Re: electric meme bombs

From: Philip Jonkers (
Date: Wed 23 Oct 2002 - 06:09:15 GMT

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    Hi Phil,

    Yes well, getting right down to it I did use "object" in the dictionary definition sort of way - but - I don't think you can have it both ways. I hate choice dichotomies but I think this one is valid. If you are going say The Meme is only the finite "data", you ignore the "elements" of the transfer process and what effect they might have, not only in terms of the possible mutation or evolutionary effects that the transfer process might generate, but also in terms of discriminating between memes and other (non-memes) thoughts. I say this emphatically because no one can demonstrate by any scientific process (that I am aware of) of how a meme "looks" when inside a brain. My own short-hand version is that a meme in the brain is a belief. It does not become a meme again until a replication event occurs. A simple way to demonstrate this is the use of different communication media: a potential meme might be coded in a written format. Someone reading the text may be infected by a meme, but pass it on verbally but with variations to the original. Hence my preference for a definition that includes the replication process when defining a meme.

    Your suggestion that AI generated memes might be of a higher order of purity is a very seductive concept, but I question the hypothesis. I can imagine that in the future, the ability to transmit memes might become part of the definition of "human". I have worked with computers constantly since 1980 and I do believe AI already exists (Deep Blue), but, there is not a case as yet to support the idea that AI is in any way analogous with human thought. Even a self-aware computer would not be susceptible to a meme infection. The basis for this asertion is that social behaviour is the outcome of a meme infection. I think Richard Dawkins identified the breakdown in the gene analogy as being the lack of fidelity of memes as replicators.

    Also to respond to your more recent post:

    > this would imply that they have a will

    Absolutely not, no more than a virus has a will. I consider the typical meme to have 3 main distinguishoing elements: content (a unit of information); action (unconscious influence on the mind of the host); output (observable behaviour which includes replication). I think it is confusing to think of anything living in terms of intentionality, even our own free will represents such a small part of our existence as to be almost irrelevant in terms of our evolution. I suppose the main benefit of identifying someting called a meme is to give us a framework within which we can understand some of the more illogical aspects of human behaviour.

    I would not expect many memes to cause "enthralling, intoxicating and mind-spelling manipulative effect[s]". Sounds more like hormones to me. I'm not trying to be difficult and I have been out of the loop for a couple of years, so I am probably out of date. It's probably the meme meme in action. No, not stuttering this time, and thanks for picking me up on my spelling. Thanks for responding to my posts in such detail, I am really enjoying the dialogue.


    Bruce Howlett

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