From: Dace (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Wed 11 Jun 2003 - 00:12:54 GMT
> From: Keith Henson (email@example.com)
> At 10:31 AM 09/06/03 -0700, Dace wrote:
> > > From: Keith Henson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> > > A definition is just that. Not an answer, not an explanation. The
> > > definition most researchers/writers in the field use is 1) most
> > > with the common features of genes and computer viruses 2) simple 3)
> > > leads to predictions that are not (to my knowledge) violated.
> >An incorrect definition, no matter how simple, is not only unhelpful but
> >downright harmful.
> Please demonstrate with examples how the definition of memes as
> information is incorrect and fails the similarity test of extracting the
> significant factors from all the above mentioned replicators.
Your definition is too broad. Not all durable, replicating information
consists of memes. Some of it is just people coming up with ideas and
sharing them with each other, and there's no hint of memetic struggle for
Let's take a look at the following example, from the June 9 edition of Lee
Drutman's *Citizen Works' Corporate Reform Weekly*:
A small but vocal faction in Congress, backed by the powerful high-tech lobby, is trying to keep options unexpensed, despite the fact that the Financial Accounting Standards Board has already said it will require options to be expensed.
Last week, Reps. David Dreier (R-Calif.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), members
of that minority, used a hearing last week to gain support for their
Broad-Based Stock Option Plan Transparency Act (H.R. 1372). Their bill
calls for enhanced disclosure of options and a three-year study by the
Securities and Exchange, an attempt to delay the expensing of options.
Dreier and Eshoo, along with a powerful high-tech lobby, are trying to
convince Congress that expensing stock options will hurt entrepreneurship in
this country and harm rank-and-file employees.
But FASB chair Robert Herz wasn't buying it. He said at the hearing that he
is still convinced as ever that options should be counted as expenses, and
that Congressional intervention "would be in direct conflict with the
expressed needs and demands of many investors."
According to most analyses, an explosion in the use of stock options as
executive compensation fueled the recent epidemic of corporate fraud and
abuse. The possession of huge quantities of options led many greedy
executives to do everything they could (including cook the books) to drive
the stock price up so they could cash in while the stock was artificially
Note the use of the word "epidemic" in the final paragraph. Is Drutman some
kind of wide-eyed memeticist out to prove that ideas self-replicate in the
manner of viruses? No. He uses this term because it's so accurate in
describing what actually happened. It *was* like an epidemic. At first it
was just a few guys who figured out they could make a lot of money by being
paid in stock options, artificially inflating the value of their company's
stock, and cashing in on the options. For the people who thought up this
scam, it was nothing more than an idea. They conceived it, they shared it
with each other, and they went with it despite knowing it was wrong.
But at some point it "exploded." It ceased to be simply an idea that people
shared and began behaving just like an epidemic. Suddenly it was
everywhere. Every hot shot corporate executive in the country was in on it.
When everyone is doing it, you don't worry so much whether it's right or
wrong. You don't have to think about it or get it past your conscience.
You just do it.
For the originators of the scam, it's a choice made voluntarily. But once
the stampede is on, you just follow the herd. Instead of working the idea,
the idea works you. Instead of passively replicating via human intention,
it actively replicates across passive humans.
Why did so many people buy into this meme, and why are people still trying
to protect it despite the trail of wreckage it's left in our economy? We
follow harmful memes because ordinarily memes simply serve to immortalize
cultural norms. It's the benign nature of memes that allows the virulent
ones to bypass our better judgment. It's no different than John Nash
believing in his schizophrenic voices because, he alleged, they came from
the same source that provided his mathematical inspirations.
Think of *The Matrix.* We go to the sequal because the first one was so
good. Some even believe, the second time around, that they've seen a good
Ah, the power of memes.
This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)
This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed 11 Jun 2003 - 00:21:17 GMT