Re: The Extended Memeotype

Tim Rhodes (
Sat, 10 Apr 1999 16:38:59 -0700

From: "Tim Rhodes" <>
To: <>
Subject: Re: The Extended Memeotype
Date: Sat, 10 Apr 1999 16:38:59 -0700

Bill Benzon wrote:

>Reed wrote:
>>I want us to have one word which explains everything from
>>what goes on in brains to what goes on in e-mail chain letters.
>>The word I use in my own mind is: Meme. That simplicity
>>is attractive, where a taxonomy is not.
>And I'd like one word that explains everything. How about "shazaam!" or
>maybe "alikaboom" or "razzmatazz" or even
>"supercaliphragalisticexpialadocious". But I don't think I'm gonna' get
>Come on Reed, this sounds like you're imposing very stringent a priori
>conditions on the study of the human mind.

Well, personally I'm a big fan of "alikaboom," but nevertheless...

Am I the only one that finds it highly ironic that the so-called
"memeticists" are still arguing over what a "meme" is while the popular
culture is embracing the term and evolving it to its own ends? Do you
really think it matters what you define a meme to be, if the culture is
already defining it and doing so without asking the experts for their
opinion on the matter? How did you fall behind the curve in your own field?

Might it not be more productive to give up on the question of where the meme
"is" and focus on what it "does"?

If we assume that human minds are wired-up to imitate behaviors (not too
preposterous an idea, I hope), can't we simply look at the mind as a black
box containing an as yet undefined "replication engine"--an aspect that
tends to output information similar to that which it receives. And then,
isn't it possible to prove and disprove assumptions about the nature of this
"replication engine" by observing what goes into the black box and what
comes out the other side? And can we not also study the propagation of the
replicated information in the same way? Without needing to pin down the
exact nature of the replication engine until it makes itself apparent?

Or would that sort of empirical memetics be just a foolishly naive idea?

-Tim Rhodes

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)