It’s All in the Memes

Sep 29 2017 Published by Neil Gains under book review

Memes in Digital Culture is a short and well-written guide to the use of memes in digital culture which I read on a flight back to Asia from the UK. Limor Shifman really gets to the heart of what memes are, how they work and what makes some more successful than others.

The word meme was coined long before the internet became an integral part of our lives, most famously by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene. Limor Shifman points out that Dawkins successful memes incorporate three key traits, longevity, fecundity and copy fidelity, and that all three are enhanced by the internet. Memes transmitted online have high fidelity (accuracy) when digitalised, they can be diffused to multiple places immediately and arguably have longer life when information is stored indefinitely. Read more »

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Thinking About Analogy

Sep 22 2013 Published by Neil Gains under brain science

Douglas Hofsatdter’s first book, Godel, Escher, Bach, had a profound influence on me while I was at university. First published in 1979, I don’t remember when I first read the book. but have since re-read more than once (and it’s not a short book!).

In the book, Hofstadter explores common themes in the lives and works of Kurt Godel (logician), M.C.Escher (artist) and Johann Sebastian Bach (musician), drawing out concepts fundamental to mathematics, symmetry, intelligence and philosophy of mind. Specifically, Hofstadter discusses how self-reference and formal rules allow systems to develop meanings which ‘emerge’ from the system however meaningless the individual elements of that system. That is, the book describes how thinking emerges from the mechanics of neurons firing, creating a unified sense of self, in the same way that a colony of ants self-organises to produce social behaviours which ‘emerge’ from the acts of individual ants. Read more »

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Colourful Language

Jun 06 2012 Published by Neil Gains under language

Language and thinking

I have always been fascinated by colour (and spent much of my time as a PhD student using colour to prove the validity of some of the methods I was using). The language of colour is particularly fascinating. Like smell, our human ability to detect different colours is vastly in excess of our ability to describe what we can perceive. According to Berlin and Kay, there are no more than eleven terms which are commonly used to describe the abstract properties (hues) of colours, as Inspector Insight wrote in a previous article. Read more »

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Ways of Thinking: the Syllogism versus the Tao

Jan 04 2011 Published by Neil Gains under culture

“In Confucianism there was no thought of knowing that did not entail some consequence for action.”  - Donald Munro

“The Greeks became slaves to the linear either-or orientation of their logic.”  - Robert Logan

Do Asians and Westerners think differently and why?

In The Geography of Thought, Richard Nesbitt provides a clear, detailed and researched explanation of many of the ways in which Westerners (most typically Americans and Western Europeans) and Asians (most typically East Asians from China, Korea and Japan) think differently and some of the reasons for these differences.   Read more »

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