Re: Machiavellian Memes, Analogies to Biology

kenmce (
Mon, 29 Sep 1997 14:00:59 -0500

Date: Mon, 29 Sep 1997 14:00:59 -0500
From: kenmce <>
Subject: Re: Machiavellian Memes, Analogies to Biology

> Ken McE Commented:
> In nature there are no known cases where a species continues to grow
>and expand without limit. If there were such a creature we would all be
>standing knee deep in piles of them.

Ton Maas <> replied:

As I have argued earlier, this is precisely one of the most fundamental
shortcomings of the meme/gene analogy. In terms of
spreading/multiplying/mutation the analogy works fine, but the extremely
stringent conservation mechanisms which govern genetic reproduction, are
notably absent in the realm of memes. To explain such phenomena, we seem
"doomed" to rely on more traditional theories of social interaction and

Ton Maas

Ken McE now writes:

I think perhaps I was less than clear in my original post. I meant to
suggest that that memes which distract us from putting all our energy
into breeding may be of value to us as a species.

When I wrote of standing in "knee deep piles" I wanted to suggest that
all known species, including us, have practical limits to our ability
to grow. A point I had intended to make was that we (Homo Sapiens) do
have limits and feedback mechanisms. "The four Horsemen" was meant to
be a reference to some of the more unpleasant ways (war, plague, famine,
and what's the other one?) that nature uses to trim back large

I personally think that managing growth though "selfish" Western memes
like "live well" and Don't have kids if you can't afford it" is rather
more pleasant than the alternatives.

Again, my desire was to comment on a possible effect of memetics,
rather than to illuminate the mechanisms by which they may work.
My apologies for being less than clear.

Ken McE

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