Re: i-memes and m-memes

James McComb (
Sun, 29 Aug 1999 14:50:40 +1000

From: "James McComb" <>
To: "Memetics Discussion List" <>
Subject: Re: i-memes and m-memes
Date: Sun, 29 Aug 1999 14:50:40 +1000

Here are the reasons why I believe it necessary to view memes as having two
forms, i-memes (neural patterns) and m-memes (behaviours and artefacts). It
is my spin on recent contributions to the list.

I believe that there are two fundamentally different forms of replication in
memetics. One is the hermeneutic processes of encoding and decoding between
i-memes and m-memes. The other is the purely mechanical copying of m-memes
without hermeneutic encoding/decoding.

Here are three replication events:

i->m: Memetic information residing in a brain is encoded into a behaviour or
artefact. For example, an author tries to translate her thoughts into
written words. In so far as she is trying to interpret what her thoughts
are, this is a hermeneutical process.

m->m: Memetic information is mechanically copied from one artefact to
another. For example, a printing press makes hundreds of copies of the
author's book. This process is purely mechanical, and does not involve
hermeneutic interpretation. (Do behaviours spread among humans without
interpretations, like contagious yawning, also count as m->m processes?)

m->i: Memetic information is decoded from an artefact of behaviour, and
stored in a brain. For example, someone reads the book and internalises its
messages. This is the quintessential act of hermeneutic interpretation.

These events can be represented in phylogenetic lineages such as i->m->i,
i->m->m->i, and so forth.

The particular information encoded in an m-meme is not a static,
independently existing entity, but is dependent on the system of
encoding/decoding used. This situation is no different than in genetics,
where a piece of uninterpreted DNA by itself has no 'meaning'.

James McComb -

Fidelity! Fecundity! Longevity!

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