Friday, September 27, 2013

MEME MUTATION ~ and the finite bound proof

I remember a 74 year old man who had brought his 6 year old grandson with him for a visit. I noticed that the grandfather was toying with a pencil, twirling it between his fingers of his left hand from the index to the ring finger and back, all in involuntary, unrehearsed and completely disembodied synchrony. On his right sat his little grandson many years younger and many inches shorter who was also involved playing with the Twizzler, wrapping it around his fingers and un-wrapping it between the different fingers of his right hand and occasionally taking a small bite from it. From a distance, it would seem the two actions were disconnected. But the more I looked, the more it became apparent to me that the adoption by the grandson was the unspoken paradigm of his grandfather’s behavior.  There was the missing link however, the father of the grandson and the son of the grandfather, who had to be accounted for if this behavior in some way matched the other two and represented a transferred meme. So I asked if he would be joining us. No, the grandson proffered, dad was a very busy man and at work most waking hours of the day.

What was the connection between these two people separated by the gulf of at least two if not three generations? Was this mimicry by the little one of the actions of the bigger one?
The question lends itself to life in general. Families seem to adopt similar behaviors. This form of mimicry is cast through invisible paths of learning. 

Do as I do and not as I say is the real world behavioral edifice of standing on the shoulders of giants.

What is most interesting in all this is the slight twist in the learned process, to suit the individual’s need. Wrapping a Twizzler around sequentially around the fingers on the same hand without help from the other hand to me seems an evolving meme of dexterity. It was a mutation of the meme, so to speak. An evolving concept tied loosely to the original.

Today, life is a constantly evolving metaphor.

Memes rise and fall at breakneck speeds or even at snail-paced speed in a bit by bit progression. The internet has cast aspersions on the slow meme evolution. However, by itself  the internet also cannot hold the evolving meme in the consciousness for long, because of newly minted and competing memes. The slowly evolving ones are more gradual and have a larger impact on society as a whole, while the fast and furious ones die a quick death, the spark, the flame and then embers.

Marketing and Promotions of new products lend themselves to the internet for initial success, but the value propositions contained within the product lend themselves to the sustained promotion. Upon that proposition, the mutating memes of the desires of the populace, the shape and form evolves into progressively differing concepts. A case in point is the success of Apple. The lack of success of the Newton Pad many years before the iPad shows how the consumers never took hold of the Newton concept with the same fervor they took to the iPad concept. In the former advertising was mostly via the print and occasionally the television, our thinking had not digitally evolved as yet, but the iPad glory came into being in full force with the age of rapid dissemination of information through the internet. Once taken hold, the value of the iPad product sustained its appeal, while Apple continue to innovate for the next meme. An adjunct to Apple's story is the not so gloried life cycle of Microsoft, bent on revitalizing the Windows architecture in billions of lines of code and forgetting to change the meme in a see now, do now world inhabited with the ADD disposition.

In Medicine, and you know I was going to go there, there are many memes with good reasoned logic that fail and equally many flawed ones that take hold. During the Galen era, blood-letting was a treatment du jour for almost any ailment, to the point that it may have caused the ultimate death of George Washington, the first President of United States who seemed disposed to a bad case of pneumonia. But in those times, where diagnosis was non-existent due to the lack of common understanding of physiology and reasonable treatment availability, anyone could profess to do the job. The presence of the barber pole is a reminder of the red stripes indicating blood and the pole as the staff to use for a puncture wound and thus the pole was the calling card of the “surgeon.”

Sometime the meme takes on a different mode. A child’s interest in a particular field becomes the enduring journey towards discovery. In that meme there is the constant tug of war between the thought and the environs. Take for instance Andrew Weils,

a British mathematician who spent his life tackling Fermat’s Last Theorem for many decades until he found the proof. And in similar fashion “Tom” Jhang

Yitang Zhang, lecturer in mathematics at the University of New Hampshire

who recently solved the “Two Prime Conjecture,” both of these individuals worked hard at their memes with a constantly evolving thought to come to an understanding that has wowed the world.

The question then arises can a meme be instilled in a brain?

Given the discussion above, if the idea is perceived by a fertile mind and the desire to explore it further is initiated, why then the answer is an unqualified “Yes!” With exponential growth of the billions of neurons establishing trillions of synapses, the capacity to absorb dwarfs the adult capabilities. (sorry dads & grandads)

So, my plea to the mothers and fathers and the grandparents, teach the youth to strive for excellence and shun mediocrity. Install the meme and let them run with it!

Today the rage is Social Media. Everyone and anyone is talking about it. The conversation goes that medical and non-medical people must be in a state of constant communication to advance the cause of healthcare. Is that the right path? Communication is good for learning and teaching but not an employment as the fix-it scheme for any and all ailments. The differing degrees of our genetic pools make us a ocean rather than a thimble-full of water. The differences are both absolute and relative. Hence a similar meme cannot serve the needs of the many. The idea of e-Pluribus Unum comes to mind. Engage bu only to learn and educate.

Having said that, there is a place for Social Media, where it can and does provide some amazing benefits to people with breast cancer as in #BCSM and the #HCSM for Health Care Social Media and #HCLDR for Health Care personnel in a Leadership role. These and other Twitter based hash-tags serve a distinct and unifying purpose in teaching and learning for all. Through these sites, memes are generated by individuals and espoused if valid by most, which then modify and let evolve the original premise. Expressing thoughts and concerns by some and finding others that allay anxieties through rationale is a wholesome and enduring concept.  These Tweet chats are a perpetuating and evolving meme of thought and reason.

Adopting the current vogue may be the entrenched value for the day, but can it endure the rigors of time. The answer depends on the potentiality of mutation of the meme and the perceived value to the people.
I met the father of the grandson a few days later and he too had force-evolved the meme from his father, but in a different manner. He had to sign forms and after completion he flipped the pen and caught it cleanly and twirled it from index to little finger and back, ending with another flip and back in his jacket. Ahem! Almost like a punctuation mark. And I wondered what his son was capable of in the next decade with his gifted abilities?

The finite bound proof is in place.

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