Re: Meme-strongholds

From: Ray Recchia (
Date: Tue 09 Sep 2003 - 00:16:48 GMT

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    Hi Brent,

    Give an example of a memetic stronghold and describe why a meme would survive within it when it became lost to a larger group. Are you calling a priesthood a stronghold or a written document a stronghold? All written documents can have the quality of preserving a meme long after any people hold it. Why would a priesthood not be subject to the same forces that cause the meme to disappear among a larger population?

    Raymond O. Recchia

    At 04:59 PM 9/8/2003 -0700, Brent wrote:

    >A while back I was taking an undergraduate anthropology course on the
    >emergence of civilization, or more accurately, the emergence of complex
    >societies. For my term paper I decided to try to approach the emergence and
    >development of complex societies from a memetic perspective. It is of course
    >a huge, and exteremely general topic, so my paper just touched on some basic
    >applications of memetic theory without going into any real detail or depth.
    >But still, the application of memetics to the topic seemed to fit so well,
    >and I was hoping this list would be a good place to develop the idea
    >further, or even better, learn about other, more rigourous, applications of
    >mememtics to this same topic.
    >With the increase in population density, due to the agrarian revolution, the
    >horizontal transmission of information became increasingly possible,
    >resulting in a much greater potential set of hosts for any given meme. And
    >with that, it became a possibilty (maybe an inevitability), for "meme
    >strongholds" to emerge. A meme stronghold, as I think of it, is a group of
    >people that materially benefits from a meme or memeplex, and therefore acts
    >as a buffer against such basic and inevitable things as drought and famine.
    >It is easy to imagine that, before extensive horizontal transimission, and
    >before the development of meme strongholds, natural disaster could easily
    >wipe out memes completely, since the meme-hosts themselves would be wiped
    >out. The development of a "meme stronghold" class would have allowed for the
    >evolution of a whole new group of memes and memeplexes that perpetuate
    >themselves through two main mechanisms: 1. protecting their stronghold
    >against material hardship and memetic competition and 2. encouraging
    >horizontal transmission, particlarly from the stronghold outwards.
    >Almost all of the developments that are considered features of complex
    >societies, such as increased population density, writing systems, monumental
    >architecture, the development of full time "priest" classes, etc., are all
    >clear tools for increasing horizontal transimission (within a generation
    >from person to person) of ideas as opposed to vertical transmission (from
    >parent to offspring) of ideas.
    >It is also interesting that this development of meme strongholds and the
    >increase in horizontal transmission could result in memes that were more
    >destructive to their hosts than would have been possible before. Without a
    >meme stronghold, a meme that causes harm to the host is at risk of dying
    >with the host, or simply being rejected in favour of memes that are more
    >personally beneficial. But with a meme stronghold, all that is important to
    >the meme is that the stronghold itself survives to spread memes again
    >another day. Those outside of the stronghold could live very difficult
    >lives, could be sacrificed in warfare to protect or strengthen the
    >meme-stronghold, etc., because their survival is only neccessary in support
    >of the stronghold.
    >Well, that is a semi-random smattering of some if the ideas that came out of
    >my simplistic application of memetics to a very large topic. I am really
    >curious about what others think about the idea of meme-strongholds as
    >catalyst for, if not the main fuel for, the development of civilization and
    >the incredible increase in the means for horizontal transmission in the last
    >few millenia. What meme could be more self-perpetuating than one that
    >encourages communication or increases the means for communication? Was
    >memetic evolution the main motiviator of the development of civilization?
    >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)

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