Re: Words and memes

From: Philip Jonkers (
Date: Thu Feb 07 2002 - 16:42:20 GMT

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    From: "Philip Jonkers" <>
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    Subject: Re: Words and memes
    Date: Thu, 7 Feb 2002 07:42:20 -0900
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    > > >> >> >> >"There is bacon in the fridge" is not a meme. It's simple
    > > >> >> >> >information. The meme would be "bacon is evil" or "bacon is
    > > >> >> >> >fattening" or "bacon is good." That sort of thing.
    > > >> >> >> >
    > > >> >> >> That bacon would be evil to two of the people for different
    > > >> >> >reasons, and good to a third, because of their differing
    > > >> >> >contexts [...] qualifies it as a meme (same for fridge).
    > > >> >> >>>>
    > > >> >> >
    > > >> >> >Memes promote the autonomy of culture over our conscious minds.
    > > >> >> >When we make simple observations of the world around us, we're
    > > >> >> >functioning intentionally, using words entirely for our conscious
    > > >> >> >purposes. That culture uses us doesn't mean we don't use it too.
    > > >> >> >This is the flipside of the basic argument of memetics, that our
    > > >> >> >intentional use of culture doesn't mean it's not turning around
    > > >> >> >working us as well.
    > > >> >> >
    > > >> >> That relates to my contention not one whit.
    > > >> >
    > > >> >When we say, "There's bacon in the fridge," we're using words. When
    > > >> >we say, "Bacon is evil," the words are using us. Only then are they
    > > >> >memetic. Words are not identical to memes (any more than to ink on
    > > >> >paper.)
    > > >> >
    > > >> If I say to someone else that the bacon's in the fridge, and they
    > >a third person, then meaningful information has been replicated, a
    > >necessary and sufficient condition for memetic propagation to be said to
    > >have taken place. It would also result in the modification of behavior;
    > >the third person would look for the bacon in the fridge rather than in
    > >freezer.
    > > >>>>
    > > >
    > > >To be replicated is necessary but insufficient to qualify as memetic.
    > >Memes are not passively replicated but actively self-replicate. The mere
    > >repetition of words doesn't mean memetic propagation is occurring. Memes
    > >exploit our conscious interaction in order to replicate themselves from o
    > >mind to another. In order for this to occur, the words must involve some
    > >kind of interpretation ("bacon is evil") and not a mere statement of fact
    > >("bacon is in the fridge"). If it's merely factual, the repetition of
    > >statement can be accounted for according to normal, intentional use of
    > >language.
    > > >
    > >The memetic hook used is among our most primordial; hunger can even trump
    > >sex as a hook, and is only itself trumped by safety, and not even then if
    > >one is hungry enough. How can it be maintained that single words, which
    > >must be learned and taught to be used, are memetic in nature, yet
    > >sentence-configurations composed of them is not, is exceedingly strange.
    > > >
    > > >Ted
    > > >
    > It seems to me that if you tell someone "The bacon is in the fridge," you
    > have used a meme to transfer information. But if you come home and say,
    > brought home the bacon," to mean "I completed my assignment," and no one
    > used that combination of words to make that assertion before, then you
    > created a new meme. And if the person you said it to starts using the
    > combination of words to mean the same thing, you have transmitted that
    > although your friend is just using a meme rather than creating one.
    > In my scheme, all the words you use are memes that have been created by
    > someone at some time for some purpose. New combinations are new memes the
    > minute they are transmitted. The new memes die out if the receiver does
    > not, in turn, pass them on. A good ad man invents new memes every day.
    > Budweiser's ad agancy took a common phrase, "What's up?" and a catchy way
    > saying it, invented, probably, by some friend or acquaintance, and put it
    > a Superbowl commercial. From here, "Wazzaaaa!" was spread to millions of
    > people.
    > The person who first used it to amuse and influence his friends was an
    > inventor. He was just like the first man to realize he could chip the
    > of a rock to make it sharp instead of having to go in search of one. The
    > people who picked up the practice were meme users. People who improved on
    > the theme were also inventers and if enough of the tribe or tribes started
    > using the technique, the meme became part of their culture. What we call
    > culture is just the accumulation of these inventions by ordinary people
    > not so ordinary people using and passing on ideas and techniques in the
    > course of their daily lives.
    > That some ideas are more useful or appealing to the people who pick them
    > does not mean the ideas are using us. Ideas don't use anyone. People use
    > ideas. Other people borrow them for a number of reasons, but the ideas do
    > not impose themselves on anyone. A chipped rock has no will of its own.
    > sound can impress the people who hear it, but it does not do so knowingly.
    > Only the people who hear it can place a value on it and use it again for
    > their own purposes.
    > Giving memes anthropomorphic qualities does not advance the science of
    > memetics (if it ever becomes one). Even though, over time, the hand and
    > that holds the hammer is reshaped by it, it was not the will or desire of
    > the hammer that caused that change. It was the will and desire of the
    > carpenter who wanted to use it that much.
    > Grant

    It should come as no surprise that I fully second Grant. Well said Grant...


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