Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Memetic codes

Tied in with the recently-discussed issue of what counts as genotype and what counts as phenotype in cultural evolution is the issue of what memetic codes are. In the organic realm, there's only a handful of genetic codes - and most species share the exact same one.

Some memeticsts has proposed a close link between memetic and genetic codes - arguing that memes exist inside minds and there has to be some mapping from information stored in minds, and the motor outputs that constitute its expression. This would be a single unique memetic code - assuming that there's considerable commonality in how this operation takes place in different individuals. This position is associated with internalism.

However, to other memeticists, there seem to be a much greater number of candidate codes - with every human or computer language in the running for being classified as a "memetic code". I'm in this latter camp. Internalism is not a realistic position.

I see several issues here:

  • Should memetic codes be confined to the first layer of meme expression?
  • Should memetic codes only map from memes to meme-products?
  • What are the implications of study of memetics to the concept of a "genetic code"?
Basically, I think that "memetic code" should mean what it says - i.e. if it's memetic and it's a code, then its a memetic code.

So: memetic codes should not be confined to the first layer of meme expression. Inter-meme codes - as well as codes that map between different meme products can reasonably be classified as being memetic codes.

This form of classification does seem to have some impact on the conventional concept of a "genetic code" - perhaps opening the door to the mapping from DNA to RNA being described as a "genetic code" - albeit a rather trivial one.

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