Interdisciplinary memetic cross-fertilization

A biological analogy for the cognitive & behavioral sciences

Genetics refers to the scientific study of the mechanisms which underpin biological evolution. Memetics, on the other hand, concerns the study of the transfer of information and ideas in a quasi-Darwinian evolutionary framework. That is, memetics is the study of the genesis, mutation, and propagation of ideas. To formulate it concisely: Genetics relates to biology as memetics relates to ideology.

A meme functions as a unit for transmitting ideas, symbols, attitudes, or behaviors that can be transferred from one human mind to another (i.e., from one host to another). Methods of transmission include speech, writting, music, dance, gestures, rituals, et cetera. A meme can thus be described as an “imitable cognitive phenomenon”.

The word meme is etymological derived from the Ancient Greek μίμημα (mīmēma) which translates into “imitated thing”. The neologism was coined by the controversial and extremist British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in his bestselling book “The Selfish Gene” (1976). According to theory, the principles which allow biologists to model evolutionary processes can be analogously applied to the evolution of ideas. Similar to genes, ideas can be transmitter across generation or they can “die out”. There is thus competition between memes and only the “fittest” ideas survive and reproduce. This can be modelled in terms of selection pressure and similar to genetics, memetic fitness landscapes have been applied to understand meme-flow. Moreover, ideas can have “intercourse”, that is, ideas can be combined to form “offspring”. Furthermore, ideas can mutate and become “viral”. The study of memes is thus inspired by the evolutionary principles of biology and the basic Darwinian principles apply (universal Darwinism):

  1. Variation: Among individuals within any population, there is random variation in morphology, physiology, and behavior.
  2. Heredity: Offspring resemble their parents more than they resemble unrelated individuals.
  3. Selection: Some forms are more successful at surviving and reproducing than other forms in a given environment.

Note. It should be emphasized memetic evolution is a much more flexible mechanism.

This website provides a readily memorable conceptual metaphor which applies the biological concept of cross-pollination to ideas. Specifically, it is proposed that an interdisciplinary researcher can be compared to a honey bee which collects pollen from different plant specimen and thereby cross-pollinates plants belonging to a diversity of different taxa. In fact, the bee-analogy is not new. Francis Bacon formulated a similar idea in his classical “Novum Organum” (Latin transl. “The new instrument of science”). Cross-fertilization is also called Allogamy, i.e., the fusion of male and female gametes (sex cells) from different individuals of the same species. In this context the composite term “interdisciplinary allogamy” might be a useful (a new meme).

The journal of memetics focuses on evolutionary models of information transmission:  cfpm.org/jom-emit/

Memetic algorithms are a class of evolutionary algorithms

Pseudo code

Procedure Memetic Algorithm
Initialize: Generate an initial population;
while Stopping conditions are not satisfied do
    Evaluate all individuals in the population.
    Evolve a new population using stochastic search operators.
    Select the subset of individuals, Ω i l {\displaystyle \Omega _{il}} , that should undergo the individual improvement procedure.
    for each individual in Ω i l {\displaystyle \Omega _{il}} do
        Perform individual learning using meme(s) with frequency or probability of f i l {\displaystyle f_{il}} , for a period of t i l {\displaystyle t_{il}} .
        Proceed with Lamarckian or Baldwinian learning.
    end for
end while

 

incommensurability – kuhn paradigms – linguistics

If during the long course of ages and under varying conditions of life, organic beings vary at all in the several parts of their organisation, and I think this cannot be disputed; if there be, owing to the high geometrical powers of increase of each species, at some age, season, or year, a severe struggle for life, and this certainly cannot be disputed; then, considering the infinite complexity of the relations of all organic beings to each other and to their conditions of existence, causing an infinite diversity in structure, constitution, and habits, to be advantageous to them, I think it would be a most extraordinary fact if no variation ever had occurred useful to each being’s own welfare, in the same way as so many variations have occurred useful to man. But if variations useful to any organic being do occur, assuredly individuals thus characterised will have the best chance of being preserved in the struggle for life; and from the strong principle of inheritance they will tend to produce offspring similarly characterised. This principle of preservation, I have called, for the sake of brevity, Natural Selection.

— Darwin summarising natural selection in the fourth chapter of On the Origin of Species[22]

The pollinator analogy puts focus on the importance of diversity and “network size”. This is particularly interesting in the context of creativity…
www.etymology-of-creativity.ga/

  (2010). The Strength-of-Weak-Ties Perspective on Creativity: A Comprehensive Examination and Extension. Journal of Applied Psychology

““Disentangling the effects of weak ties on creativity, the present study separated, both theoretically and empirically, the effects of the size and strength of actors’ idea networks and examined their joint impact while simultaneously considering the separate, moderating role of network diversity. i hypothesized that idea networks of optimal size and weak strength were more likely to boost creativity when they afforded actors access to a wide range of different social circles. in addition, i examined whether the joint effects of network size, strength, and diversity on creativity were further qualified by the openness to experience personality dimension. as expected, results indicated that actors were most creative when they maintained idea networks of optimal size, weak strength, and high diversity and when they scored high on the openness dimension. the implications of these results are discussed.””

Hover me to open tooltip“Those who have handled sciences have been either men of experiment or men of dogmas. The men of experiment are like the ant, they only collect and use; the reasoners resemble spiders, who make cobwebs out of their own substance. But the bee takes a middle course: it gathers its material from the flowers of the garden and of the field, but transforms and digests it by a power of its own. Not unlike this is the true business of philosophy; for it neither relies solely or chiefly on the powers of the mind, nor does it take the matter which it gathers from natural history and mechanical experiments and lay it up in the memory whole, as it finds it, but lays it up in the understanding altered and digested. Therefore from a closer and purer league between these two faculties, the experimental and the rational (such as has never yet been made), much may be hoped.”
~ Francis Bacon (Novum Organum)
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gene flow between plant populations

The genetic code consist of four base pairs (the nucleobase) which are arranged in the double-helix structure of DNA. The nitrogenous bases are

The physical substrate of the “memetic code”, on the other hand, is not yet determined. According to current neuroscientific theorizing, it is postulated that memetic information is stored in complex distributed neuronal networks in the brain. However, this is a *working hypothesis* which need to be corroborated by empirical evidence. Correlation Causation

A Model of Pollinator-Mediated Gene Flow between Plant Populations with Numerical Solutions for Bumblebees Pollinating Oilseed Rape

Sir Francis Bacon’s “The New Organon”
The Ant, the Spider, and the Bee

Those who have handled sciences have been either men of experiment or men of dogmas. The men of experiment are like the ant, they only collect and use; the reasoners resemble spiders, who make cobwebs out of their own substance. But the bee takes a middle course: it gathers its material from the flowers of the garden and of the field, but transforms and digests it by a power of its own. Not unlike this is the true business of philosophy; for it neither relies solely or chiefly on the powers of the mind, nor does it take the matter which it gathers from natural history and mechanical experiments and lay it up in the memory whole, as it finds it, but lays it up in the understanding altered and digested. Therefore from a closer and purer league between these two faculties, the experimental and the rational (such as has never yet been made), much may be hoped.

Bacon, Francis. (1620) The New Organon, Book I.


Memorial to Francis Bacon, in the chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge.

References

Corne, D., Glover, F., & Dorigo, M.. (1999). An Introduction to Differential Evolution, New Ideas in Optimization. An Introduction to Differential Evolution, New Ideas in Optimization
Schmid, H. B.. (2004). Evolution by imitation: Gabriel Tarde and the limits of memetics. Distinktion – Scandinavian Journal of Social Theory

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1080/1600910X.2004.9672894
DOI URL
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Heylighen, F.. (1992). “Selfish” Memes and the Evolution of Cooperation. Journal of Ideas
Yoon, S.. (2008). Using memes and memetic processes to explain social and conceptual influences on student understanding about complex socio-scientific issues. Journal of Research in Science Teaching

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1002/tea.20256
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Winfield, A. F. T., & Erbas, M. D.. (2011). On embodied memetic evolution and the emergence of behavioural traditions in Robots. Memetic Computing

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1007/s12293-011-0063-x
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Ball, J. A.. (1984). Memes as replicators. Ethology and Sociobiology

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1016/0162-3095(84)90020-7
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Adkins, M.. (2009). The application of memetic analysis to electroacoustic music. Sonic Ideas

Plain numerical DOI: 10.3847/0004-637X/820/1/26
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Marsden, P. S.. (1998). Memetics: A new paradigm for understanding customer behaviour and influence. Marketing Intelligence & Planning

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1108/EUM0000000004541
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Baydin, A. G., & De Mántaras, R. L.. (2012). Evolution of ideas: A novel memetic algorithm based on semantic networks. In 2012 IEEE Congress on Evolutionary Computation, CEC 2012

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1109/CEC.2012.6252886
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Bryson, J. J.. (2008). Embodiment versus memetics. Mind and Society

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1007/s11299-007-0044-4
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Borovoy, R. D., Martin, F., Vemuri, S., Resnick, M., Silverman, B., & Hancock, C.. (1998). Meme Tags and Community Mirrors – Moving from Conferences to Collaboration. In Proceedings of the International Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW’98)

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1145/289444.289490
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Merz, P., & Freisleben, B.. (1999). Fitness Landscapes and Memetic Algorithm Design. New Ideas in Optimization

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1080/16507540903549490
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Corne, D., Glover, F., & Dorigo, M.. (1999). New ideas in optimisation. New ideas in optimization

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1007/3-540-26341-1_4
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Langrish, J. Z.. (2004). Darwinian Design: The Memetic Evolution of Design Ideas. Design Issues

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1162/0747936042311968
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Sparkes-Vian, C.. (2018). Digital Propaganda: The Tyranny of Ignorance. Critical Sociology

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1177/0896920517754241
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Armengol, G.. (2007). Daniel Dennett, memes and religion: Reasons for the historical persistence of religion. Pensamiento
Stanovich, K. E.. (2006). Memetics and money. Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1017/S0140525X06439042
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Neri, F., & Cotta, C.. (2012). A primer on memetic algorithms. Studies in Computational Intelligence

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1007/978-3-642-23247-3_4
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KANENGISSER, D.. (2014). HOW IDEAS CHANGE AND HOW THEY CHANGE INSTITUTIONS: A MEMETIC THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK.. Conference Papers — American Political Science Association

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1016/j.jcis.2010.01.077
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Yoon, S. A.. (2008). Advancing a new perspective on decision-making about socio-scientific issues: the study of memes and memetic processes. International Conference on Learning Sciences
Lynch, A.. (1996). Thought Contagion: How Belief Spreads Through Society: The New Science Of Memes. The Kluwer international series in engineering & computer science

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