Memetic Engineering, Risky Business?

Ken McE (
Wed, 01 Apr 1998 18:34:38 -0500

Date: Wed, 01 Apr 1998 18:34:38 -0500
From: Ken McE <>
Subject: Memetic Engineering, Risky Business?

<> Wrote:

I think that before we
> undertake to re-engineer the memes of others, _OR_ criticize the
> concept of doing so, we need to carefully examine, and re-engineer as
> necessary, our own memes.

Ken McE comments:

It is not clear to me that we can (or should) casually remodel our
memes. One point in the favor of our normal "wild" meme sets (wild in
that they just growed, nobody planted them) is that they have withstood
the test of time. I would expect that there are many more potential
"bad" meme sets than there are good ones. I am using "bad" in the
biological sense, meaning anything that hinders the health, growth, or
reproduction of an organism.

Fiddling with something you don't understand is one of my favorite forms
of entertainment, but seems dangerous when you depend on the continued
smooth functioning of whatever it is that you are fiddling with. I
realize that this newsletter leans heavily towards theory and
philosophy. When you are just talking about something, you can get as
far out as you want. There are no consequences. What you seem to be
considering is actually *living* these things.

If there really is anything to this whole memetics business, not just
piles of impressive words, it is probably dangerous. If you want to be
a guinea pig for the field, that's fine, but I feel that you should be
aware of what it is that you are doing. (Informed consent and all

If you put on your memetics perspective and browse around, history is
filled with memetic failures, some of them big and ugly, some
embarrassing, some of them still dangerous. I wish you well, but watch
your step. OK?

Regards, Ken McE

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