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At 10:17 PM 22/01/02 -0900, "PHILIP JONKERS" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> > I have often mentioned in my writing that you could replace "meme" with
> > "replicating information pattern." Replicator is the inclusive class that
> > incorporates genes, memes and computer viruses. Meme though is a short
> > handy word and does not have much baggage (outside of meme discussion
> > groups that is).
>But why do you make a distinction between meme and computer virus?
Operational/practical reasons. Consider this as a taxonomy
Replicator, the general case. Examples are:
1) Genes, replicators which mostly replicate in cells and have their
main effects there.
2) Memes, replicators which are elements of culture and however
replicated have a lot of their effects in human brains/minds.
3) Computer viruses, replicators that take control of computers to
make copies of themselves. Often they require humans to do something or
fail to do something. They are distinguished from computer programs that
are installed by intentional actions by humans. Any computer program can
be replicated (there are more copies of Windows than *any* virus), but
copying is intentional.
4) ?? (Prions maybe?)
There are all sorts of mixed and even pathological cases such as when you
have memes and computer viruses mixed or a gene encoding a meme (which
could be done). There are definitely animals that pass elements of culture
around. And all three share a lot of characteristics, such as darwinian
A word is used as a convenient tag. Meme beats using a longer term for a
class of replicators which mostly have effects in brains. In the long run,
if humans abandon flesh and move into simulations of reality in computer
space, the difference between memes and computer viruses might fade out.
The "essence" of all three replicators is pure information. That is you
can convert them from being encoded in one form of material to another with
(in theory) no loss of information.
The similarities and differences between these classes of replicators are
worth discussion, but there is so much more interesting things to talk
about that I can't see making a massive deal out of definitions.
>A computer virus is nothing but a computer program, albeit somewhat pushy
>and malevolent. Therefore, in principle you should extend the distinction to
>memes from computer programs, which is not correct I think as computer
>programs also feature all the properties of memes. Moreover, computer
>have a high longevity, vary easily and can be terribly fecund and
>easily transmittable (by internet, discs, etc...). A typical example of a
>successful meme I would say.
Your point is correct. Of course you could consider all programs as
memes. But while it is common to be singing some popular song, hardly
anyone is chanting the code from the computer virus someone sent you last
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Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
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