This article is relevant to our recent discussions and Zak Stein’s (see Edward’s recent post) suggestion that great destabilizing events open gaps in which new structures can supplant older, disintegrating systems–with the inherent risks and opportunities.
We’ve had a few discussions about what ‘memes’ are and how they work. We didn’t reach a consensus on whether they are true replicators in their own rights, as genes (or gene collectives) seem to be. Consider the following excerpt (author permission obtained) with the less rigorous working definition of a meme in mind: a unit of information with the capacity to shape perception and belief (or a unit of ‘culture transmission’). Also, consider the conversations and readings we’ve had about metaphors and embodied cognition (particularly Lakoff and Johnson’s works and Edward’s many posts on the topic. Even in Facebook, there are people calling out manipulation by meme.
NS has several articles on the topic in their new issue, like “What is it really?” and “Do IQ tests really work?” See the link to explore it. For example, from the first article:
“When researchers talk about intelligence, they are referring to a specific set of skills that includes the abilities to reason, learn, plan and solve problems. The interesting thing is that people who are good at one of them tend to be good at all of them. These skills seem to reflect a broad mental capability, which has been dubbed general intelligence or g. This seems to fly in the face of old ideas. In the early 1980s, Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner argued for the existence of multiple intelligences, including ‘bodily-kinaesthetic’, ‘logical-mathematical’ and ‘musical’. However, most researchers now believe these categories reflect different blends of abilities, skills and personality traits, not all of which are related to cognitive ability.”
Put on by the Santa Fe Institute. Anyone interested in car pooling? The Facebook blurb below. See the blue link for many more details:
“On June 7th and 8th of 2018, the Santa Fe Institute’s first annual InterPlanetary Festival will draw space enthusiasts from around the world for a two-day celebration of human ingenuity. This free-to-attend festival will transform the Railyard District in downtown Santa Fe, with an expo showcasing innovation, open-air concerts, lectures and panel discussions, a Sci-Fi film showcase, pop-up art installations, art talks, an InterPlanetary market, food, drink, cosplay, and gaming, all centered around InterPlanetary topics and citizen science.”
… since that seems to be where the discussion on this topic ended up this time around. — PJW
PS: FWIW — having encountered a Wolverine in the wild, finally, in 2014, even as a professional zoologist very interested in the species, my Wolverine meme-complex instantly changed quite drastically. Back at the Biological Station, I was not able to convey how it changed, and everyone else’s Wolverine meme stayed the same, or, if it was modified, could not possibly be like mine. I could tell. Memes are hard to convey and even harder to unify amongst people. This is why you have to threaten eternal damnation to those who cannot take moral memes on board with adequate resemblance to the rest of the in-group. — PJW
Tony Zador of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory devised a new technique for mapping connections among neurons. It is much faster than other methods and at least as accurate as the most accurate competing methods, including fluorescence techniques. The technique, MAPseq, uses genetically modified viruses to insert unique RNA sequences (“bar codes”) into each neuron. Post-mortem DNA sequencing identifies connections among all neurons in the sample. The resulting model is structural, not functional. Derived models are not spatially accurate (i.e., not to scale and not physiographically representative). The models identify intraneural connections but not specific messaging among neurons. Zador is pursuing functional analysis by combining MAPseq with other techniques. MAPseq currently can map about 100,000 neurons per week. Increasing hardware and software efficiency and power will improve throughput dramatically over time.
This is the most startling brain research development Mark has come across recently. The implications are tantalizing. Start with embedding unique codes (think of inventory numbers) in each neuron. Presumably using a virus to add a consistent unique identifier to every cell in an organism could result in a unique “bar code” for every human and every other organism. We already have such a code in our genome, but this method could create a simpler code that would be easily readable by miniature, portable DNA sequencers. It could be a shorthand code linked to a person’s full genome record.
Back to brain research, once Zador and others find ways to combine real-time functional mapping and non-destructive ‘reading’ of the cellular IDs, increasingly faster computing and smarter (AI-enabled) software may make it possible to map not only a person’s neural connectome, but the functional dynamics playing out in the brain from moment to moment. That, in turn, could make it possible to create a high-fidelity, functional copy of a human mind (aka, a ‘mindclone’). It would probably not be necessary to explicitly model every neuron, synapse, and intraneural communication, but that may one day be possible.