Re: meme lineages

Mark Mills (mmmills@OnRamp.NET)
Tue, 8 Jul 97 12:39:03 -0000

Message-Id: <>
Subject: Re: meme lineages
Date: Tue, 8 Jul 97 12:39:03 -0000
From: Mark Mills <mmmills@OnRamp.NET>
To: memetics <>

Ton Maas wrote:

> From the perspective of learning/adapting it is
>useless to try and describe the "relata" in this case as individual
>objects, since the learning/adapting is done by the larger unit.

I think I agree with you. Is this what you are getting at: Nothing has
an inherent meaning in and of itself. Everything is dependent on the
context. Everything is interdependent. The weather in England is
influenced by butterflies in Brazil. The phase 'Hello, I've been waiting
to see you' can be spoken with inflections of anger, romance, joy or

Is this what you mean?

>Now what if we replace "tools" with "memes"?

'Tool' seems a safer allusion than 'idea.' It seems to work. One could
say 'memes' are 'tools' our body uses to create/recreate experiences of
ideas, tunes, phrases, etc. The 'tool/meme' can be in my head or an
artifact in the environment.

Tools (and memes) can be quantitatively counted and categorized, though
this is always a bit arbitrary. For instance, to count the number of
shovels in England, one would have to define precisely what 'shovel'
meant. There are probably 1000 different manufactured shovels and a near
infinite number of improvised artifacts that temporarily serve as shovels.

My only concern is the general association of 'tool' with 'conscious
activity.' Webster's dictionary describes 'tool' as 'any implement used
by a craftsman or laborer at his work...' For example, few would say
their heart is a tool, though it could be seen as such from certain
perspectives. For this reason, I like the 'coded substrate' metaphor. A
working definition might be 'meme: a coded substrate containing cultural
information. Cultural evolution is the change in the meme pool over

Tool seems to work as a useful allusion, though.


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