review of The Meme Machine

From: J. R. Molloy (
Date: Sun Apr 15 2001 - 14:40:38 BST

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    Subject: review of The Meme Machine
    Date: Sun, 15 Apr 2001 06:40:38 -0700
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    Boyd, G. (2001). The Human Agency Of Meme Machines: A review of the Meme
    Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission, 5.

    The Human Agency Of Meme Machines
    An extended review of:
     Blackmore, Susan (1999) The Meme Machine.
    Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press. 264 pp. ISBN 0 19 850 365 2
    Gary Boyd
    Concordia University
    Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

    1 Importance

    For any thoughtful reader, Susan Blackmore's Meme Machine is an important book
    because it clearly explains and illustrates the basic import of the new field
    of memetics. Actually memetics did not just spring from the head of Zeus
    (Dawkins) fully formed, but like Barkow, Cosmides and Tooby's (1998)
    evolutionary psychology, rather it is part of a general contemporary movement
    to extend evolutionary explanation beyond the purely biological world. At
    memetic evolutionary explanation will become nearly as central to the social
    sciences as Darwinian evolution has been to the biological sciences. At worst,
    memetics might conceivably become another way to deny the uniqueness of each
    mysterious human being. Or as Jacoby (1975) would caution, memetics qua
    ideology like the computer-metaphor for mind, could become yet another example
    of "social amnesia"- of reification leading to further alienation. Having
    acknowledged that possibility I must go on to state that current work makes me
    rather confident that memetics insights will actually help us find many new
    solutions to educational and political problems.

    "How is memetic evolution steerable?" that is the key question and the one
    which Blackmore's Meme Machine poses and partly answers with good heuristics
    which should lead to real progress.

    Full text:

    Stay hungry,

    --J. R.

    Useless hypotheses:
     consciousness, phlogiston, philosophy, vitalism, mind, free will, qualia,
    analog computing, cultural relativism

         Everything that can happen has already happened, not just once,
         but an infinite number of times, and will continue to do so forever.
         (Everything that can happen = more than anyone can imagine.)

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    Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
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