Re: memetics-digest V1 #106

Soclab2 (
Wed, 25 Nov 1998 15:57:15 GMT

Date: Wed, 25 Nov 1998 15:57:15 GMT
From: Soclab2 <>
Subject: Re: memetics-digest V1 #106

> ><<Can anyone here state an important insight or even an accurate prediction
> >that has come from using the memetics paradigm? >>

> >3. It is unremarkable to see the simultaneous invention of "original" ideas
> >by multiple people in multiple locations (e.g. Newton and Leibnitz inventing
> >the Calculus simultaneously or Dawkins and myself coming up with the term
> >"Virus of the Mind" simultaneously -- not to imply a similar importance to
> >the two of course). [ or to imply similar importance to yourself and Richard Dawkins, as well, no doubt]

Naturally, I am curious if you or anyone else on this
> list knows of a simultaneous invention of this particular quantitative
> explanation of temporally clustered creativity.

Well, we don't have to be as specific as unique (or not) events in the generation of academic knowledge. Many
interesting thought experiments arise from the creation of what we might call "everyday" memes such as the
creation of fire or having sex in the missionary position.

If we accept the two premises that (1) nowadays, most people have sex in the missionary position; (2) and we
evolved from animals that have sex in the, ahem, "animal" position, we reach an interesting point. If you think about
it (ooh, go on), topologically speaking the two abovementioned positions are the only possible ones. Now, there
cannot have been a smooth evolution from one position to the other - there has to be a discrete jump. Assuming we
disregard the unlikelihood that one couple "invented" this meme and all examples of it since have evolved by
imitation from them - it means that there has been a great deal of creation of the "missionary position" meme over
the world (before it spread like wildfire memetically, presumably by dint of Victoriana [does anyone know?])

The same can be said of fire. Of course, technically speaking, one single human being must have been the first to
deliberately create fire - but has every "fire creation" meme spread from that individual?

I'm not sure these examples make an important insight or any accurate predictions, but it is something memeticists
will have to deal with. It is the quantitative consideration of exactly how much each "meme" has been created ex
nihilo, and how much it has been collected/inherited memetically that is central to the question of cultural evolution.

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)