RE: Memes are Interactors

Aaron Lynch (
Thu, 23 Apr 1998 14:22:39 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Thu, 23 Apr 1998 14:22:39 -0500
From: Aaron Lynch <>
Subject: RE: Memes are Interactors
In-Reply-To: <000201bd6ed6$cabecac0$>

>Josip Pajik wrote:
>>No matter how intelligent am I, it is not up to me if my ideas will be
>>accepted or rejected in the environment of this list consisting of its
>>subscribers' brains. All I can do is produce structures like this one made
>>with my weak linguistic and memetic capabilities, and throw it in the
>arena. >If they are fit enough they will survive, if not, maybe some
>portions of them >will help someone to produce some more durable structures.
>If there's one myth that memetics should explode, it's that GOOD ideas
>survive better than others simply by virtue of their own virtue. You
>actually can do much more than your modest claim: you can package your ideas
>effectively, like Lady Godiva packaged her message by pressing all the human
>buttons that draw people's attention.

I agree with the first sentence, Richard. The second sentence admits of a
qualification: the optimal packaging depends crucially upon the intended

Back at the 1988 CSICOP annual convention, which was keynoted by Douglas
Hofstadter, one of the last sessions was about getting the skeptics'
message out more effectively. The panel leading the discussion offered a
formula based on slick packaging of the CSICOP message. After it was over,
I was talking with Hofstadter and another CSICOP member. The other member
said something in favor of the slick packaging idea, at which a deep scowl
crossed Doug Hofstadter's face. "I don't like *slick* packaging," he said.
"You have an immune reaction," I said. At that, Hofstadter's deep scowl
turned into a broad and knowing grin. Hofstadter, like so many other
intelligent people, has many times found himself rejecting slickly packaged
ideas because of poor content. So he developed a cross-reacting immunity to
the "slick package" epitope. Immunity is a primary determinant of
biological virus contagions, and much the same can be said for thought
contagions. Indeed, the very "catchiness" of my own book title becomes an
immunogenic transmission liability in some circles. Hence, one of the
advantages in listing references to much more technical treatments.


--Aaron Lynch

THOUGHT CONTAGION: How Belief Spreads Through Society The New Science of Memes Basic Books. Info and free sample:

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