Still not got internet access domestically back in Perth, but hopefully will have within the week.
Watched the sun go down on the beach yesterday whilst reading Meme Machine. As I blogged previously Sue Blackmore is very, very good, and having finished her “Consciousness, An Introduction” I’m now reading her best seller – one that I’ve referred to and quoted indirectly many times, but never previously read.
Really excellent. Again, if I’d read it sooner, she’d have saved me a long journey through modern philosophers of mind. Huge list of references, racked-up whilst being laid-up with illness. Reassuring to find I’ve already covered a fair proportion of them myself – must actually read Dennett’s main best-sellers – Darwin’s Dangerous Idea and Consciousness Explained – though I suspect Sue has done me a good job in summarising their main thrust.
Gist – she talks about memes not generally being high-fidelity replicators with only exceptional mutations, unlike genes. Some phrases and neologisms may be repeated verbatim (but we’re talking language here) but most memes replicate the general idea – the gist, the essence – but with constant unwitting variations in subtlety of the concept understood or intended.
Unleashed – memes as truly independent replicators, ie not dependent on genes in the long-run, not simply an expension of genetic evolution. I think that’s correct – they’re not independent in the sense that memetic and genetic evolution can and do affect each other, but neither is led by the other. Clearly if brains die out, memes will fall on hard times, but equally memes can control the environment in which brains evolve. Remembering that the “selfishness” of replication intent is an anthropomorphic metaphor, it nevertheless suggests an uneasy alliance between competing drives.
My view – in a physicalist sense memes came after genes but before religious memeplexes – For individual memes, selfish intent may be only a metaphor, but for widely held beliefs, collective conscious intent, can be no less real and any more metaphorical than individual human intent. This implies human intent (individual and collective) can choose the path it wishes to steer memetic (even genetic) evolution – this is why human (high-level) consciousness is so special – we have been unleashed on the hitherto unsuspecting world – our consciousness can have objectives, even if it doesn’t necessarily understand or control the mechanisms sufficiently to succeed in realising its intent. Spooky. probably means, as Dennett already suggested apparently, that memes ARE consciousness itself – the thoughts are doing the thinking.
Linguistics – the subjective symbolic framing of concepts “out there” – can it ever be anything but metaphorical ? Come in Lakoff, you’re time is right.
Sue really is a good writer. So easy to read and with a smile too.