RE: The information theoretic view Was: JOM

Richard Brodie (
Thu, 2 Sep 1999 13:39:34 -0700

From: "Richard Brodie" <>
To: <>
Subject: RE: The information theoretic view Was: JOM
Date: Thu, 2 Sep 1999 13:39:34 -0700

Robin wrote:

<<We do disagree, in that I say that there are no cultural replicators
that exist entirely in the mind (or entirely outside of it): there are
no "mind-based replicators". I don't agree that "the mind" is useful in
any definition, being undefined itself, and I say that every cultural
replicator (i.e. every meme) exists both inside and outside the brain.
To the extent that our definitions overlap -- that is, for items that we
would agree are memes, or as close to being memes as makes no difference
for most purposes -- I think these are extremely interesting. But
they're not all I'm interested in.>>

If "mind" is undefined for you, that's really your choice. Most people know
what it means. If you don't think there are mind-based replicators, again it
is your choice to be blind to that very useful point of view. Memes, and
genes, use all kinds of material and processes outside of themselves to
facilitate their replication. That does not change the fact that they have a
particular location that, if they aren't there, nothing happens. For memes,
this is a mind. For genes, it is a germ cell. The fact that the cycle of
genetic reproduction can involve two people mating in an airplane does not
mean that the genes are "encoded" in the airplane.

>Enough people do that we have given them the name "meme." If
>you want to talk about encoding and so on that's fine... but I would be
>confused if you called, for instance, Amway a meme---talking about the
>organization, not just the word.

<<It's a memeplex. Like all other organizations, belief systems, etc.
The meme is the fundamental cultural replicator, and all other cultural
replicators are memeplexes. All memes and memeplexes necessarily exist
both intra-brain (for storage and to affect action) and extra-brain (to
infect other brains). >>

Actually the meme is specifically the cultural replicator based in the mind.
Other cultural replicators based in artifacts, organizations and so on have
been given other names. "Memeplex," unfortunately, seems to have several
conflicting usages. I call the self-replicating organizations "mind
viruses." Dawkins also has used this term to refer to religions.

>"Active?" I guess I mean that its presence makes a significant difference,
>like the active ingredient in a medicine. You can change the inactive
>ingredients and there will be no difference in the effect

<<You mean "no difference in the intended effect". There may or may not
be differences in unintended effects. So what you're talking about is
subjective. The active ingredient depends on what the medicine is
intended to do, and what's "active" in the mind or brain is also
entirely dependent on your point of view. As long as we all bear that
"in mind", that's fine.>>

No, I meant no difference in the effect at all. Inactive ingredients
generally have no perceptible effect whatsoever. I meant exactly what I
said, and this is a crucial point. Memes (in the mind) actually cause
cultural change that can be catalogued and observed objectively.

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