Re: Genes and Memes

From: Matt Mahoney (
Date: Thu Apr 24 2008 - 12:21:55 MDT

> > Memes and Genes are not completely different, they are not even
> > substantially different. It's true that they run on different operating
> > systems, one on proteins and the other on a brain, but both are units of
> > information that can be transferred from one generation to the next.

The primary difference is fidelity of replication, which limits complexity.
DNA replication in higher animals has an error rate of about 10^-9. A man
produces about 2^40 sperm cells in a lifetime, introducing an error rate of 1
in 2.5 x 10^7. A fitness decision (life or death) adds at most one bit of
information. (Assume 2 of 4 children are killed). Equilibrium is reached
when information gained equals information lost. Therefore the complexity of
genetic information in higher animals cannot exceed 2.5 x 10^7 bits. (The
haploid count in humans is 3 x 10^9 base pairs, but most of this is noncoding
DNA and multiple copies of genes).

Memetic fidelity can be estimated from the evolution of language. After 100
generations, a language bears little resemblance to its original form. If we
assume that cultural beliefs are inherited in the same way as language, then
the error rate is about 10^-2. Therefore our cultural beliefs, to the extent
that they are heritable, must have a complexity of less than 100 bits.

-- Matt Mahoney,

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Jul 17 2013 - 04:01:02 MDT