Re: Meme Extinction

Liane Gabora (liane@CS.UCLA.EDU)
Fri, 30 May 1997 20:18:22 -0700

Date: Fri, 30 May 1997 20:18:22 -0700
From: Liane Gabora <liane@CS.UCLA.EDU>
Message-Id: <>
Subject: Re: Meme Extinction

At a low enough level of granularity I suppose ALL memes, except the
ones we are thinking right now, are extinct. Every time I think the
meme "dogs are great", or even "2+2=4", the nuances are different, the
information content of the experience is different. And even though I
tell you I'm just thinking the "dogs are great" meme, there are bound
to be manifold subtle differences in how that meme gets inplemented in
your brain and mine. I just tell you its the "dogs are great" meme
because that conveys enough of the meme to make my point.

And at a *high* enough level of granularity, I suppose NO meme is
extinct. The fact that I am thinking "dogs are great" at this instant
can be traced back to a series of memetic events that followed one
after another such that meme A bore some resemblance to meme B, B bore
some resemblance to C... etc., and by the time I got to meme Z--dogs
are great--this meme no longer bears any resemblance to meme A but
nevertheless it could never have been thought were it not for A.

So the "dogs are great" meme, as I am thinking it right now, bears its
memetic roots in perhaps every meme that has ever been thought. If
you were God you could examine how great a perturbations to human
memetic history would have to be in order for me to have used some
other meme as my example. You could study what kind of perturbations
would have to be made in order to create a universe where instead I
used the example "thugflerps are plentiful."

> generation (I came up once with an original joke that was so
> bad that I will probably never tell it to anyone; is that joke
> a meme? Why not?)

This way of looking at it makes the problem of "did the joke you never
told anyone replicate"? more manageable. It didn't replicate with
complete information fidelity; nothing does. It did replicate in the
sense that it left enough "memetic footprints" in your brain for you
to tell us of its existence. It probably would have replicated in a
more subtler sense even if you hadn't told us about it, by affecting
in some way what you do or say some day somewhere along the line.

Liane Gabora

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)