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From: Philip Jonkers (P.A.E.Jonkers@phys.rug.nl)
Date: Fri Oct 19 2001 - 19:34:56 BST

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    Hi everyone,

    I got me cooked-up another one:

    Fitness increment hypothesis:

    Before treating memes let's consider genes for a moment. Biological evolution
    is possible by having the three requirements of: variation, inheritance
    and selection. Genes construct vehicles to safeguard the their existence.
    Since the niches of nature are limited and are insufficient in numbers to
    accomodate every vehicle around, a selective pressure is built up to
    favor the strongest and fittest vehicles. The genes that give its vehicles
    the highest degree of fitness will get naturally selected and will thus
    dominate over the genes that yielded inferior vehicles. Since individuals
    perish and genes persist, it is the genes corresponding to the highest
    degree of fitness that get selected.

    The same analogy applies to` memes. In the early days of cultural history
    memes exclusively served to increase the biological fitness of its host.
    That's how they got a steady grip at human life in the first place; if they
    turned out to be completely useless they would have died a silent death.
    The archetypical memes aiming to usefully increase biological levels
    of fitness include: agricultural memes, tool-memes, functional clothing memes,
    food-processing memes, memes for contructing houses etc...
    However, over the course of time humans began to become more efficient in
    establishing their well-being and the humans began to have time left to spend
    on non-survival activities.

    The coming of leisure-time opened up memetic
    niches towards increasing cultural rather than biological fitness.
    Examples of memes that enhance cultural fitness include: art, making
    ornaments and juwelry, rituals, fashion, news, fads etc..
    Usually, however, a meme increases both biological fitness and cultural
    fitness. For example, a necessary precondition for hominids
    to keep together as a group demanded some sort of communication between its
    members. Bands and tribes arose because they had survival benefits over
    the individual. The emergence of language meant to increase the level of
    communication between group members and thus induced higher levels of
    coherence among its members. Through language survival was even more
    secured. Since languages not only transfer memes, they are even composed
    exclusively of memes. Therefore adoption of language memes turned out to be
    very useful to its host as it not only increased his cultural
    (i.e. social) but also his biological fitness.

    I will now make a list of meme-categories and try to identify there principal
    fitness increasing components.

    Sport memes: biological as well as cultural. Improve physical fitness and
    social fitness (bonding, contacts) especially so with team sports.

    Charity memes: cultural. Increases niceness factor of the philanthropist
    as perceived by the community (social fitness). The same goes for human
    interspecific altruism. Side-note: both actually decrease rather than
    increase the biological fitness of the bearers of such memes.

    Religious memes: cultural. Increases spiritual fitness. Although being
    an imaginary fitness this does not matter to its hosts who consider it
    genuine. For example: regarding the terrorist-bombings of 11-september,
    memes were deployed by religious authorities to cause great boosts of
    spiritual fitness on adoption by the would-be suicide bombers. Hence
    significant numbers of potential bombers lign up to lay down their lives
    upon infection by such memes (mind virii).

    Technology/science memes: biological and cultural. Technology and science
    serve to improve standards of living. For instance: medical science works
    biologically fitness enhancing primarily whereas mathematics works cultural
    fitness enhancing mostly as it stimulates logical thinking which is useful
    in society.

    Fads/fashion memes: cultural. Not giving response to such memes may predispose
    you with a - often only perceived - lower than average social status.
    Sometimes, however, it is quite vital to give hearing to a fad-meme in order
    to stave off a social death. For example: being a kid in Denmark means you
    are socially seriously impaired if you are not in the possession of a
    cellular phone. 90 % of all appointments between Danish kids are arranged
    by cellular phone. Not having one means few if not no appointments and thus a
    low social fitness ensues.
    Political/law memes: cultural. Aim to establish and maintain social coherence.
    By not having them, society would crumble and anarchy would prevail. Since
    high levels of society generally go hand in hand with high levels of
    biological fitness, memes of this sort also aim to warrant or increase
    biological fitness.

    Art: biological and cultural. Though predominantly cultural, the act of
    performing art works good both for `body and soul' and thus serves to increase
    biological fitness too (consider martial arts for example).

    Mythology/occult/mysticism: cultural. Prior to the advent of science and
    a universal rational enlightenment, memes of this category were
    regarded to have true explanatory powers on how the world worked. They
    were considered to be social and spiritual fitness increasing.
    Today, however, most of the ideas are hopelessly outdated and, where
    necessary, superseded by more rational alternatives. Nonetheless, they still
    serve to increase cultural fitness as they make good story-telling and

    Job memes: primarily biological as they are a means to make a living. If any of
    the previous meme categories are exploited on a professional level the
    biological fitness increasing feature is even more emphasized.

    Does anyone know of any other categories that I have missed? Any other
    comments are welcome too, of course.

    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: http://www.cpm.mmu.ac.uk/jom-emit

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