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I have placed a new paper called "Units, Events, and Dynamics in the
Evolutionary Epidemiology of Ideas" online at
http://www.thoughtcontagion.com/UED.htm. At 27,000 words, this paper is
longer than my 17,000 word 1998 JOM-EMIT paper. It is a technical paper not
suited to a quick reading, a cursory reading, or an emotionally distracted
reading. While 27,000 words may seem lengthy, it is probably a small fraction
of what active memetics list readers have read from this list --perhaps even
in a month's time. The paper, however, is more considered than typical
Some of the changes made from the JOM-EMIT paper:
1. The word "meme" is briefly discussed in a footnote, but not given any
important role in the paper. The section of the 1998 paper that argued
against adding more definitions of "meme" has been eliminated. Instead of
"meme," terms such as "idea," "belief," and "thought contagion" are used.
While disputes continue past the quarter-century mark about what memes are,
where they are, and whether they exist at all, people who are not hard-line
behaviorists may take less issue the idea that ideas, beliefs, and thought
contagions are in people's heads. People who see memes only outside of brains
should be able to pursue their work without worry that I might contradict
them on that point.
2. The word "mnemon" has been recently dropped. When I re-invented the term
in the early 1980s, I thought that it could improve communication by way of
being an entirely new term that had no baggage and that could be more
specific in some ways and more general in other ways than the word "idea." It
could also be defined more precisely than the vague term "meme," which I did
not adopt until 1988. As it turns out, a few people who have read my work too
quickly have inferred that the word indicated a claim to discovering some
kind of new structure or mental entity -- wildly untrue. Also, since OED II
had not yet been published, I was unaware that Cherkin and Young had
previously coined the term in connection with "engrams," a situation that
also fosters severe misinterpretations of my work. (The "engram" concept had
nothing to do with my use of the word "mnemon.") Better to replace 133
instances of the word "mnemon" than to spend thousands of words trying to
tell people what I meant.
3. The paper also discusses the significance of F. T. Cloak's 1973 paper
"Elementary Self-Replicating Instructions and Their Works: Toward a Radical
Reconstruction of General Anthropology Through a General Theory of Natural
Selection." I have scanned and placed online a copy of that paper that F. T.
Cloak sent me in 1979, at http://www.thoughtcontagion.com/cloak1973.htm.
4. The section on Qualitative and Quantitative Evolution is greatly expanded.
It now includes, among other things, a discussion of how evolutionary
"punctuation" can arise from evolutionary replicator phenomena. It also
offers an epidemiology of ideas explanation for the phenomenon of innovative
ideas being formed almost simultaneously by widely separated people.
5. There is new discussion of the relationship of ideas as replicators to
behaviors and artifacts as replicators.
Despite these changes, I have not attempted to explain the relationship
between the evolutionary epidemiology of ideas and a wide range of other
fields. Such a project would require additional papers, or perhaps expansion
of the present paper into a lengthy technical book. The evolutionary
epidemiology of ideas has many useful applications and interesting
implications for which I have not yet seen an adequate mode of investigation
and analysis that makes no consideration of replicating ideas. These
applications are what may eventually raise enough interest in a long
technical book for me and/or others to write one.
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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