RE: Lamarckism in memetics

Richard Brodie (
Thu, 5 Jun 1997 16:15:39 -0700

From: Richard Brodie <>
To: "''" <>
Subject: RE: Lamarckism in memetics
Date: Thu, 5 Jun 1997 16:15:39 -0700

After reading Omar de la Cruz's excellent post, I had a few of my own
memes to offer on the subject of Lamarckism in memetics. In the first
place, as Omar and others have pointed out, the analogy to genetics of
"memotype" and "phemotype" is not an entirely clear or isomorphic one
(and I do not use those terms in my book). Is it useful to talk about a
set of memes in a mind (memotype) that act as the blueprint or program
to produce a course of behavior and/or artifacts (phemotype), which
would then work to produce another generation of memes in another mind?
With the terms defined this way, the answer seems to me to be a clear
no. No mind acts in isolation as the sole producer of stimuli to educate
and influence a new mind. So the analogy to mind as cell nucleus breaks
down, at least in my view.

Some comments on specific points by Omar:

>On the other hand, memes can change a great deal between generations
>(a change of generation here means a replication of the meme, it has
>no direct relation to the generations of individuals),

Hmm... could this be restated in a way that does not do violence to the
definition of "meme" as a replicating unit? Perhaps what is really meant
is that meme populations tend to shift quickly from one meme to another.

>When Watt modified the idea of steam engine by adding the rotating
>valve, the performance of the engines was so much better that the new
>generations of engineers adopted the idea without hesitation. In this
>case, the modification of the meme produced an improvement of its
>Then, its reproductive value increased, since people like better ideas

Well, engineers like better ideas better anyway. I have a less
optimistic picture of the general public, who seem to prefer astrology
to science and tabloids to journals. You do allude to this next:

> However, it is conceivable that someone at the same time created
>a better control mechanism, using sophisticated combinations of very
>precise devices. This development, even being more useful, could in
>have a smaller reproductive value, since the new generations of
>would be reluctant to learn a very complicated technology that was
>of their time. The moral is that the reproductive value of a meme is
>necessarily commensurate with its usefulness


>, and this limits the effect
>of Lamarckian evolution: when people modify memes, usually they are not
>trying to make them fast replicators, but more useful ideas. I believe
>that this cases are rare.

They are becoming less rare. You should read the letters I get daily
from readers who are using memetics to design multi-level marketing

A final comment: if there was no Lamarckism in memetics before, there is
now. Now that we begin to understand how to do it, conscious memetic
engineering from "Reinventing the Corporation" to designer mind viruses
and religions is already happening. These subcultures that have as a
component modifying their own "code" could surely be called Lamarckian.
But so what? Didn't I recently read somewhere that the human immune
system evolves in a Lamarckian way? (You scholars on the list will, I'm
sure, be more up on this than I am.) Darwinism works, as non-random
selection of random variations, regardless.

Richard Brodie +1.425.688.8600
CEO, Brodie Technology Group, Inc., Bellevue, WA, USA
Author, VIRUS OF THE MIND: The New Science of the Meme
Visit Meme Central:
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