Replicating in and out of minds

Richard Brodie (
Thu, 8 Apr 1999 14:20:36 -0700

From: "Richard Brodie" <>
To: <>
Subject: Replicating in and out of minds
Date: Thu, 8 Apr 1999 14:20:36 -0700
In-Reply-To: <v02140b06b332880e5124@[]>

Reed wrote:

<<The reason I would agree that memes can be both in and out
of minds is that ...>>

Information certainly exists both in and out of minds. No one disagrees with
that. Replicators certainly exist outside of minds. No one disagrees with
that. The word "meme" has come to mean a replicator inside a mind. Why is
this an interesting distinction? Because the way a replicator replicates
inside a mind is by affecting our behavior. This model of (part of) memetics
is based largely on the cognitive psychology model: your beliefs, opinions,
attitudes, and so on affect your behavior. A meme, when assimilated into
your mind, influences your behavior such that you pass the meme on -- either
directly, by teaching it to someone else, or perhaps indirectly, through
some Rube Goldberg-like chain of events. I go into more detail on this in
the first few chapters of Virus of the Mind.

Can there be cultural replicators outside of minds? I don't know of anyone
in the field who says no, although my book certainly focuses more on them
than does Blackmore's book. I even named my book after them. They are
viruses of the mind. While distinct from memes, because they tend to be
collections of physical artifacts rather than raw mental information, they
can replicate by using minds to aid in their replication. To me they are
much more interesting than lone memes. Examples of interesting mind viruses
that warrant study are religions, multi-level marketing groups, chain
letters, and even the Eiffel Tower, which just replicated itself in Las

For the sake of clarity, let's keep the word "meme" reserved for replicators
in the mind. For other cultural replicators, let's use a different term.
Mind virus, memeplex, cultureme...

Richard Brodie
Author, "Virus of the Mind: The New Science of the Meme"
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