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Friday, October 11, 2013

...or not

A follow-up to the post: In The Beginning Was The Word

The written word developed from the spoken word.  Was the first spoken word the ex nihilo origin of memes & memeplexesWere they suddenly created by the god-like awesomeness of the human brain?  That's too anthropocentric & mythic to be accurate.  Evolution encourages us to see how complex systems in nature arise from simpler forms. 

Even though the development of language is typically seen as the beginning of the human species ("what makes us human") it is not the origin of memetics.  There are simple chemical precursors to memes.  Certain plants exude chemicals which attract predators of pest species when the pest species attack, an example of interspecies signalingAmong invertebrates, colonies of ants and bees use pheromones exuded by the queen to maintain and direct collective behavior. 
More complex behaviors in some animals, such as matting rituals (including acquisition of ornamentation, shows of fitness and hunting & nest-building skills) also appear.   Driven by a biological need to pass on genes, animals use resources and brain power to communicate their fitness. 

We also observe vocalizations in whales, birds and other creatures.  The wild turkey has distinct calls linked to mating, observed threats, assembly calls, etc.  These may be instinctual but they serve to network individuals to share information relative to survival. 
Still, it appears that we are the only species to have developed true memes, distinct from our biological and environmental needs.  We may never know if any other species achieved this. But it is painfully obvious the proliferation of memetic precursors made the environment ripe for the development of modern memes.  It is our evolutionary fortune (whether ill-fated or blessed) to share contagious ideas. 

Since language systems are superimposed on an organic brain-scaffolding, abstract concepts can trigger deep emotional and biological responses.  In fact, it is those memeplexes which access our emotions and drives most deeply which make the deepest impressions on our lives, cultures and biosphere. 

Continue to Focusing on Language: Designing Methodologies [1]

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