RE: Meme-strongholds

From: Brent Scofield (
Date: Tue 09 Sep 2003 - 01:19:35 GMT

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    A memetic stronghold is essentially, the ruling class in an emerging or existing complex society. In a feudal society, for example, the meme-stronghold would be the feudal lords and those individuals who are directly engaged in spreading the memes contained within the meme stronghold. Obviously memes upholding the power and material wealth of the feudal lords would be a clear candidate for a memes that would perpetuate themselves by spreading from the security of the stronghold.

    As for a priesthood, there are good reasons why a meme existing within a priest class that was also a meme stronghold would not be subject to the same selective forces. Examples of these reasons are that priest classes often derived material benefit from the memes that they themselves spread. Priest's would have often been the ones who were able to write, to stand in front of their congregations and preach, and to spend more time than say, someone subsisting on agricultural labour, communicating inside their class and providing a richer environment for the evolution of newer, stronger memes.

    I guess the basic thing that I found interesting about the idea of meme-strongholds, (and more generally the application of memetics to the problem of why complex societies emerged at all and why they have the features they do), is that previous theories used to explain the emergence of civilization have tried to justify it on a largely material basis. As in, what material benefit did all or some of the members of the society derive from increased complexity and features such as monumental architecture, agriculture, writing, etc. But from a memetic perspective, these things don't have to be explained materially, the benefit of these things to the reproduction of memes seems really clear to me. Some examples of the direct benefits of the defining features of complex society to competitive memes: agriculture - increased population density resulting in increased horizontal transmission, writing - a robust for memes to reproduce and travel, monumental architecture - almost always symbolic of power or a particular memeplex, increased trade - increased spread of memes, development of a class system - a class that can be used as a robust meme-stronghold.

    And one of the consequences of the memes being the driving force behind the development of meme-strongholds and complex societies, is that it is irrelevant whether or not individuals survive or reproduce, as long as their lives is some way strengthen the meme stronghold or encourage transmission of the meme. Martyrdom would be an obvious symptom of this, an example of a person losing their life to fortify the meme-stronghold.


    > -----Original Message-----
    > From: [] On
    > Of Ray Recchia
    > Sent: September 8, 2003 5:17 PM
    > To:
    > Subject: Re: Meme-strongholds
    > 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
    > a
    > priesthood a stronghold or a written document a stronghold? All
    > documents can have the quality of preserving a meme long after any
    > 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
    > >societies. For my term paper I decided to try to approach the
    > 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
    > 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
    > >and I was hoping this list would be a good place to develop the idea
    > >further, or even better, learn about other, more rigourous,
    > of
    > >mememtics to this same topic.
    > >
    > >With the increase in population density, due to the agrarian
    > the
    > >horizontal transmission of information became increasingly possible,
    > >resulting in a much greater potential set of hosts for any given
    > 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
    > of
    > >people that materially benefits from a meme or memeplex, and
    > acts
    > >as a buffer against such basic and inevitable things as drought and
    > famine.
    > >It is easy to imagine that, before extensive horizontal
    > and
    > >before the development of meme strongholds, natural disaster could
    > >wipe out memes completely, since the meme-hosts themselves would be
    > >out. The development of a "meme stronghold" class would have allowed
    > the
    > >evolution of a whole new group of memes and memeplexes that
    > >themselves through two main mechanisms: 1. protecting their
    > >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
    > >societies, such as increased population density, writing systems,
    > monumental
    > >architecture, the development of full time "priest" classes, etc.,
    > all
    > >clear tools for increasing horizontal transimission (within a
    > >from person to person) of ideas as opposed to vertical transmission
    > >parent to offspring) of ideas.
    > >
    > >It is also interesting that this development of meme strongholds and
    > >increase in horizontal transmission could result in memes that were
    > >destructive to their hosts than would have been possible before.
    > a
    > >meme stronghold, a meme that causes harm to the host is at risk of
    > >with the host, or simply being rejected in favour of memes that are
    > >personally beneficial. But with a meme stronghold, all that is
    > to
    > >the meme is that the stronghold itself survives to spread memes again
    > >another day. Those outside of the stronghold could live very
    > >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
    > of
    > >my simplistic application of memetics to a very large topic. I am
    > >curious about what others think about the idea of meme-strongholds as
    > >catalyst for, if not the main fuel for, the development of
    > and
    > >the incredible increase in the means for horizontal transmission in
    > last
    > >few millenia. What meme could be more self-perpetuating than one that
    > >encourages communication or increases the means for communication?
    > >memetic evolution the main motiviator of the development of
    > >
    > >Brent
    > >
    > >
    > >===============================================================
    > >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)
    > >see:
    > ===============================================================
    > 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)
    > see:

    =============================================================== 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) see:

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