Blue Star (was Re: A Drosophila for cultural evolution)

Dave Gross (
Fri, 20 Jun 1997 05:38:52 +0800 (GMT-8)

Date: Fri, 20 Jun 1997 05:38:52 +0800 (GMT-8)
From: Dave Gross <>
Subject: Blue Star (was Re: A Drosophila for cultural evolution)
In-Reply-To: <>

The reasons why the "Blue Star LSD" urban legend is appealing to me for
memetics study include:

* The reasons that people give for spreading the meme (usually
'to warn people of a terrible and hidden danger') are unrelated
in fact to the content of the meme (the warnings are in fact
untrue in almost every point). This nicely does away with
some of the arguments against a memetic approach (e.g. "people
spread memes after carefully evaluating them and testing them
against the truth, not because the meme has 'evolved' to make
us replicate it").

* It is a text-based meme and thereby leaves a paper-trail of
'fossils' that we can study.

* It is relatively simple (compared to, say, 'Christianity' or
'the masturbation taboo').

* It is, because it is a text-based meme, relatively free from
a consistent non-observable context of body language, tone of
voice, etc. In other words, when we see an example of the
blue-star meme; we're seeing the whole thing just as the people
the meme infected saw it.

* It is an ongoing infection, so any theories we put together
about it can be tested against incoming data. We could also
seed the 'memetosphere' with new versions of the legend in
an attempt to test theories.

* Soon (I hope) I'll have put together a family tree of this
urban legend, tracking the transmission of mutations from
version to version. I hope to learn more about how a meme
mutates, and which mutations survive. I'll continue to
keep this data available on the Web for other researchers.

-- Dave

"God, Gregor, it's just a bunch of pea plants. How do you expect to learn
anything important about heredity in the garden?"

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