RE: i-memes and m-memes

Richard Brodie (
Wed, 1 Sep 1999 12:07:58 -0700

From: "Richard Brodie" <>
To: <>
Subject: RE: i-memes and m-memes
Date: Wed, 1 Sep 1999 12:07:58 -0700
In-Reply-To: <D9$>

Robin wrote:

<<In order to obtain a complete causal explanation involving memes, we
have no choice but to view the meme as both being expressed in behavior
and residing in the brain. To reject either "external" or "internal"
form is to blow a great hole in the memetic story: memes have no way to
get from A to B.>>

Well said. I've still never understood the position that a "behavior" can be
a replicator in anything but a very instantaneous sense, like perhaps a
contagious yawn. But if a behavior is replicated at a later point in time,
there must be something stored in the mind to make that happen, right?

One quibble: It is certainly possible for a meme, residing in a mind, to be
part of a mental state that generates some set of behaviors that in turn
cause the original meme to be replicated in another mind WITHOUT calling
those behaviors "memes." While I agree with you about the interesting nature
of information flow, I see no usefulness in diluting the word "meme" by
using it to refer to ALL encodings of ALL information involved in cultural

"Ice," for example, is an interesting word meaning water in its frozen
state. Ice melts and evaporates, or sublimates, forming water vapor, which
may rise sufficiently high to the point that it condenses and freezes, once
again forming ice. However, it wasn't ice during those intermediate stages
nor would it be useful to call it "encoded ice" or anything like that.
Similarly, although some meme transmission can be usefully seen as directly
encoded and unencoded en route from mind to mind, my suspicion is that most
of it is not so direct, that memes "precipitate" into a new mind through a
statistically predictable but chaotic process in which one individual meme
cannot really be said to be encoded in one specific behavior or artifact.

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