RE: implied or inferred memes

John C. 'Buck' Field (
Tue, 5 Oct 1999 12:16:12 -0500

From: "John C. 'Buck' Field" <>
To: <>
Subject: RE: implied or inferred memes
Date: Tue, 5 Oct 1999 12:16:12 -0500
In-Reply-To: <>

>From: []On Behalf
>Of Bill Benzon

>I know you have. I simply don't see any value in calling things in our
>heads memes of any sort. I don't deny the we have ideas in our heads, even
>ideas that we've learned from others in any of a number of possible ways,
>including imitation. As far as I'm concerned all you are doing is
>providing a new name for entities we already know about. But that new name
>does not bring with it any new explanatory mechanisms.

You are correct that there is no explanatory mechanism exclusive to memetics, but
there is likewise no calculation exclusive to computers. Everything a computer does
can be done by humans, in theory. Memetics allows us to get to predictions and
understandings that are theoretically possible, but not practical due to the
cumbersome nomenclature necessary to avoid jargon. This is pretty much true of any
word, or use of any jargon though, so I tend to acknowledge the academic validity of a
Luddite friend's position, but I still use computers and cell phones despite his
arguments that they are not the exclusive tool for any function.

This documentary series takes a look at memetics, the science of Memes. What are
they? Memes are ideas that are transmitted from one mind to another and act very much
like contagion that spreads from person to person. Big deal, whatís new about people
spreading information and communicating, isnít memetics just another name for
evolutionary psychology or sociobiology or fill-in-your-pet science? According to the
eggheads that study it, the answer is "No".

Memetics makes explanations and predictions in areas that have always been
extraordinarily difficult for the genetically-minded, since people will get ideas that
hurt themselves and their relatives' survival, but they always seem to have some
attraction to other ideas that the particular person holds. We will look at those
shortly, but first we must understand exactly what memes are, and their relationship
to humans. When speaking of memes, we are looking at the spread of ideas from mind to
mind and that ideas evolve. Some ideas spread widely, and those are ones that as soon
as you hear it, you become excited and canít wait to tell all your friends. This
characteristic is common to many successful memes, but there are other symptoms of
ideas which successfully pass from one person to another.

The breakthrough in memetics is in extending Darwinian evolution to culture. There are
several exciting conclusions from doing that, one of which is the ability to predict
that ideas will spread not because they are "good ideas", but because they contain
"good memes" such as danger, food and sex that push our evolutionary buttons and force
us to pay attention to them.

A ship in the harbor is safe, but that's not what ships are for; Carpe Diem!
Buck Field: Project Management, Writing, and Documentation

This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
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