Re: Words and memes

From: Dace (
Date: Tue Feb 05 2002 - 20:38:57 GMT

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    Subject: Re: Words and memes
    Date: Tue, 5 Feb 2002 12:38:57 -0800
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    > >From: Keith Henson
    > >
    > > > Idea is very close in "meaning space" to meme, but meme has the
    > > > replication aspect attached.
    > > >
    > > > So you could have Watt's *idea* about how to improve steam engines
    > > > "separate condenser" which you would use to describe Watt's study
    > > > and coming up with the idea. You would use the *meme* of "separate
    > > > condenser" when you wanted to talk about Watt's idea spreading like
    > > > wildfire among the steam engineers of the day.
    > >
    > >It was still an idea when it began spreading among engineers who
    > >studied it and approved of it, but before long its propagation would have
    > > taken on its own momentum and become memetic.
    > >Gradually the idea becomes set, and no one much examines it anymore.
    > Not so. The "separate condenser" meme guides the construction of every
    > steam power plant built. I have worked on the design of variations needed
    > to make condensers for use in zero gravity myself.

    Then the separate condenser isn't a meme. The steam engine is a meme in
    that we believe in its power unreflectively. But if the separate condenser
    has never circulated outside the world of engineers, then it remains
    intentional, not memetic.

    > >In other words, it wasn't simply an idea in Watt's mind and a meme in
    > >everyone else's. It began as an idea that spread through conscious
    > >intention and then picked up "steam" as it became ingrained. Even
    > >in Watt's mind it eventually would have become memetic.
    > It get's redefined by replicating. When Watt told the first person about
    > his idea, it became a meme. Of course it is still an idea, but it has now
    > also become a meme.
    > Meme, an idea that has replicated at least once.

    Meme, an idea that has self-replicated at least once.

    If memes are ideas that get replicated, they're still just ideas. The key
    is self-replication. Memes don't get copied as passively as a flyer on a
    Xerox machine. Memes are selfish; they pursue their own propagation. This
    doesn't mean they're selfish in the same sense we are. They lack the
    reflective consciousness necessary for human-style selfishness. I'm using
    the term as Dawkins applies it in reference to genes. In his interview with
    Jeremy Stangroom (thanks, Wade) he emphasized "the fundamental rule that DNA
    is selfish and looking after its own interests..." Though memes differ in
    many ways from DNA, they have this property in common.


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