Re: Sue Blackmore lecture Wednesday 5.15pm London

From: Grant Callaghan (
Date: Tue 11 Feb 2003 - 02:00:17 GMT

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    >You seem to think that memes come after the fact, that something
    occured out of the blue and than that memes fill up the niche left behind by the situation. In other words, that memes are the result of a process of coincidence. Hm, maybe, I seem to think the opposite. Memes are of a quite different order, not only there 're memes that fill up the pools of any environment that demands it, but there 're also memes that create their own environment to propagate themselves further. The Internet is an example that can be explained in either way....

    I think that memes occurred when human minds became capable of transmitting their experiences to each other. It was not out of the blue but was a consequence of one human learning to imitate the actions of another. This extended the ability of humans to learn new things and to perpetuate that knowledge over generations. It created a pool of ideas about how to do things that made humans more capable than other primates who could not do this. What your average primate learns die with him. What a human learns and communicates goes into the pool and only dies when the pool that holds the ideas dies. The larger the pool, the more capable the minds become that contain it. It is not the pool or the memes in it that determines what it will hold, but the people who contribute to it. The people, in turn, are influenced but not bound by the contents of what is in the pool. They are always inventing new things to contribute. The memes are not inventing these things, but they are the fabric out of which humans fashion them. Without human minds to hold them and use them, there would be no memes to speak of and no culture at all. Memes don't create the environment but they do form a large part of it.

    Just as the ax made cutting down trees easier and log houses feasible, the ax did not create itself. Thus the ax became an important part of the environment of the humans who had them but could not have come into existence without human enginuity. Some human conceived and made the first one and changed his environment with it. Others learned from him and the meme spread. But it was humans who spread it and provided the environment for it to exist in -- not the meme.


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