Qualia?

Postby Serpent on November 19th, 2015, 12:47 pm 

neuro » November 19th, 2015, 8:07 am wrote:
Serpent » November 19th, 2015, 8:46 am wrote:A meme can't reside in an entire human colony, until after it's been invented, articulated, expounded and broadcast. It has to reside first in an individual.

Well, this is the point I'm not sure about.
Looking at Art's history (or even literature) one finds that subtle but crucial changes in perspective on things and values have occurred that were absolutely not clear to anybody at the time, not even to the authors of artistic masterpieces in which such changes, that emerged as novel cultural feature only after quite a long time, were already expressed in some form (as seen with the eye of posterity).

I find that hard to believe. I believe Da Vinci had a pretty good idea what he was doing. Joyce, too.
But that aside, yes, little changes, little adjustments, reflections of another point of view, minor technical improvements, will have crept in unheralded. But just because we don't know who introduced a different vermillion pigment, or which apprentice snuck the first gratuitous butterfly into the background shrubbery, that doesn't mean these things were not done by actual persons, consciously, and even proudly.
Lack of documentation is not proof of non-occurrence.
(If I see farther than other men, it is because I stand on the heads of a million pygmies.)

This is why I believe that the word meme has an interest, because it is not an idea, born in the mind of a person and communicated to others, but something that IS GENERATED in a different way.

It is of interest, yes.*
It's the different method of generating [not ideas? Then what?] shared social concepts that I question. What is this different mechanism? Where is it? What started set it in motion? Why does it generate such wildly disparate product?

*- it's fascinating enough that, though I'm sceptical, I can't leave it alone. Suppose we reduced the analogy to something more recognizable and quantifiable, like a snowball. The size variation can be +/- 10cm in diameter. Every meme is a snowball. Enough of them rolling down the mountain, converging, make an avalanche. So you can have a whole lot of attitudes, desires, drives, habits, charismatic leaders, ideas, hates, feuds, fads, royal marriages, weapons technology, too many sons on too small farms, cuisine, poetry, ambition and a dream of the Virgin telling some Spaniard where he could get a whole lot of cinnamon, all rolling into a conquest of the Americas.
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Re: Memes

Postby mtbturtle on November 19th, 2015, 1:11 pm 

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Re: Do societies posses Identity, Subjectivity, Qualia?

Postby Lomax on November 19th, 2015, 2:33 pm 

Serpent » November 19th, 2015, 4:55 pm wrote:
Lomax » November 19th, 2015, 6:39 am wrote:
Serpent » November 19th, 2015, 5:30 am wrote:I have two major problems with memes.
One is, he keeps comparing them to viruses, or other organisms with origins independent of the host species; that thrive and replicate for reasons unrelated, and often inimical, to the welfare of the host.
The second, and perhaps more fundamental one is the imprecise definition. If a thing can be as small as a word or as big as the concepts of liberty, how am it to identify this thing accurately when I come across an example of it? A strain of virus at least all looks alike, so you can't mistake one for a dust mite or a cockroach or a burdock. I always have trouble accepting ill-defined terms and unmeasured units.

Both of these problems would apply to genes as much as to memes, wouldn't they?

No they would not. A gene is the same size - give or take two microns - in every organism. It has the same function in every organism. It has the same mode of transmission in every organism.

Most of what I know about genetics I know through the books of Richard Dawkins, and through a friend who works for the Francis Crick institute, so I defer and submit if necessary to anybody here who may work in the field. But I am told by both of those sources that genes come in a great variety of lengths, are sequenced in a cascade fashion, and play a role which is greatly dependent on the larger sequence. I am not sure what you mean about having the same mode of transmission - we share much of our genetic makeup with the bananas but they transmit in a rather different fashion.

Serpent » November 19th, 2015, 4:55 pm wrote:It is definable, identifiable and spliceable.

I think this is the main reason people are so reluctant to entertain the meme theory: genes give them something they can look at.
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Re: Memes

Postby Paralith on November 19th, 2015, 4:31 pm 

Lomax and Serpent, I believe we have all had this conversation before.

viewtopic.php?f=53&t=29382&p=287372&hilit=memes#p287372

Paralith wrote:Lomax and Serpent, I believe you two are not in disagreement. Selection acts on individuals, because genes are contained within them, but selection selects for genes. Genes are the base unit of selection, and this is important, because the properties of a gene explain why natural selection can act the way it does. A gene is a nondivisible unit (if you crack a gene in two, generally it won't work at all and the entire organism and all the other genes it carries will suffer for it), whose rate of change is slower than the rate at which natural selection can act to raise or lower the frequency of that gene in a population. If a gene changes so fast that it develops a different function entirely before the individuals who carry that gene can accrue a significant reproductive benefit in their current environment, selection is powerless and adaption to the environment cannot happen.

Ideas and ideologies, or memes as many people have tried to push, are not so clearly defined in nondivisible units, and can change with extreme speed and in a wide variety of ways as they are being transferred from one individual to another. The connection to reproduction is more tenuous, because though parents do often transfer many of their ideas to their children, this transfer is not nearly as reliable as the transfer of genes. And obviously people can transfer ideas to many people beyond their own offspring. These are the primary reasons why it is difficult to apply the toolbox of evolutionary change to ideas and idealogies.
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Re: Memes

Postby Serpent on November 19th, 2015, 7:32 pm 

That's true. I still haven't been convinced. Can I jut say one word about the transmission of genetic information?
Meiosis.
Match it and I'll come over.
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Re: Memes

Postby wolfhnd on November 19th, 2015, 8:33 pm 

Paralith » Thu Nov 19, 2015 8:31 pm wrote:Lomax and Serpent, I believe we have all had this conversation before.

http://sciencechatforum.com/viewtopic.p ... es#p287372

Paralith wrote:Lomax and Serpent, I believe you two are not in disagreement. Selection acts on individuals, because genes are contained within them, but selection selects for genes. Genes are the base unit of selection, and this is important, because the properties of a gene explain why natural selection can act the way it does. A gene is a nondivisible unit (if you crack a gene in two, generally it won't work at all and the entire organism and all the other genes it carries will suffer for it), whose rate of change is slower than the rate at which natural selection can act to raise or lower the frequency of that gene in a population. If a gene changes so fast that it develops a different function entirely before the individuals who carry that gene can accrue a significant reproductive benefit in their current environment, selection is powerless and adaption to the environment cannot happen.

Ideas and ideologies, or memes as many people have tried to push, are not so clearly defined in nondivisible units, and can change with extreme speed and in a wide variety of ways as they are being transferred from one individual to another. The connection to reproduction is more tenuous, because though parents do often transfer many of their ideas to their children, this transfer is not nearly as reliable as the transfer of genes. And obviously people can transfer ideas to many people beyond their own offspring. These are the primary reasons why it is difficult to apply the toolbox of evolutionary change to ideas and idealogies.


The theory of memes has simply not had time to develop fully so it is hard to say where it will go. Richard Dawkins is not a biologist nor a sociologist so it is not surprising that his attempt to combine the two is seriously questions by scientist in both fields.

In the thread on Circular Anthropic Argument it was pointed out that while the strong argument for anthropic models is generally rejected the weak circular argument is generally accepted even if considered irrelevant and the same may apply here. There are both strong and weak versions of the meme theory.

My argument has less to do with the theory of memes than with the way language is used. I would have prefered that Dawkins had simple used the original greek form mimeme or "imitated thing" to make his analogies the idea that such a complex issue could be settled in a single book seems rather arrogant.

Imitated thing however will still raise red flags for many sociologist as how ideas are transmitted is hotly debated.

We can avoid the use of the word meme fairly easily but neuro asked if the concept was relevant to social consciousness and we tried to explore that issue but soon got bogged down and distracted.
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Re: Memes

Postby wolfhnd on November 19th, 2015, 8:47 pm 

From here on out in this discussion I'm going to abandon the word memes to dispose of the baggage of previous debates. I will be using mimeme in it's place.

The issue surrounding Dawkins's theory I believe can best be considered in terms of the usefulness of analogies. According to Polya there are three modes of reasoning.

reasoning by consequence: If A implies true things, we gain confidence in A.

reasoning by randomness: If we know all relevant systematic constraints on particular phenomena, then the rest is random.

reasoning by analogy: Starting with B either known to be true or believably true, we look for improvements in A that are a bit more general than B and we can show that A implies B.


If there is an exact "science" surely it is mathmatics and I will quote from a short paper on how important plausibility is in learning.

"I think that it is an important work for many reasons, but mainly because Polya is pointing to an activity that surely takes up the majority of time, and energy, of anyone engaged in thinkingabout mathematics, or in trying to work towards a new piece of mathematics. Usually under limited knowledge and much ignorance, often plagued by mistakes and misconceptions, we wrestle with the analogies, inferences, and expectations I've just alluded to; with rough estimates, with partial patterns that hint at more substantial ones, with partial consequences of hypotheses that are true or seem true and therefore render it more likely that those hypotheses are true, or at least should be provisionally conjectured, and worked with. We make use of a whole inventory of di erent rules-of-thumb, and somewhat-systematic heuristics that, when they work, allow us to divine what is true."

Is it plausible? Barry Mazur

http://www.researchgate.net/go.Deref.ht ... otes.3.pdf
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Re: Memes

Postby Lomax on November 19th, 2015, 10:44 pm 

wolfhnd » November 20th, 2015, 1:33 am wrote:The theory of memes has simply not had time to develop fully so it is hard to say where it will go. Richard Dawkins is not a biologist

Yes, he is.
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Re: Memes

Postby wolfhnd on November 19th, 2015, 11:12 pm 

Lomax » Fri Nov 20, 2015 2:44 am wrote:
wolfhnd » November 20th, 2015, 1:33 am wrote:The theory of memes has simply not had time to develop fully so it is hard to say where it will go. Richard Dawkins is not a biologist

Yes, he is.



"Education

Dawkins attended Oundle School in Northamptonshire, an English public school with a distinct Church of England flavour,[18] from 1954 to 1959, where he was in Laundimer house. He studied zoology at Balliol College, Oxford, graduating in 1962; while there, he was tutored by Nobel Prize-winning ethologist Nikolaas Tinbergen. He continued as a research student under Tinbergen's supervision, receiving his MA and DPhil degrees by 1966, and remained a research assistant for another year. Tinbergen was a pioneer in the study of animal behaviour, particularly in the areas of instinct, learning and choice; Dawkins's research in this period concerned models of animal decision-making."

I stand corrected I will correct my post to be clearer.
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Re: Memes

Postby wolfhnd on November 19th, 2015, 11:16 pm 

I need to revise this statement.

"The theory of memes has simply not had time to develop fully so it is hard to say where it will go. Richard Dawkins is not a biologist nor a sociologist so it is not surprising that his attempt to combine the two is seriously questions by scientist in both fields."

To

The theory of memes has simply not had time to develop fully so it is hard to say where it will go. Richard Dawkins is a zoologist not a geneticist nor a sociologist so it is not surprising that his attempt to combine the two is seriously questions by scientist in both fields.


He undoubtedly has extensive training in biology, genetics, and ethology.
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Re: Memes

Postby xcthulhu on November 19th, 2015, 11:51 pm 

mtbturtle » Thu Nov 19, 2015 7:12 am wrote:I find avoiding the use of the term meme and evolution, using idea and change demystifies and makes how weak the analogy is clearer.


I largely agree; I've never been able to make much coherent sense of Dawkins theory of memes.

As an addendum, however, I do not believe that the application of modern evolutionary dynamics to human social norms is bankrupt. A few years ago I had the fortune of hearing a talk where the researcher look at the repeated four player public goods game in a laboratory setting (actually, he had people from Amazon Mechanical Turk play against one another).

The game has two evolutionarily stable strategies:

  • Cooperate and punish non-cooperators
  • Do not cooperate and punish cooperators

The authors found that Americans played with the first equilibrium strategy while Romanian participants played with the latter.

I am not saying that this sort of analysis is the end all and be all of analyzing human affairs or anything but I think there is a rôle for evolutionary dynamics in sociology that has not entirely been explored.

http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2179575
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Re: Memes

Postby wolfhnd on November 20th, 2015, 12:26 am 

One of the problems is that memes are now part of the popular culture so it requires a definition.

It's best to always go with oxford

"An element of a culture or system of behavior that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, especially imitation."

It seems meme is a word that has gone memic and is no longer under Dawkins control :-) In a few more years I suspect scientist and philosophers will be able to put it in a sentence without causing a fuss.
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Re: Memes

Postby Serpent on November 20th, 2015, 2:46 am 

Being in general usage is one thing; taxonomy is another.

I'm really interested in the subject, but I want tighter definitions before I shove it over to the science side of the room. Meanwhile, we can kick it around the humanities side as much as we like.
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Re: Do societies posses Identity, Subjectivity, Qualia?

Postby neuro on November 20th, 2015, 4:29 am 

Serpent » November 19th, 2015, 5:47 pm wrote:I believe Da Vinci had a pretty good idea what he was doing. Joyce, too.
But that aside, yes, little changes, little adjustments, reflections of another point of view, minor technical improvements, will have crept in unheralded. But just because we don't know who introduced a different vermillion pigment, or which apprentice snuck the first gratuitous butterfly into the background shrubbery, that doesn't mean these things were not done by actual persons, consciously, and even proudly.
Lack of documentation is not proof of non-occurrence.

Agreed.
And I do not care a bit about memes and even less about Dawkins.

Still, what bothers me is how processes such as the shift from the roundness of Roman style to the ogive, and then the spikes of Gothic, took place, while simultaneously Christianity gained power, and the center of human life and values moved from the ground to heaven. I do not believe this was a cognitive choice by some artist who thought it in these terms ("forget the emperor here on the ground and the terranean flavor of roundness, let's change to an ogive to represent our respect and devotion to what's up there").

Similarly, I have problems in believing that somebody consciously made the shift that modern Art-history teachers show you so clearly to have occurred at the beginning of Renaissance: the standard structure of Medieval paintings (with a well centered barycenter, a mostly triangular or pyramidal grouping of the figures, little lateral movement and a tendency to guide the eye upward) gradually disintegrates, figures detach from the center of the picture, the eye is called to the side, or to some point far away on the ground, subjects in the picture start looking at each other, and so on.

It seems to me that society and culture, although they are produced by humans, display dynamics and change processes (I'd say evolution, but Mtb doesn't like me to) that seem to develop with a certain degree of autonomy.

I'm not claiming anything here!
Simply, I'm asking: is there any emergent property in society?
(by "emergent" I mean a property of a system which has a reasonable degree of autonomy from the properties of its constituting elements and cannot be directly deduced from the latter)
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Re: Memes

Postby mtbturtle on November 20th, 2015, 7:04 am 

xcthulhu » Thu Nov 19, 2015 10:51 pm wrote:
mtbturtle » Thu Nov 19, 2015 7:12 am wrote:I find avoiding the use of the term meme and evolution, using idea and change demystifies and makes how weak the analogy is clearer.


I largely agree; I've never been able to make much coherent sense of Dawkins theory of memes.

As an addendum, however, I do not believe that the application of modern evolutionary dynamics to human social norms is bankrupt. A few years ago I had the fortune of hearing a talk where the researcher look at the repeated four player public goods game in a laboratory setting (actually, he had people from Amazon Mechanical Turk play against one another).

The game has two evolutionarily stable strategies:

  • Cooperate and punish non-cooperators
  • Do not cooperate and punish cooperators

The authors found that Americans played with the first equilibrium strategy while Romanian participants played with the latter.

I am not saying that this sort of analysis is the end all and be all of analyzing human affairs or anything but I think there is a rôle for evolutionary dynamics in sociology that has not entirely been explored.

http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2179575



Hello xcthulhu

ltns, welcome back.
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Re: Memes

Postby wolfhnd on November 20th, 2015, 7:28 am 

Serpent » Fri Nov 20, 2015 6:46 am wrote:Being in general usage is one thing; taxonomy is another.

I'm really interested in the subject, but I want tighter definitions before I shove it over to the science side of the room. Meanwhile, we can kick it around the humanities side as much as we like.


Well social sciences are not part of the science section in this forum. So you are obviously not going out of touch with the general consensus here.
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Re: Memes

Postby wolfhnd on November 20th, 2015, 8:42 am 

I think people want the analogy to be weak because evolution has designed the brain to find purpose where there is none. When a dog hears a book fall from a self in another room he may go to the door and growl at the location where he thinks the sound came from. The dog is assuming that there is an agent behind the unexpected noise because it is better to attribute agency to anything unexpected in the environment even if it is mistaken 99 out of 100 times than to ignore the 1 time that a predator is responsible.

The reason that we use meme instead of idea or evolution instead of change is to offset this natural prejudice.

The other prejudice that evolution has bestowed on us is to view the world as closely to the present as possible. Some people feel humans are the only animals that have a sense of past, present, and future but that is unlikely to be the case. Animals appear to live only in the present or more accurately the immediate future because the past is not dangerous and the there is no time for the future when most threats are immediate. One of the biggest hurdles to acceptance of evolutionary theory in the beginning was to get people to understand the time scale. With the concept of memes we have the same problem in so far as people think of ideas as having a point in time when they did not exist, a creation point, and continuity into the future. In reality ideas like species do not have a beginning point, nor future continuity in any tight definition.

I'm not a big fan of Hawkins because I find him arrogant and overbearing. I'm also not a fan of a strict analogy between genes and memes. I do believe like Polya that reasoning by analogy is a more powerful tool than many other people believe. To use that tool however at times we have to set aside some of the dogma of science and philosophy that says that we progress only by the objective application of strict definitions.

I think it is opportune that xcthulhu should show back up at this time and offer evolutionary dynamics to human social norms as a way forward. Computers address several of the issues I have raised, they have the ability to compress time, they are not distracted by assumed agency, and they allow bottom up exploration of research space. Problem solving using algorithmic loops and random generation highlight the power of "natural" or evolutionary principals.

I want to quote from a paper that uses the term paradigmatic fields somewhat like we often use the term meme.

"Modern acceptation of paradigm has been provided by KUHN (1970) as “an entire constellation of beliefs, values and techniques, and so on, shared by the members of a given community”. He contended that, a paradigm enables a group of scientists to focus its efforts on a well-defined range of problems. A paradigm enables the scientific community to converge toward a consensus concerning the definition of important problems and identification of techniques needed to solve them, and last but not least for our purpose, which set of concepts shall be used to share their breakthrough. In the following we will call such sets paradigmatic fields."

https://hal.inria.fr/hal-00120697v3/document

I don't think you have to accept Kuhm's bottom-up approach to modeling scientific development to see the utility of bottom up approaches to problem solving. Reasoning by analogy provides the seed.
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Re: Memes

Postby wolfhnd on November 20th, 2015, 11:33 pm 

One of the qualities of life is it's ability to "predict" the future based on past events. Instead of me spending a lot of time typing out an explanation I will just refer to another article, you can ignore the Quantum bit the important thing is information.

"But perhaps much more exciting is the possibility of gaining a new understanding of life itself. Rather than life being a set of biological attributes, such as the need to eat, reproduce or excrete, we might start to consider whether or not a system is alive in terms of how it processes information and makes predictions. "If it's true that the way in which living systems differ from non-living systems is by means of efficiency with which they process information and thereby also energy, then that would give us a different view of the world around us," Still says. "It would give us a whole different way of defining what it means to be alive.""

https://plus.maths.org/content/lifes-qu ... ystal-ball

Let's assume for the moment that MTB's statement is the best approach to memes. "I find avoiding the use of the term meme and evolution, using idea and change demystifies and makes how weak the analogy is clearer." I would agree that to a large extent the analogy is weak for the detecting what is, less weak for detecting what was but slightly stronger for predicting what will be. As with all tools the meme analogy is only useful if it is applied properly. The reason we turn to evolutionary theory to explain culture is that it is the best example of bottom up design we have. If you go back in time far enough then cultural evolution can be seen as very analogous to biological evolution perhaps due to coevolution but certainly due to the recent switch to top down design. As you move forward in time coevolution becomes less of an influence and the analogy becomes weaker. Top down design however deals mostly with the immediate future the further you move into the future the less predictable. Top down design is all about control and as we all know controlling the future is a precarious process due to the number of variables. The future as is the past remains a very bottom up process.

At this point we can say that evolutionary theory is essential to explaining the past, less important to explaining the present and again essential to predicting the future. Although it would be something of a handicap present biology can be studied without evolutionary theory especial if you are entirely focused on what is. We are never satisfies with the what is however and always ask why from early childhood. The biological imperative of the why question is best understood in terms of what will be. The better you can answer the why questions the better you will be at answering the what will be questions.

To put the thinking tool meme in perspective it is essential to first know what is before venturing into the past or the future. For that task it is a very poor analogy indeed. Our purpose however is derived almost entirely from what will be.
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Re: Do societies posses Identity, Subjectivity, Qualia?

Postby Serpent on November 21st, 2015, 3:10 pm 

neuro » November 20th, 2015, 3:29 am wrote:Still, what bothers me is how processes such as the shift from the roundness of Roman style to the ogive, and then the spikes of Gothic, took place, while simultaneously Christianity gained power, and the center of human life and values moved from the ground to heaven.

You have juxtaposed two factors in order to suggest a causal connection, or shared root cause. But you have left out at least two other, equally significant factors: The Moors and advances in construction technology.
Yes, the power of Christianity play a part - more precisely, the growing wealth of the church and the desire of rich, powerful prelates to one-up each other in cathedrals (much as dukes had done in fortress building and corporations now do in skyscrapers.) The change takes place over two centuries, during which the crews of builders, under the guidance of master masons, travelled around Europe, worked together, exchanged views, ideas and information, trained up apprentices and journeymen in improved methods.

The main shift of the Gothic era occurred from the older, heavier style of Romanesque architecture, based on a solid stone vault, to the lighter, elevated Gothic style based on both the Romanesque and Islamic use of the pointed arch and cross-ribbed vault. This shift coincided with widespread rebuilding of many older Romanesque cathedrals which had been destroyed by fire. The different phases of Gothic architectures in northern France progressed from the Early Gothic to the High Gothic and Rayonnant styles and the eventual Flamboyant style. http://www.athenapub.com/14gothic-architecture.htm
The short answer is: because they could.

I do not believe this was a cognitive choice by some artist who thought it in these terms ("forget the emperor here on the ground and the terranean flavor of roundness, let's change to an ogive to represent our respect and devotion to what's up there").

Of course it was conscious. It was policy: When they come into the church, peasants should stop thinking about how miserable they are and be overcome by awe, feel the power, think about heaven. (And if that fat cousin of mine, the Archbishop of Rheims, is eaten up by envy, so much the better.)

Similarly, I have problems in believing that somebody consciously made the shift that modern Art-history teachers show you so clearly to have occurred at the beginning of Renaissance

Why? Do you also have trouble believing that the Dada movement was conscious? Artists innovate all the time - it's kind of their defining feature. When the patrons are conservative, artists curb their creative impulse and paint what they're paid to paint. When a Renaissance or new age gets going, people start opening up to new ideas. Suddenly, a trader who made a killing in Chinese silk 'discovers' a portrait painter who poses his subjects differently. Suddenly, artists who couldn't get a commission for twenty years become fashionable.

Of course, none of this is really sudden at all; it's just that we see the past foreshortened; three generations can become invisible, and their hard work, their patient chipping away at tradition, their trials and humiliations are ignored, because they were not recorded. In many cases - for example, if the innovator was from the wrong ethnic derivation, the wrong sex or the wrong religion - their work and stories were suppressed deliberately.

It seems to me that society and culture, although they are produced by humans, display dynamics and change processes (I'd say evolution, but Mtb doesn't like me to) that seem to develop with a certain degree of autonomy.

People talk to one another. They travel. They see things. They want things. They compete.
And they want to sell product. The hemlines of women's dresses don't go up and down by magic or osmosis or viral infection: they're adjusted by designers, on purpose, to look different from last year, so that new dresses can be sold while the old ones are still perfectly wearable.
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Re: Memes

Postby TheVat on November 21st, 2015, 3:57 pm 

People talk to one another. They travel. They see things. They want things. They compete.
And they want to sell product. The hemlines of women's dresses don't go up and down by magic or osmosis or viral infection....


Ah, if only they would!

Seriously, what you said. To me, there is always a better term, a more precise term, than "meme." The other day, the significant bother and I were talking about "nudge nudge, wink wink," the phrase which spread through considerable segments of the English speaking population in the years that Monty Python was televised and after. It is a humorous way to say that one is being suggestive (as I was, above), based on a famous sketch with Eric Idle, in which he annoys a stolid citizen in a pub with endless sexual innuendos. So, some would call "nudge nudge, wink wink" a "meme." But, really, it's a catchphrase. A humorous quotation. People like to quote other people, especially people that society has deemed to be witty or clever or brainy or powerful or some combination thereof. The appeal of "nudge nudge" lies within the realm of individual human psychology and our desire to connect with others....we feel hip when we use a catchphrase, or perhaps feel that we have soaked up a little of the original wit that lay behind it, or we just like the way it sounds, or what have you.
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