RE: The Status of Memetics as a Science

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Sun Apr 22 2001 - 07:04:01 BST

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    From: "Scott Chase" <>
    Subject: RE: The Status of Memetics as a Science
    Date: Sun, 22 Apr 2001 02:04:01 -0400
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    >From: "Lawrence DeBivort" <>
    >To: <>
    >Subject: RE: The Status of Memetics as a Science
    >Date: Sat, 21 Apr 2001 13:07:23 -0400
    >If by science we mean that memetics can be subjected to empirical
    >experimentation, the formation of hypotheses that contribute to a growing
    >body of reliable knowledge, and sufficiently precise observation that 'Aha'
    >and 'Gee, that's weird' reactions can be garnered, indeed, I think memetics
    >can become a science. For example, if one experiments by launching a
    >potential meme, and gives to it a unique and unchangeable identifier, and
    >then one finds the identifier showing up in the target populations, one can
    >conclude that the meme was launched successfully. If it spreads to
    >unintended populations, one can conclude that the boundary eleements of the
    >meme were inadequately specified. A body of knowledge begins to be built up
    >that can then serve to create more refined experiments.
    In invoking the word "meme" during the above aren't you putting the cart
    before the horse? Wouldn't idea, concept, trend or fad suffice?

    I could introduce a funny joke into a potential "host" population and tag
    this joke with a distinct identifying marker. A week or so later one or more
    people might tell this joke (with or without variation) to me, oblivious to
    the fact that I originated the joke. Is there a "meme" to be found in all of
    >But to become a science, this kind of research has to be done, and, I
    >believe, the ethical framework in which it should be carried out has to be
    >I have no doubt that commerically motivated lurkers read these postings and
    >are intent on using whatever practical gleanings they can, without what
    >would be IMO adequate ethical consideration. The Frontline program that I
    >reported on a couple of days ago here showed banks of Internet
    >pseudo-participants salting various chat groups with advertising messages.
    >All we can do here is communicate amongst ourselves as best possible while
    >minimising information that may be technically useful to these
    >pseudo-participants, and hope that we may find more secure fora in which to
    >have more substantive discussions and exchange of research findings.
    Is marketing, sales, promotion, propaganda, advertizing or whatver suddenly
    going to become even more virulent due to the presence of the concept of
    memetics? People have been doing those sorts of things for years sans
    "memetic engineering". I fail to see any ethical crisis. Used car
    salespeople will still be used car salespeople (annoying local run
    commercials and all). Could knowledge of "memetic engineering" technology
    make televangelism any worse than it has been already?

    For politics, Niccolo Machiavelli scooped "memetic engineers" by several
    years at least.
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