What is the falsifiability of Memetics?

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What is the falsifiability of Memetics?

It kind of needs one to move from a protoscience to a real science, or at least to make those first steps in the right direction.

“It is true that in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. It is equally true that in the land of the blind, the two-eyed man is an enemy of the state, the people, and domestic tranquility… and necessarily so. Someone has to rearrange the furniture.”


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memes are not my strong

memes are not my strong suit, but from what I've read, I don't think memetics is completely falsifiable.  I don't think anyone debates the transmission of ideas through mediums other than human brains, or that ideas can gain a "life" of their own.  I think it's just a matter of whether or not the language of memetics is sufficient to explain the phenomenon, and whether there really is a useful analogy to genes.

 

 

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Hambydammit wrote:memes are

Hambydammit wrote:

memes are not my strong suit, but from what I've read, I don't think memetics is completely falsifiable.  I don't think anyone debates the transmission of ideas through mediums other than human brains, or that ideas can gain a "life" of their own.  I think it's just a matter of whether or not the language of memetics is sufficient to explain the phenomenon, and whether there really is a useful analogy to genes.

 

 

That's what I meant. I'm not sure that a strong gene-analogy is really useful for any purpose other than the description of the way these units of information "behave," but the language of memetics has a long way to go, and I don't think it should feel constrained to rely exclusively on biological analogies. Certainly there are parellels, but as I think I put it in another thread, we need a universal language that theoretically applies to all such "replicators." The language we use to describe the phenomenon has to provide its own falsifiability.

“It is true that in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. It is equally true that in the land of the blind, the two-eyed man is an enemy of the state, the people, and domestic tranquility… and necessarily so. Someone has to rearrange the furniture.”


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FulltimeDefendent

FulltimeDefendent wrote:

That's what I meant. I'm not sure that a strong gene-analogy is really useful for any purpose other than the description of the way these units of information "behave," but the language of memetics has a long way to go, and I don't think it should feel constrained to rely exclusively on biological analogies. Certainly there are parellels, but as I think I put it in another thread, we need a universal language that theoretically applies to all such "replicators." The language we use to describe the phenomenon has to provide its own falsifiability.

I think the fascinating thing about memetics isn't the biological analogy -- it's exactly the opposite. It appears there is a general principle of information evolution of which biological evolution is merely one instance. If this is so, memetics will be a powerful tool for information processing.

I don't think memetics is a science per se; more, it is an undeveloped branch of abstract mathematics. As such, it can not be falsified. You can only judge it based on its internal consistency, and it's application to applied mathematics and science.

What is currently missing from memetics is an algebra. We have a concept, but no real symbolism which accurately represents the entities and operators of memetics. Until somebody comes up with a real algebra, memetics is simply an interesting concept.

At least, that's how I see it.

"Yes, I seriously believe that consciousness is a product of a natural process. I find that the neuroscientists, psychologists, and philosophers who proceed from that premise are the ones who are actually making useful contributions to our understanding of the mind." - PZ Myers


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nigelTheBold

nigelTheBold wrote:

FulltimeDefendent wrote:

That's what I meant. I'm not sure that a strong gene-analogy is really useful for any purpose other than the description of the way these units of information "behave," but the language of memetics has a long way to go, and I don't think it should feel constrained to rely exclusively on biological analogies. Certainly there are parellels, but as I think I put it in another thread, we need a universal language that theoretically applies to all such "replicators." The language we use to describe the phenomenon has to provide its own falsifiability.

I think the fascinating thing about memetics isn't the biological analogy -- it's exactly the opposite. It appears there is a general principle of information evolution of which biological evolution is merely one instance. If this is so, memetics will be a powerful tool for information processing.

I don't think memetics is a science per se; more, it is an undeveloped branch of abstract mathematics. As such, it can not be falsified. You can only judge it based on its internal consistency, and it's application to applied mathematics and science.

What is currently missing from memetics is an algebra. We have a concept, but no real symbolism which accurately represents the entities and operators of memetics. Until somebody comes up with a real algebra, memetics is simply an interesting concept.

At least, that's how I see it.

 

Nigel-

I've always thought that what you're describing- the memetic algebra with its symbolic and value representation- could be developed somehow from wiki software. Maybe from comparative studies on the "behavior" of information in a wiki-format, with relaxed restrictions on notability and citation to allow for spontaneous memetic mutation.

Here's a good example of memes in action: tvtropes.org.

Take some time to explore the site (it's kind of a wiki for pop culture with "no notability" or required citations), you'll see how it works and what I mean.

“It is true that in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. It is equally true that in the land of the blind, the two-eyed man is an enemy of the state, the people, and domestic tranquility… and necessarily so. Someone has to rearrange the furniture.”


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Hambydammit wrote:memes are

Hambydammit wrote:

memes are not my strong suit, but from what I've read, I don't think memetics is completely falsifiable.  I don't think anyone debates the transmission of ideas through mediums other than human brains, or that ideas can gain a "life" of their own.  I think it's just a matter of whether or not the language of memetics is sufficient to explain the phenomenon, and whether there really is a useful analogy to genes.

I'm beginning to think that memtics is not sufficient and that the analogy to genes is not as useful as it may seem to be.  Upon attempting to apply the analogy I found very quickly that it begins to fall apart.  It seems that memes (units of cultural information) are just too complex for memetics as analogous to genetics.  In fact, I rather like the disparate theories that explain the individual mechanisms of the creation and proliferation of cultural information as well as how the individual, the group, the culture and subculture interact in the process, even if they are incomplete.  It would be very nice to have a theory that unified it all, but there's a lot to do with this that is very complex and breaches the boundaries of different sciences such as the interaction between individuals and the group/culture, why some memes are so viable, what happens to a meme within an individual, how memes change over time and lots else.  I can literally think of dozens of unanswered questions within Linguistics alone, not to mention questions in Sociology and some relevant to Biology.  I like to think of answers to some of these questions just for fun because I find that when I get so far I discover another variable or another missing piece of information that sets me back to the beginning or something just confounds the answer I thought I had.  'What does a meme mean to an individual and how does the individual change the meme, if at all, and does the change affect the meme as it is proliferated?' is one of my favourite complex questions because there is so much to consider for the answer and so much we just don't know.

Edit: Oh, and I don't think that memetics is falsifiable.

Further edit: I agree with Hamydammit about its falsifiability.  That is, I think there are parts of the theory tht are simply obvious and that were obvious before memetics came about, but I think some aspects of memetics are just garbage.

BigUniverse wrote,

"Well the things that happen less often are more likely to be the result of the supper natural. A thing like loosing my keys in the morning is not likely supper natural, but finding a thousand dollars or meeting a celebrity might be."


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Memetics doesn't seem to be falsifiable because we take it for granted. How would we falsify genetics? Either there are no genes, which we know there are, or they do not do what we think they do. Each of those propositions is known to be false. Either there are no memes or they do not operate as proposed.

Next, if a meme seems to complex to quantify adequately you're probably thinking of a memeplex. Catholicism would be a memplex, while the significance of two straight lines crossing would be a particular meme. The parts that make a person recognizably catholic form the phenotype of catholicism, and the cerebral representations would be the memotype.

To reiterate once more a meme is an atom of cultural information, the smallest amount of information possible to remain culturally significant. The number of memes in a memeplex should then be very large, but could be stated roughly by outlining what one must do or say in order to display the given memplex.

I personally find the metalanguage of memetics to be very useful as long as it is used in a purely sociological context.

'What does a meme mean to an individual and how does the individual change the meme, if at all, and does the change affect the meme as it is proliferated?'

An individual meme carrier could be considered equivalent to a single cell carrying a gene. The society in which that individual finds them self in would be the organism. Different people form cliques as they end up serving different functions for society, like cells differentiated in multi-system organisms. You have your liver (waste treatment workers), your brain (scientists, engineers, artists), your muscles (construction workers), claws and teeth (military), etc. Memes are, most of the time, merely translated by each person into the framework of their approximate clique. It's very rare to find a truly new meme that isn't just a collection of old memes put together into a memplex.


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Thomathy wrote:Hambydammit

Thomathy wrote:

Hambydammit wrote:

memes are not my strong suit, but from what I've read, I don't think memetics is completely falsifiable.  I don't think anyone debates the transmission of ideas through mediums other than human brains, or that ideas can gain a "life" of their own.  I think it's just a matter of whether or not the language of memetics is sufficient to explain the phenomenon, and whether there really is a useful analogy to genes.

I'm beginning to think that memtics is not sufficient and that the analogy to genes is not as useful as it may seem to be.  Upon attempting to apply the analogy I found very quickly that it begins to fall apart.  It seems that memes (units of cultural information) are just too complex for memetics as analogous to genetics.  In fact, I rather like the disparate theories that explain the individual mechanisms of the creation and proliferation of cultural information as well as how the individual, the group, the culture and subculture interact in the process, even if they are incomplete.  It would be very nice to have a theory that unified it all, but there's a lot to do with this that is very complex and breaches the boundaries of different sciences such as the interaction between individuals and the group/culture, why some memes are so viable, what happens to a meme within an individual, how memes change over time and lots else.  I can literally think of dozens of unanswered questions within Linguistics alone, not to mention questions in Sociology and some relevant to Biology.  I like to think of answers to some of these questions just for fun because I find that when I get so far I discover another variable or another missing piece of information that sets me back to the beginning or something just confounds the answer I thought I had.  'What does a meme mean to an individual and how does the individual change the meme, if at all, and does the change affect the meme as it is proliferated?' is one of my favourite complex questions because there is so much to consider for the answer and so much we just don't know.

Edit: Oh, and I don't think that memetics is falsifiable.

 

It might not be in the present time. My hope is that IF a falsifiability can be found and theoretically articulated then memetics WOULD have the potential to move out from under the banner of sociology and theoretically be treated scientifically. I agree with you thought that the nature of memes are too complex for any genetic analogy not to fall apart on closer inspection. It's my hope that one day memetics could be considered a scientific rather than a sociological concept, as it addresses what I consider to be natural phenomena. I also agree that the major issue with memetics right now is that, essentially there are two many "black boxes." Like you said, what happens to a meme inside its host? What happens to individual in a memeplex when two memeplexes interact?

“It is true that in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. It is equally true that in the land of the blind, the two-eyed man is an enemy of the state, the people, and domestic tranquility… and necessarily so. Someone has to rearrange the furniture.”


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I find the idea of memetics

I find the idea of memetics to be fascinating. As an idea the meme-replicator is very simple yet it seems to explain much. It has the potential to be a very powerful tool in explaining human actions apart from the biological.

Unfortunately we simply do not know enough to have falsifiability, but in time as technology and the meme hypothesis develops I'm pretty sure we'll be able to construct better tests.

FulltimeDefendent wrote:
My hope is that IF a falsifiability can be found and theoretically articulated then memetics WOULD have the potential to move out from under the banner of sociology and theoretically be treated scientifically.

I don't have much optimism for that to ever happen. Firstly, the sheer variability between people (and therefore memes) would make a theory that could explain everything... well... the theory of everything. Secondly, for memetics to be useful and practical, it doesn't have to be reduced to the molecular or chemical level. And thirdly, if it isn't reduced to that level, it will never be accepted among the 'hard sciences'. No 'human science' ever has and I doubt ever will. Though I hope I'm wrong about that...


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I know the difference

I know the difference between a meme and a memeplex, but there are individual memes that are themselves very complex.  I know that a meme is the smallest unit of cultural information.  It is in that way analogous to a lexeme, but it is not analogous to a morpheme though that appears counter intuitive.  To explain the difference a morpheme is the smallest unit of semantic information in a language and a lexeme is a composition of morphemes.  A meme could be something as small as Bart Simpson's oft quoted short-eating line or something as long as an urban legend and yet both have many smaller units of information within them, they both carry baggage.  If each one is a meme what is the baggage?  -I do not think there is an analogy to draw from biology here that would be helpful, they are certainly not DNA.  Memes have no code.  Continuing on, one of the former does not change as it is proliferated, but one is subject to numerous changes as it proliferates.  I can point to Sociological and Linguistic studies that track and explain the changes in urban legends as they proliferate, but memetics completely lacks any explanatory power in this area and the analogy to genes and genetics literally falls apart.

We can talk about memes and how they contribute to memeplexes or how memeplexes function themselves, we can talk about meme carriers and the organs of society they build (each meme carrier is potentially a part of many organs which further breaks down the analogy as far as I see, a fact you seem to smooth over: Memes are, most of the time, merely translated by each person into the framework of their approximate clique. I don't even think that 'most of the time' is accurate.) but the link to genes and genetics is tenuous and often fails.  Perhaps the metalanguage does not function as well even in a Sociological context?

I admit that novel memes are extremely rare, but I don't see the relevance.

I find the general description of memes and their evolution partly agreeable but I find that memetics as a theory is severely lacking in explanatory power in a most detrimental way and that the obsession to compare the theory to biology ill-founded and damaging.  I expecially find the one dimensional explanation of memes dissatisfactory in the face of semiotics.  Perhaps as the theory evolves and more of what is lacking is incorporated into it the theory will be as robust as others, but I think that by that point the analogy to genetics will have been dropped if not in name and that the theory will be unrecognizable to the current popular model and the dogma of memetics will have diappeared.  Personally, I prefer to look away from memetics for a novel theory based in Linguistics using semiotics and drawing from Sociology and Anthropology.  I feel there is far more explanatory power in these fields that already exists and that they lend themselves far better to the explanation of how cultural information is created, proliferated and changes than does memetics.

BigUniverse wrote,

"Well the things that happen less often are more likely to be the result of the supper natural. A thing like loosing my keys in the morning is not likely supper natural, but finding a thousand dollars or meeting a celebrity might be."


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I don't think Linguistics

I don't think Linguistics was meant to address culture in this manner. Rather, my readings in Linguistics seem to allude to what I think is best summarized by memetics. To use an example of categories, games. All games have one thing which unites them all: repetition for its own sake. That is, we play them just to play. Even simple games that have no skill or amusement value such as Rock Paper Scissors.

To follow the analogy drawn from genes, memes must be each a single grouping of code. A given species of urban legend must retain certain ideas in order to be considered the same legend. That is, if told a story by two different interpreters there should be a point where everyone would think they were hearing a different story. Case in point: the kidney thief story. X person is seduced by Y person and left sans a nephritic organ in place Zed. There you have the specific meme which makes that story a member of the "kidney thief" domain of urban legends. You could super-classify that structure if you wrote it in set notation, possibly under bait and switch, then under urban legends, and so on.

Therefore, a possible means of referring to the individual particles which make up a meme could be semantics, but it is not necessarily the concern of memeticists any more than electron physics is the concern of computer scientists. Memes are definitely part rooted in language but addressing them in that manner is like using nuclear physics to solve regular stoichiometric relationships. The relevant branches of science are already bloated with vast lexicons of arcane vocabulary, and I see no need to force future people who are interested to study either sociology or linguistics just to get there. Memetics should have its own simple language from which to draw simple, testable hypotheses.

Let linguists and sociologists deal with the composition of individual memes, and memeticists get on with the complex interactions.


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inspectormustard wrote:I

inspectormustard wrote:

I don't think Linguistics was meant to address culture in this manner. Rather, my readings in Linguistics seem to allude to what I think is best summarized by memetics. To use an example of categories, games. All games have one thing which unites them all: repetition for its own sake. That is, we play them just to play. Even simple games that have no skill or amusement value such as Rock Paper Scissors.

To follow the analogy drawn from genes, memes must be each a single grouping of code. A given species of urban legend must retain certain ideas in order to be considered the same legend. That is, if told a story by two different interpreters there should be a point where everyone would think they were hearing a different story. Case in point: the kidney thief story. X person is seduced by Y person and left sans a nephritic organ in place Zed. There you have the specific meme which makes that story a member of the "kidney thief" domain of urban legends. You could super-classify that structure if you wrote it in set notation, possibly under bait and switch, then under urban legends, and so on.

Therefore, a possible means of referring to the individual particles which make up a meme could be semantics, but it is not necessarily the concern of memeticists any more than electron physics is the concern of computer scientists. Memes are definitely part rooted in language but addressing them in that manner is like using nuclear physics to solve regular stoichiometric relationships. The relevant branches of science are already bloated with vast lexicons of arcane vocabulary, and I see no need to force future people who are interested to study either sociology or linguistics just to get there. Memetics should have its own simple language from which to draw simple, testable hypotheses.

Let linguists and sociologists deal with the composition of individual memes, and memeticists get on with the complex interactions.

That's the point I was trying to make about the human being a black box where memes are concerned. We know what the memes are, we can identify them and (semantically) classify them. So where does this simple language come from? The current vocab is simply inadequate to describe these interactions in any way other than "co-adaptive meme complex or memeplex" without any clue as to how the complex is structured, and "co-adaptive meme complex" is no better an explanation than "God did it" at this point. It's like trying to figure out a metalanguage of information.

“It is true that in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. It is equally true that in the land of the blind, the two-eyed man is an enemy of the state, the people, and domestic tranquility… and necessarily so. Someone has to rearrange the furniture.”


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FulltimeDefendent

FulltimeDefendent wrote:

inspectormustard wrote:

I don't think Linguistics was meant to address culture in this manner. Rather, my readings in Linguistics seem to allude to what I think is best summarized by memetics. To use an example of categories, games. All games have one thing which unites them all: repetition for its own sake. That is, we play them just to play. Even simple games that have no skill or amusement value such as Rock Paper Scissors.

To follow the analogy drawn from genes, memes must be each a single grouping of code. A given species of urban legend must retain certain ideas in order to be considered the same legend. That is, if told a story by two different interpreters there should be a point where everyone would think they were hearing a different story. Case in point: the kidney thief story. X person is seduced by Y person and left sans a nephritic organ in place Zed. There you have the specific meme which makes that story a member of the "kidney thief" domain of urban legends. You could super-classify that structure if you wrote it in set notation, possibly under bait and switch, then under urban legends, and so on.

Therefore, a possible means of referring to the individual particles which make up a meme could be semantics, but it is not necessarily the concern of memeticists any more than electron physics is the concern of computer scientists. Memes are definitely part rooted in language but addressing them in that manner is like using nuclear physics to solve regular stoichiometric relationships. The relevant branches of science are already bloated with vast lexicons of arcane vocabulary, and I see no need to force future people who are interested to study either sociology or linguistics just to get there. Memetics should have its own simple language from which to draw simple, testable hypotheses.

Let linguists and sociologists deal with the composition of individual memes, and memeticists get on with the complex interactions.

That's the point I was trying to make about the human being a black box where memes are concerned. We know what the memes are, we can identify them and (semantically) classify them. So where does this simple language come from? The current vocab is simply inadequate to describe these interactions in any way other than "co-adaptive meme complex or memeplex" without any clue as to how the complex is structured, and "co-adaptive meme complex" is no better an explanation than "God did it" at this point. It's like trying to figure out a metalanguage of information.

It's not meant to be an explanation of how the complex is structured, but rather a study of how the structures interact. So it is like saying "God did it" if you take it that way. It isn't necessary to know how something is structured to know how it works. It would be easier, but we may as well take it on from all angles. The worst that could happen is we'd have wasted our time, which would be as inconsequential as all the other failed experiments that pave the way to theory.


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inspectormustard

inspectormustard wrote:

FulltimeDefendent wrote:

inspectormustard wrote:

I don't think Linguistics was meant to address culture in this manner. Rather, my readings in Linguistics seem to allude to what I think is best summarized by memetics. To use an example of categories, games. All games have one thing which unites them all: repetition for its own sake. That is, we play them just to play. Even simple games that have no skill or amusement value such as Rock Paper Scissors.

To follow the analogy drawn from genes, memes must be each a single grouping of code. A given species of urban legend must retain certain ideas in order to be considered the same legend. That is, if told a story by two different interpreters there should be a point where everyone would think they were hearing a different story. Case in point: the kidney thief story. X person is seduced by Y person and left sans a nephritic organ in place Zed. There you have the specific meme which makes that story a member of the "kidney thief" domain of urban legends. You could super-classify that structure if you wrote it in set notation, possibly under bait and switch, then under urban legends, and so on.

Therefore, a possible means of referring to the individual particles which make up a meme could be semantics, but it is not necessarily the concern of memeticists any more than electron physics is the concern of computer scientists. Memes are definitely part rooted in language but addressing them in that manner is like using nuclear physics to solve regular stoichiometric relationships. The relevant branches of science are already bloated with vast lexicons of arcane vocabulary, and I see no need to force future people who are interested to study either sociology or linguistics just to get there. Memetics should have its own simple language from which to draw simple, testable hypotheses.

Let linguists and sociologists deal with the composition of individual memes, and memeticists get on with the complex interactions.

That's the point I was trying to make about the human being a black box where memes are concerned. We know what the memes are, we can identify them and (semantically) classify them. So where does this simple language come from? The current vocab is simply inadequate to describe these interactions in any way other than "co-adaptive meme complex or memeplex" without any clue as to how the complex is structured, and "co-adaptive meme complex" is no better an explanation than "God did it" at this point. It's like trying to figure out a metalanguage of information.

It's not meant to be an explanation of how the complex is structured, but rather a study of how the structures interact. So it is like saying "God did it" if you take it that way. It isn't necessary to know how something is structured to know how it works. It would be easier, but we may as well take it on from all angles. The worst that could happen is we'd have wasted our time, which would be as inconsequential as all the other failed experiments that pave the way to theory.

I think we're talking around each other, Mustard. If we can figure out how the system has works, then we know what structure to look for to know if we are right or wrong. The problem is, it may be an impossible task.

“It is true that in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. It is equally true that in the land of the blind, the two-eyed man is an enemy of the state, the people, and domestic tranquility… and necessarily so. Someone has to rearrange the furniture.”


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One could try and see what

One could try and see what people value and what drives them to do what they do and then see if memes usually contain ideas which are valued or drive people to spread them.


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I'm not sure 'memetic' ideas

I'm not sure 'memetic' ideas yet constitute a theory as much as a very useful way to think about how ideas and complex concepts spread and mutate thru a community of minds, allowing us to apply concepts developed in genetic evolutionary theory.

It may be related to a more common description of how people respond to different ideas and concepts and stories in much the same way that studying matter as a collection of atoms relates to the study of electrons, protons, neutrons, etc.

It will justify itself if it helps us predict which of various ideas or set of ideas ('memplexes') are most likely to catch on and spread in a given community.

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