Re: List of meme definitions

Tim Rhodes (
Wed, 15 Apr 1998 14:06:37 -0700

From: "Tim Rhodes" <>
To: <>
Subject: Re: List of meme definitions
Date: Wed, 15 Apr 1998 14:06:37 -0700

Chris Turner wrote:

>I think it is critical to emphasize our premise that memes are a
>configuration of matter (as opposed to a member of the Cartesian
>dichotomous 'mind' or 'spirit' realm, which is itself a meme).
>Specifically, a meme is a configuration of the human brain's
>neuro-synaptic circuitry.

I disagree. (And, indeed, find it amusing that you yourself run afoul of
this defintion later in the same paragraph!)

A meme is not a configuration neuro-synaptic circuitry, it is _what results_
from that configuration. Just as the same computer program can be written
using several different types of code, so the same meme can be said to be
held in different individuals (who hold the same ideas), regardless of
whether or not they hold such ideas as a results of similiar synaptic links.

Searching for the "location" of a specific meme in the brain is, as such, a
fruitless task. Even if you could find the cluster of synapses responsible
for a given meme in one individual, there is no guarantee that you will find
the same cluster, in the same place, in another person who holds the same or
similar ideas. Similar programs do not require similar code in different
systems. (Or, indeed, even within the same system!)

>a meme is 'passive' or 'active' depends on the nature of the material
>medium in which it is encoded (e.g. paper, stone, vibrating air
>molecules, or brain) and the environmental conditions in which it is
>found. And as a configuration of the human brain's neuro-circuitry,
>a meme can have no other function than to affect that nervous system's

If a meme is a "configuration of the brain's neuro-circuitry", how, may I
ask, can it be encoded in anything other than a brain? (e.g. paper, stone,
vibrating air) Doesn't this point to the meme being something other than
simply a concrete configuration of synapses?

If we say that the "meme" is _the configuration_, what term will we chose
for _the products_ of that configuration, the parts which actually transmit
replicate the configuration in another hosts?

-Tim Rhodes

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