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wnoise comments on Superstimuli and the Collapse of Western Civilization - Less Wrong

60 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 16 March 2007 06:10PM

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Comment author: wnoise 21 November 2010 02:52:06AM 2 points [-]

That is a non-standard enough use of the term that it is not terribly useful for communication. If you want to analyze memes in terms of genes, it is best to think of them as symbiotes, where the memes are their own genes, and mutation and recombination happen in human minds. But their genes can't reasonably be treated as our genes. The life-cycle is wrong.

Comment author: timtyler 21 November 2010 09:08:13AM *  0 points [-]

memes are their own genes

That is the intended idea, yes. "Genetic" - under such usage would mean - "to do with heritable information" - and NOT the nucleic-acid centric "to do with heritable information stored in DNA".

This would make all transmissible human culture "genetic". If memes are a type of gene which is not made of DNA, then that throws quite a spanner into the terminology of many "genes" vs "environment" debates.

But their genes can't reasonably be treated as our genes. The life-cycle is wrong.

Indeed - though that is actually the position of major theorists in the area, Boyd and Richerson.

They think that culture is part of the human extended genotype - despite, as you say, their life-cycles being totally different.

In: "Culture is Part of Human Biology Why the Superorganic Concept Serves the Human Sciences Badly" - where they lay out their philosophy - they say:

Culture is a part of human biology, as much a part as bipedal locomotion or thick enamel on our molars.

I think this is a pretty crazy position - relatively speaking.