Date: Wed, 28 May 1997 13:40:04 -0500
From: Aaron Lynch <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Meme Extinction
John Robb wrote:
> I think what Peter means is that a meme which is extinct can be viewed
> through an examination of its surroundings -- the impression it leaves,
> its fossil. Joseph thinks that the act of reconstruction of an extinct
> meme from surrounding evidence revives the meme. Both are right to a
> limited extent.
> I think the impasse is largely due to a lack of a clear definition of a
> What is a meme? An idea in abstract. The evidence it leaves in storage
> materials -- books, tape, and disk drives. The action by which an idea
> incorporates itself into a living mind. The amalgam of combining a new
> idea with the old conceptual structure within a living mind. The impact
> of a new idea on society as a whole -- its splatter pattern. The action
> by which it mutates to impact society as a whole. The extent to which a
> society or individual changes course in response to a new idea -- the
> delta in time paths.
> Which one? I could come up with quite a few more. Each are equally
> valid. However, our question should be: which is most useful?
I use the word "extinct" to refer to the host-population = 0 condition.
If the meme is defined quite specifically, such as "Zeus is the
mightiest of gods," then those who study this belief in hind sight are
non-hosts who merely hold THE IDEA OF BELIEVING that "Zeus is the
mightiest of gods."
But, using the technical definitions I make in my paper UNITS, EVENTS,
AND DYNAMICS OF MEME REPLICATION (
http://www.mcs.net/~aaron/mememath.html ), if someone reads an ancient
text and then becomes a believer in Zeus, what you have is a replication
event that took thousands of years to unfold. This would constitute a
kind of "back from extinction" event. Note that my paper uses a very
narrow definition that does not count artifactual *representations* of a
meme (e.g., a text) as instantiations of the meme. This strict
definition only counts information as a meme instantiation only if it is
held in a brain or mind, and is based on my reading of Dawkins 1976
rather than the more expansive Oxford English Dictionary definition.
Similarly, I would call T. Rex extinct because of its live monoploid +
diploid population = 0. But if fragments of one of these animals' DNA
survive well enough in an amber fossil (a kind of DNA's "artifact") that
a scheming entrepreneur grows a modern T. Rex clone, it would be a "back
from extinction" event that takes millions of years to unfold.
Now to help prevent extinction from ever befalling memetics, I have
signed a deal with Stephen Spielberg and Michael Crichton to turn
THOUGHT CONTAGION into a movie. It's title: MEMETIC PARK! ;-)
> 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)
> see: http://www.cpm.mmu.ac.uk/jom-emit
THOUGHT CONTAGION: How Belief Spreads Through Society The New Science of Memes Basic Books. Info and free sample: http://www.mcs.net/~aaron/thoughtcontagion.html =============================================================== 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) see: http://www.cpm.mmu.ac.uk/jom-emit