Tyuranny of the replicators

N Rose (NJ-ROSE@wpg.uwe.ac.uk)
Mon, 09 Jun 1997 11:30:41 +0000

Message-Id: <s39be9ab.056@wpg.uwe.ac.uk>
Date: Mon, 09 Jun 1997 11:30:41 +0000
From: N Rose <NJ-ROSE@wpg.uwe.ac.uk>
To: memetics@mmu.ac.uk
Subject: Tyuranny of the replicators

Timothy/Martha wrote:
>>Memes actually do not circulate themselves;
>>they're quite passive. Instead, active agents (people)
>>circulate them, e.g., by talking to each other or sending

Dr Price wrote
>I disagree. Memes produce actions by humans [and perhaps other
>agents] that seek to increase the number of copies of the meme
>in the world. The whole distinction [IMO at least] between meme
>and say 'idea' is that the meme acts [without foresight or
>intentionality] in its own 'interest'.

Dr Price sums up the argument very well, but I feel makes the
classic Dawkins error in the next bit ...

>For me the power of the concept of meme is that it gives us for
>once a chance of choosing not to be victims of "the tyranny of
>the selfish replicator"

What chance? By our own argument 'we' are effectively 'slaves'
to our selfish memes and genes. Dawkins started this problem in
the Selfish Gene, where he suggests that we can somehow throw off
the yoke of the selfish replicators through understanding how
they act -- but what he perhaps neglected to mention was that it
was the tyranny of his selfish memes that prompted him to suggest
that. There is no 'us' to throw off the memes, yet many of like
to think that there is; Thus is the power of (what Dennett calls)
the benign user illusion. Even if memes were to entirely
overthrow the interests of the genes (and that is a debate in
itself), then we would still be 'victims of "the tyranny of the
selfish replicator"'; only this time its memes rather than genes
that are 'pulling the strings'.

Perhaps I've misunderstood what you meant?

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