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The Meme Machine unleashed, according to Susan Blackmore.

Richard Lancashire rlancashire at hotmail.com
Fri Oct 4 05:16:52 EST 2002

Andres Moreira <andres.moreira at terra.cl> wrote 

> > I enjoyed the book too, as an introduction to memetics. However, it
> > was not without its weak points; I was unconvinced by the notion of
> > 'self' as a meme or consistent part of meme-complexes, and in reading
> > the bibliography I notice Dr Blackmore was writing on Buddhism before
> > she became really interested in memetics;. It seems like the
> Well, since all of us are embedded in one culture or another, there is 
> nothing bad in the fact that she was influenced by some stuff different 
> from the stuff that influences me or you. Difficult as it is to accept, 
> I agree with the idea of the self as a memeplex. Not all of it - there 
> is in all biological systems a distinction between the self and the 
> other - but most of what we call "self" and the attributes we name for 
> it, like beliefs and options. Perhaps buddhism was just useful to grasp 
> the idea, since it has being trying to get rid of such beliefs and 
> options for centuries now (or so I understood it). No I usually talk 
> about the self as "the little Tamagotchi we all carry inside". I think 
> the image applies. Could you (both) explain why you don't agree with the 
> self as a memeplex?

>From a memetic point of view, the self is more of a meme-processor, I
would argue. It is a processor that is profoundly affected by the
memes it processes, and by self(!)-referential feedback, but it can
also be shaped by non-memetic events, external (e.g. disease) and
experiential (e.g. conditioning).
The Buddhist approach I didn't have a problem with per se, but it
appeared to me that she had developed the memetics argument with
strong suppositions that would lead her to her (I presume)
preconceived beliefs, and built slightly further than was warranted on
some of the suppositions in order to get there.

> > Another point that I found less than satisfactory was her suggestion
> > that the development of language preceded (and presumably drove)
> > symbolic representation. This seems too counterintuitive to me to
> > state as theory and then move on without elaboration.
> I don't remember this part very well, and don't have my copy of the book 
> around, but I do remember that it was rather obscure.

There was a section in which she suggests robots that can produce and
mimic sounds; she believes they could develop language on this basis.

> > I think as a fundamental philosophy of existence it is lacking; as a
> > practical philosophy of information and action it contains very
> > interesting points to be addressed.
> One think I liked in the book is that she didn't try to round everything 
> up into a pleasing philosophy of existence, as some writers insist in 
> doing at the end of the books. The view she offers is not pleasant, and 
> not easy. The "darwinian acid" of Dennet pours on the cherished 
> tamagotchi, and there is no easy way out.

I didn't dislike it due to its bleakness at all; I have believed far
bleaker things in my time :P

However, it does seem to offer claims and hypotheses beyond those
which are justified, in my opinion, and does not cater for memetic
filtering due to reason/understanding/logic (the 'Third World' of the
ancient Greeks) - except to say that those memes that satisfy this
will spread more ably. So how do we come to filter it if we
(ourselves) are only memes?


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