Re: The Replicators or the Replicated

Tim Rhodes (
Thu, 15 Apr 1999 15:53:53 -0700

From: "Tim Rhodes" <>
To: <>
Subject: Re: The Replicators or the Replicated
Date: Thu, 15 Apr 1999 15:53:53 -0700

Mario Vaneechoutte wrote:

>It is unclear to whom this question is addressed, but I'll give you my
>brief ideas

Sorry, I had meant to address it generally to all those big-brained
individuals assembled here, not to any one person specificly. Thanks for
your thoughts.

>(by the way this replicator/replicate discussion is just another war which
>many - who have broadly adopted the replicator terminology and ideology -
>do not wish to restart again).

Oops! Too late!

>Genes and memes (whatever: ideas, texts, pottery, behaviour) are unable to
>One needs replicators to do so (and now I am using the word 'replicator' in
>its correct manner, that is as an active processor, an agent which can DO
>(IMNHO (in my non honest opinion :-) ))
>Minds, copy machines, computers are replicators for memes, and polymerases
>replicate genes.
>Of course, the replicates (genes, memes) may have characteristics which
>makes the replicators act upon them preferentially. Take a joke. It has
>characteristics which will make people want to reproduce it: you can make
>others laugh with it, which will make you a sympathetic person, which
>reinforces your self esteem (psychologial certainty). Or a chain letter:
>makes promesses in case you do replicate it and threatens you in case you
>would not replicate it (and even if you don't believe the treat, you can
>better play 'certain', also because the effort you have to make is usually
>neglectable compared to the possible dangers which await you when not
>replicating it.).
>The joke or the letter theirselves doenot replicate, but have
>characteristics which motivate people to replicate them.
>Is it really that difficult to see the obvious correctness and usefulness
>of this approach, instead of pursuing the nonexisting 'self-replicative'
>properties of memes?

Not at all (as I see it at least). In fact, your points are exactly the
ones I hoped to bring up by asking the question.

>The idea (belief, conviction, ...) that genes and memes are replicators, an
>idea which was launched by Dawkins, is in my opinion an excellent example
>of a completely erroneous suggestion, which is so appealing (and so wide
>spread in the meantime) that it is ineradicable anyway. This kind of
>erroneous but successful idea is what I first defined for myself as a
>'meme', before I discovered that many others were thinking about this word
>(in a more broad and very different manner). 'Meme' to me was some kind of
>successful idea (like 'God exists', 'Belgium is the best country in the
>world', ...) for which there was no direct logical - scientific reason to
>explain its success.
>'Genes/memes are replicators' is such an example as well.

A good point and nicely made.

>This is more than an academic discussion about the correct usage of a word,
>but I can only explain the multiple consequences for memetics once this
>idea gets better accepted.

Indeed. It's like trying to understand a computer virus, but not
recongnizing that it makes use of pre-existing DOS commands rather than just
magicaly self-copying somehow.

-Tim Rhodes

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