Re: Words and memes

From: Dace (
Date: Mon Feb 04 2002 - 19:20:39 GMT

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    Subject: Re: Words and memes
    Date: Mon, 4 Feb 2002 11:20:39 -0800
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    Rod Farrell wrote:

    > Last night, I discovered that some one had urinated in the phone booth.
    > Subsequent to this, I informed one of the stewards (the people who look
    > after the accommodation area of the platform), and my cabin mate.
    > This morning I questioned the steward, who had professed to forget
    > about the incident after I had told him. When I got to my lab my cabin
    > mate contacted me to confirm my story as he was now retelling it to his
    > colleagues.
    > This piece of knowledge is now replicating, with its success depending on
    > the motives of the individuals it encounters. The steward did not want to
    > communicate the meme as this may result in him having to perform the
    > unsavoury task of cleaning the mess, communicating this knowledge to a
    > colleague might also cause argument about who is responsible for
    > cleaning it, upsetting the status quo in his work environment. My cabin
    > mate on the other hand does not have this inhibition, and is encouraged to
    > propagate this knowledge due to its salacious nature.

    As long as the knowledge propagates according to conscious intention, it's
    not a meme. One person retells the story because it's bizarre enough to get
    people's attention. Another doesn't tell it because he's afraid he'll have
    to clean up the mess. It's all intentional. The knowledge is being
    passively replicated (or withheld) through conscious descisions, rather than
    actively self-replicating. With no motive-power of its own, it stops
    circulating once everyone gets tired of it.

    That memes spread without rational intent doesn't mean they can't still be
    perfectly rational. Memes don't care whether they make sense or not-- they
    just propagate. The meme for peeing in toilets is rational, but because we
    accept it reflexively, it propagates without our conscious examination of
    its merit. You don't have to stop and think, "Does this really make sense?"
    every time you go to the bathroom to pee. A meme is an idea that thinks
    itself, so we don't have to bother.


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