Re: Significance of memetics

Lloyd Robertson (
Sat, 21 Nov 1998 16:21:02 -0600

Message-Id: <>
Date: Sat, 21 Nov 1998 16:21:02 -0600
From: Lloyd Robertson <>
Subject: Re: Significance of memetics
In-Reply-To: <Pine.SOL.3.96.981121153200.8350B-100000@snowhite.oswego.ed

>> From Alex (
>> Date: 19th November 1998
>> There seems to be a tendency (at least among some of the list members) to
>> assume that the process of 'imitation' provides a conceptual key to
>> understanding the formation of human cultures. I would suggest that it is
>> a very inadequate key.

Thanks Alex. I share a number of concerns. Altho reductionism can provide
valuable insites I wonder whether, in the study of memetics, a focus on
neurons and transmission via imitation results in our "inability to see the
forest because of all the trees". That tired cliches may be represented as
a pattern of neural firings and that the above cliche was imitated by X
number of individuals is of little value. Why the above cliche remained in
our culture even after it ceased to be novel (i.e. after it became cliche)
would be of greater interest. The "purpose" that cliche may have in
maintaining other collections of memes while discriminating against still
other collections of memes would be of even greater interest. To answer
these kinds of questions we have to go well beyond the individual.

I am intrigued by Dennett's suggestion that collectivities of mutually
reinforcing memes that replicate as units may be seen as some kind of
ethereal life form. Deliniating these meme structures and studying how they
perform within our overall culture would be of interest to me. For example,
I suspect that a number of meme-structures are competing for control of the
Roman Catholic soul. It would be interesting to study such structures and
develop a theory that would predict the outcomes of such competitions.

Much current discussion implies that repetition ensures replication. If
that were the case then the end result would be one universal meme
structure and we would stagnate culturally. In fact, I suspect that some
minds are more susceptable to internalizing particular meme-structures than
others and that near universal repetition of some meme-structures will not
ensure their internalization in some minds. It would be of interest to me
to know why, what forces and mechanisms are at work.



This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)