Nature and humanity relationship memes

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nature and humanity relationship memes

Share the best nature quotes collection by famous authors, philosophers and There is a certain enthusiasm in liberty, that makes human nature rise above. quotes have been tagged as human-nature: Albert Einstein: 'Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the uni. Find and save human nature Memes | from Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter & More.

Let me be clear: I AM worried that a Trump presidency would foster the same atmosphere of intolerance that has historically allowed events such as Kristallnacht to occur.

Would anyone really be shocked if there was coordinated violence in Muslim neighborhoods? In the wake of such an incident, could we honestly expect swift and decisive action from a President Trump?

Could anyone witnessing such potential violence think "how could this possibly happen in America?

nature and humanity relationship memes

Those who don't learn history are condemned to repeat its mistakes. Please don't give a man like Trump - who has admitted to having little interest in history, admitted to not respecting many people because he simply doesn't believe most people are worthy of respect - the chance to repeat any of the mistakes that history would surely have taught a less narcissistic, more caring and compassionate man than Donald Trump. In his first inaugural address, President Lincoln spoke of "the better angels of our nature" that he hoped would eventually heal a nation on the brink of Civil War.

What worries me about. Lincoln believed in the better angels of our nature. Trump instead seems to encourage the very worst in human nature, welcomes it under the guise of greatness and lets it know it has a home in Donald Trump's America. OK, I did it. I said my piece, now I can look myself in the mirror on November 9th. Let me just close this message to my fellow white males by quoting a song written for an African American legend.

The rest of this section expands on that argument and can be skipped for the purposes of understanding the wider picture. This is sometimes referred to as Dawkins A Gatherer This implies that the information in the clothes or the tunes does not count as a meme.

Presumably they still count as memes in all these forms of storage — not just when they are in a brain. So this is back to Dawkins A. Dennetttreats memes as information undergoing the evolutionary algorithm, whether they are in a brain, a book or some other physical object. He points out that copying any behaviour must entail neural change and that the structure of a meme is likely to be different in any two brains, but he does not confine memes to these neural structures.

Durham also treats memes as information, again regardless of how they are stored. What is important here is that the memetic information survives intact long enough to be subject to selection pressures. It does not matter where and how the information resides.

Presumably, on all these latter definitions, memes cannot exist in books or buildings, so the books and buildings must be given a different role. This has been done, by using further distinctions, usually based on a more or less explicit analogy with genes. Cloak explicitly likened his i-culture to the genotype and m-culture to the phenotype. Dennett also talks about memes and their phenotypic effects, though in a different way.

Gabora likens the genotype to the mental representation of a meme, and the phenotype to its implementation. All these distinctions are slightly different and it is not at all clear which, if any, is better.

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The problem is this. If memes worked like genes then we should expect to find close analogies between the two evolutionary systems. But, although both are replicators, they work quite differently and for this reason we should be very cautious of meme-gene analogies. Instead there is a messy system in which information is copied all over the place by many different means.

I previously gave the example of someone inventing a new recipe for pumpkin soup and passing it on to various relatives and friends Blackmore The recipe can be passed on by demonstration, by writing the recipe on a piece of paper, by explaining over the phone, by sending a fax or e-mail, or with difficulty by tasting the soup and working out how it might have been cooked.

It is easy to think up examples of this kind which make a mockery of drawing analogies with genotypes and phenotypes because there are so many different copying methods. Most important for the present argument, we must ask ourselves this question. If we answer that memes are only in the head then we must give some other role to these many other forms and, as we have seen, this leads to confusion. My conclusion is this.

nature and humanity relationship memes

The whole point of memes is to see them as information being copied in an evolutionary process i. Given the complexities of human life, information can be copied in myriad ways. For this reason I agree with Dennett, Wilkins, Durham and Dawkins A, who do not restrict memes to being inside brains. The information in this article counts as memes when it is inside my head or yours, when it is in my computer or on the journal pages, or when it is speeding across the world in wires or bouncing off satellites, because in any of these forms it is potentially available for copying and can therefore take part in an evolutionary process.

We may now turn to the other vexed definitional question — the method by which memes are replicated.

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Presumably he meant to include many processes which we may not think of as imitation but which depend on it, like direct teaching, verbal instruction, learning by reading and so on. All these require an ability to imitate.

nature and humanity relationship memes

However, they clearly fit the evolutionary algorithm. Information is copied from person to person. Variation is introduced both by degradation due to failures of human memory and communication, and by the creative recombination of different memes.

And selection is imposed by limitations on time, transmission rates, memory and other kinds of storage space. In this paper I am not going to deal with these more complex kinds of replication.

nature and humanity relationship memes

Although they raise many interesting questions, they can undoubtedly sustain an evolutionary process and can therefore replicate memes. Instead I want to concentrate on skills at the simpler end of the scale, where it is not so obvious which kinds of learning can and cannot count as replicating memes.

Theories of gene-culture coevolution all differ in the ways their cultural units are supposed to be passed on. Runciman refers to memes as instructions affecting phenotype passed on by both imitation and learning.

Laland and Odling Smee in press argue that all forms of social learning are potentially capable of propagating memes. Among meme-theorists both Brodie and Ball include all conditioning, and Gabora counts all mental representations as memes regardless of how they are acquired.

This should not, I suggest, be just a matter of preference. Rather, we must ask which kinds of learning can and cannot copy information from one individual to another in such a way as to sustain an evolutionary process. For if information is not copied through successive replications, with variation and selection, then there is no new evolutionary process and no need for the concept of the meme as replicator.

This is not a familiar way of comparing different types of learning so I will need to review some of the literature and try to extract an answer. For example, when bees dance information about the location of food is accurately conveyed and the observing bees go off to find it, but the dance itself is not copied or passed on.

So this is not copying a meme. Similarly when vervet monkeys use several different signals to warn conspecifics of different kinds of predator Cheney and Seyfarththere is no copying of the behaviour.

The behaviour acts as a signal on which the other monkeys act, but they do not copy the signals with variation and selection. Communication of these kinds is therefore not even potentially memetic. Various forms of animal learning may be. Learning Learning is commonly divided into individual and social learning.

In individual learning including classical conditioning, operant conditioning, acquisition of motor skills and spatial learning there is no copying of information from one animal to another. When a rat learns to press a lever for reward, a cat learns where the food is kept, or a child learns how to ride a skateboard, that learning is done for the individual only and cannot be passed on.

Arguably such learning involves a replicator being copied and selected within the individual brain CalvinEdelmanbut it does not involve copying between individuals. These types of learning therefore do not count as memetic transmission. In social learning a second individual is involved, but in various different roles. Types of social learning include goal emulation, stimulus enhancement, local enhancement, and true imitation. The question I want to ask is which of these can and cannot sustain a new evolutionary process.

In emulation, or goal emulation, the learner observes another individual gaining some reward and therefore tries to obtain it too, using individual learning in the process, and possibly attaining the goal in quite a different way from the first individual Tomasello An example is when monkeys, apes or birds observe each other getting food from novel containers but then get it themselves by using a different technique e.

This is social learning because two individuals are involved, but the second has only learned a new place to look for food. Nothing is copied from one animal to the other in such a way as to allow for the copying of variations and selective survival of some variants over others. So there is no new evolutionary process and no new replicator. In stimulus enhancement the attention of the learner is drawn to a particular object or feature of the environment by the behaviour of another individual.

This process is thought to account for the spread among British tits of the habit of pecking milk bottle tops to get at the cream underneath, which was first observed in and spread from village to village Fisher and Hinde If so, the birds had not learned a new skill from each other they already knew how to peckbut only a new stimulus at which to peck.

Similarly the spread of termite fishing among chimpanzees might be accounted for by stimulus enhancement as youngsters follow their elders around and are exposed to the right kind of sticks in proximity to termite nests. They then learn by trial and error how to use the sticks. In local enhancement the learner is drawn to a place or situation by the behaviour of another, as when rabbits learn from each other not to fear the edges of railway lines in spite of the noise of the trains.

The spread of sweet-potato washing in Japanese macaques may have been through stimulus or local enhancement as the monkeys followed each other into the water and then discovered that washed food was preferable Galef If this is the right explanation for the spread of these behaviours we can see that there is no new evolutionary process and no new replicator, for there is nothing that is copied from individual to individual with variation and selection. This means there can be no cumulative selection of more effective variants.

Similarly, Boyd and Richerson in press argue that this kind of social learning does not allow for cumulative cultural change. Most of the population-specific behavioural traditions studied appear to be of this kind, including nesting sites, migration routes, songs and tool use, in species such as wolves, elephants, monkeys, monarch butterflies, and many kinds of birds Bonner For example, oyster catchers use two different methods for opening mussels according to local tradition but the two methods do not compete in the same population — in other words there is no differential selection of variants within a given population.

Tomasello, Kruger and Ratner argue that many chimpanzee traditions are also of this type. Although the behaviours are learned population-specific traditions they are not cultural in the human sense of that term because they are not learned by all or even most of the members of the group, they are learned very slowly and with wide individual variation, and — most telling — they do not show an accumulation of modifications over generations.

There may be exceptions to this. For example, individuals in the same group use two different methods for catching ants on sticks, and several ways of dealing with ectoparasites while grooming. However, they suggest that these require true imitation for their perpetuation.

Imitation True imitation is more restrictively defined, although there is still no firm agreement about the definition see ZentallWhiten This means that one animal must acquire a novel behaviour from another — so ruling out the kinds of contagion noted above. Whiten and Hamwhose definition is widely used, define imitation as learning some part of the form of a behaviour from another individual.

Similarly Heyes distinguishes between true imitation — learning something about the form of behaviour through observing others, from social learning — learning about the environment through observing others thus ruling out stimulus and local enhancement.

True imitation is much rarer than individual learning and other forms of social learning. Humans are extremely good at imitation; starting almost from birth, and taking pleasure in doing it. Meltzoff, who has studied imitation in infants for more than twenty years, calls humans the consummate imitative generalist Meltzoff, although some of the earliest behaviours he studies, such as tongue protrusion, might arguably be called contagion rather than true imitation.

Just how rare imitation is has not been answered. There is evidence of imitation in the grey parrot and harbour seals. Many experiments have been done on imitation and although they have not been directly addressed at the question of whether a new replicator is involved, they may help towards an answer. For example, some studies have tried to find out how much of the form of a behaviour is copied by different animals and by children. In the two-action method a demonstrator uses one of two possible methods for achieving a goal such as opening a specially designed containerwhile the learner is observed to see which method is used Whiten et al.

If a different method is used the animal may be using goal emulation, but if the same method is copied then true imitation is involved. Evidence of true imitation has been claimed using this method in budgerigars, pigeons and rats, as well as enculturated chimpanzees and children Heyes and Galef Other studies explore whether learners can copy a sequence of actions and their hierarchical structure Whiten Byrne and Russon distinguish action level imitation in which a sequence of actions is copied in detail from program level imitation in which the subroutine structure and hierarchical layout of a behavioural program is copied.

They argue that other great apes may be capable of program level imitation although humans have a much greater hierarchical depth. Such studies are important for understanding imitation, but they do not directly address the questions at issue here — that is, does the imitation entail an evolutionary process?

Is there a new replicator involved? To answer this we need new kinds of research directed at finding out whether a new evolutionary process is involved when imitation, or other kinds of social learning, take place. This might take two forms. First there is the question of copying fidelity. As we have seen, a replicator is defined as an entity that passes on its structure largely intact in successive replications. So we need to ask whether the behaviour or information is passed on largely intact through several replications.

For example, in the wild, is there evidence of tool use, grooming techniques or other socially learned behaviours being passed on through a series of individuals, rather than several animals learning from one individual but never passing the skill on again? In experimental situations one animal could observe another, and then act as model for a third and so on as in the game of Chinese whispers or telephone.

We might not expect copying fidelity to be very high, but unless the skill is recognisably passed on through more than one replication then we do not have a new replicator — i. Second, is there variation and selection? The examples given by Whiten et al. We might look for other examples where skills are passed to several individuals, these individuals differ in the precise way they carry out the skill, and some variants are more frequently or reliably passed on again.

For this is the basis of cumulative culture. Experiments could be designed to detect the same process occurring in artificial situations. Such studies would enable us to say just which processes, in which species, are capable of sustaining an evolutionary process with a new replicator. Only when this is found can we usefully apply the concept of the meme.

If such studies were done and it turned out that, by and large, what we have chosen to call imitation can sustain cumulative evolution while other kinds of social learning cannot, then we could easily tie the definitions of memes and imitation together — so that what counts as a meme is anything passed on by imitation, and wherever you have imitation you have a meme.

In the absence of such research we may not be justified in taking this step, and some people may feel that it would not do justice to our present understanding of imitation. Nevertheless, for the purposes of this paper at least, that is what I propose.

This allows me to draw the following conclusion. Imitation is restricted to very few species and humans appear to be alone in being able to imitate a very wide range of sounds and behaviours. This capacity for widespread generalised imitation must have arisen at some time in our evolutionary history.

When it did so, a new replicator was created and the process of memetic evolution began. This, I suggest, was a crucial turning point in human evolution. I now want to explore the consequences of this transition and some of the coevolutionary processes that may have occurred once human evolution was driven by two replicators rather than one.

One consequence, I suggest, was a rapid increase in brain size. The big human brain Humans have abilities that seem out of line with our supposed evolutionary past as hunter-gatherers, such as music and art, science and mathematics, playing chess and arguing about our evolutionary origins. This problem led Wallace to argue, against Darwin, that humans alone have a God-given intellectual and spiritual nature see Cronin Humans have an encephalisation quotient of about 3 relative to other primates.

That is, our brains are roughly three times as large when adjusted for body weight Jerison The increase probably began about 2. Not only is the brain much bigger than it was, but it appears to have been drastically reorganised during what is, in evolutionary terms, a relatively short time Deacon Nevertheless, the human brain stands out. The problem is serious because of the very high cost in energy terms of both producing a large brain during development, and of running it in the adult, as well as the dangers entailed in giving birth.

Chimpanzees live in complex social groups and it seems likely that our common ancestors did too. Making and breaking alliances, remembering who is who to maintain reciprocal altruism, and outwitting others, all require complex and fast decision making and good memory.

Other theories emphasise the role of language DeaconDunbar There are three main differences between this theory and previous ones. First, this theory entails a definite turning point — the advent of true imitation which created a new replicator. On the one hand this distinguishes it from theories of continuous change such as those based on improving hunting or gathering skills, or on the importance of social skills and Machiavellian intelligence. Second, both Donald and Deacon emphasise the importance of symbolism or mental representations in human evolution.

Other theories also assume that what makes human culture so special is its symbolic nature. This emphasis on symbolism and representation is unnecessary in the theory proposed here.

Whether behaviours acquired by imitation i.

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All that matters is whether they are replicated or not. Third, the theory has no place for the leash metaphor of sociobiology, or for the assumption, common to almost all versions of gene-culture coevolution, that the ultimate arbiter is inclusive fitness i. In this theory there are two replicators, and the relationships between them can be cooperative, competitive, or anything in between.

Most important is that memes compete with other memes and produce memetic evolution, the results of which then affect the selection of genes. On this theory we can only understand the factors affecting gene selection when we understand their interaction with memetic selection. In outline the theory is this.

The turning point in hominid evolution was when our ancestors began to imitate each other, releasing a new replicator, the meme. Memes then changed the environment in which genes were selected, and the direction of change was determined by the outcome of memetic selection.

Among the many consequences of this change was that the human brain and vocal tract were restructured to make them better at replicating the successful memes. The origins of imitation We do not know when and how imitation originated. In one way it is easy to see why natural selection would have favoured social learning.

Mathematical modelling has shown that this is worthwhile if the environment is variable but does not change too fast Richerson and Boyd Similar analyses have been used in economics to compare the value of costly individual decision making against cheap imitation Conlisk As we have seen, other forms of social learning are fairly widespread, but true imitation occurs in only a few species.

Moore compares imitation in parrots, great apes and dolphins and concludes that they are not homologous and that imitation must have evolved independently at least three times. In birds imitation probably evolved out of song mimicry, but in humans it did not.

The latter sounds very difficult to achieve — involving transforming the visual input of a seen action from one perspective into the motor instructions for performing a similar action oneself. However, mirror neurons in monkey premotor cortex appear to belong to a system that does just this.

The same neurons fire when the monkey performs a goal-directed action itself as when it sees another monkey perform the same action, though Gallese and Goldman believe this system evolved for predicting the goals and future actions of others, rather than for imitation. Given that mirror neurons occur in monkeys, it seems likely that our ancestors would have had them, making the transition to true imitation more likely.

We also do not know when that transition occurred. The first obvious signs of imitation are the stone tools made by Homo habilis about 2. It seems likely that less durable tools were made before then; possibly carrying baskets, slings, wooden tools and so on. Even before that our ancestors may have imitated ways of carrying food, catching game or other behaviours.

By the time these copied behaviours were widespread the stage was set for memes to start driving genes. I shall take a simple example and try to explain how the process might work. Memetic drive Let us imagine that a new skill begins to spread by imitation. This might be, for example, a new way of making a basket to carry food. The innovation arose from a previous basket type, and because the new basket holds slightly more fruit it is preferable.

Other people start copying it and the behaviour and the artefact both spread. Note that I have deliberately chosen a simple meme or small memeplex to illustrate the principle; that is the baskets and the skills entailed in making them. In practice there would be complex interactions with other memes but I want to begin simply. Now anyone who does not have access to the new type of basket is at a survival disadvantage.

A way to get the baskets is to imitate other people who can make them, and therefore good imitators are at an advantage genetically. This means that the ability to imitate will spread. If we assume that imitation is a difficult skill as indeed it seems to be and requires a slightly larger brain, then this process alone can already produce an increase in brain size.

This first step really amounts to no more than saying that imitation was selected for because it provides a survival advantage, and once the products of imitation spread, then imitation itself becomes ever more necessary for survival.

This argument is a version of the Baldwin effect which applies to any kind of learning: So this is not specifically a memetic argument. However, the presence of memes changes the pressures on genes in new ways.

The reason is that memes are also replicators undergoing selection and as soon as there are sufficient memes around to set up memetic competition, then meme-gene coevolution begins.

Let us suppose that there are a dozen different basket types around that compete with each other. Now it is important for any individual to choose the right basket to copy, but which is that? Since both genes and memes are involved we need to look at the question from both points of view. This will probably be the biggest, strongest, or easiest basket to make.

People who copy this basket will gather more food, and ultimately be more likely to pass on the genes that were involved in helping them imitate that particular basket. In this way the genes, at least to some extent, track changes in the memes. These memes spread whenever they get the chance, and their chances are affected by the imitation skills, the perceptual systems and the memory capacities among other things of the people who do the copying. Now, let us suppose that the genetic tracking has produced people who tend to imitate the biggest baskets because over a sufficiently long period of time larger artefacts were associated with higher biological success.

This now allows for the memetic evolution of all sorts of new baskets that exploit that tendency; especially baskets that look big. They need not actually be big, or well made, or very good at doing their job but as long as they trigger the genetically acquired tendency to copy big baskets then they will do well, regardless of their consequence for inclusive fitness. The same argument would apply if the tendency was to copy flashy-looking baskets, solid baskets, or whatever.

So baskets that exploit the current copying tendencies spread at the expense of those that do not. This memetic evolution now changes the situation for the genes which have, as it were, been cheated and are no longer effectively tracking the memetic change.

Now the biological survivors will be the people who copy whatever it is about the current baskets that actually predicts biological success. This might be some other feature, such as the materials used, the strength, the kind of handle, or whatever — and so the process goes on. This process is not quite the same as traditional gene-culture evolution or the Baldwin effect. The baskets are not just aspects of culture that have appeared by accident and may or may not be maladaptive for the genes of their carriers.

They are evolving systems in their own right, with replicators whose selfish interests play a role in the outcome. I have deliberately chosen a rather trivial example to make the process clear; the effects are far more contentious, as we shall see, when they concern the copying of language, or of seriously detrimental activities.

Whom to imitate Another strategy for genes might be to constrain whom, rather than what, is copied. For example, a good strategy would be to copy the biologically successful. People who tended, other things being equal, to copy those of their acquaintances who had the most food, the best dwelling space, or the most children would, by and large, copy the memes that contributed to that success and so be more likely to succeed themselves.

In this situation as I have suggested above success is largely a matter of being able to acquire the currently important memes.

So this strategy amounts to copying the best imitators. I shall call these people meme fountains, a term suggested by Dennett to refer to those who are especially good at imitation and who therefore provide a plentiful source of memes — both old memes they have copied and new memes they have invented by building on, or combining, the old. Any memes that got into the repertoire of a meme fountain would thrive — regardless of their biological effect.

The meme fountain acquires all the most useful tools, hunting skills, fire-making abilities and his genes do well. However, his outstanding imitation ability means that he copies and adapts all sorts of other memes as well. These might include rain dances, fancy clothes, body decoration, burial rites or any number of other habits that may not contribute to his genetic fitness. Since many of his neighbours have the genetically in-built tendency to copy him these memes will spread just as well as the ones that actually aid survival.

Whole memetic lineages of body decoration or dancing might evolve from such a starting point. Taking dancing as an example, people will copy various competing dances and some dances will be copied more often than others.

This memetic success may depend on whom is copied, but also on features of the dances, such as memorability, visibility, interest and so on — features that in turn depend on the visual systems and memories of the people doing the imitation. As new dances spread to many people, they open up new niches for further variations on dancing to evolve.

Any of these memes that get their hosts to spend lots of time dancing will do better, and so, if there is no check on the process, people will find themselves dancing more and more.

Dancing cannot now be un-evolved but its further evolution will necessarily be constrained. Someone who could better discriminate between the useful memes and the energy-wasting memes would leave more descendants than someone who could not. So the pressure is on to make more and more refined discriminations about what and whom to imitate. And — crucially — the discriminations that have to be made depend upon the past history of memetic as well as genetic evolution.

If dancing had never evolved there would be no need for genes that selectively screened out too much dance-imitation. Since it did there is. This is the crux of the process I have called memetic driving. The past history of memetic evolution affects the direction that genes must take to maximise their own survival.

We now have a coevolutionary process between two quite different replicators that are closely bound together. To maximise their success the genes need to build brains that are capable of selectively copying the most useful memes, while not copying the useless, costly or harmful ones. The result is a mass of evolving memes, some of which have thrived because they are useful to the genes, and some of which have thrived in spite of the fact that they are not — and a brain that is designed to do the job of selecting which memes are copied and which are not.

This is the big human brain. Its function is selective imitation and its design is the product of a long history of meme-gene coevolution. Whom to mate with There is another twist to this argument; sexual selection for the ability to imitate. In general it will benefit females to mate with successful males and, in this imagined human past, successful males are those who are best at imitating the currently important memes. Sexual selection might therefore amplify the effects of memetic drive.

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