Re: Re(2): virus: Forwarding: some comments about the concept

David McFadzean (
Mon, 18 Dec 1995 16:46:56 -0700

At 09:05 AM 15/12/95 -0800, Chris Stefaniw wrote:

>Would it be fair to assume that you are referring to who and what we are by
>"the interaction of the memetic ecologied we call 'I'"? Do you think that

I was referring mostly to the stream of consciousness that seems to
make decisions and take responsibilities, as opposed to, say, my
physical form.

>this is all there is to who we are and that we can be fully explained by the
>interaction of these "memetic ecologies"? Collections and systems of ideas

I don't think any theory, memetics or otherwise, can "fully explain" any
particular phenomenon. It is the nature of theories that they are
conceptual models, necessarily simplified in order to be useful.

>have a lot to do with our identities, but don't you think there is more to it?
> Here's some examples that I doubt there is an explanation for how they
>originated from the the interaction of memetic ecologies: consciousness,
>attention, changes in states of mined (e.g, the more physiological ones such
>as dreaming vs. being awake), the more primal emotions, etc. Do you agree

I don't understand why any of these are beyond memetic explanations.

>that all of these have a lot to do with who we are and with our minds, but are
>not the interaction of memetic ecologies? The theory of memes appears to be
>useful, but I don't see how it could possible make up an adequate psychology
>or theory of identity. The way we relate to ideas and the way we remember

I suspect we merely have different ideas about what a "meme" is, which
isn't too surprising considering I've seen at least a dozen attempts
at a definition, all of them slightly different.

>them, act on them, associate them, synthesize new ideas in reference to them,
>etc. are all fascinating topics that could do a lot to build on both
>pstychology and general theories of identity. I just don't see the grounds
>for thinking of ourselves as "the interaction of memetic ecologies." I'd even
>agree that they play a large part in the outer reaches of our personality.

What if you extended your definition of meme to include any pattern in
the nervous system which causes some identifiable behaviour? This could range
in scope from the most simplistic "hardwired" instinct (like chemotaxis)
up to the most abstract and complex conceptual systems (human politics).
That is why I chose to call it an "ecology of memes" rather than a Minskian
"society", because an ecology implies the interaction of many levels of

>By the way, while we are speaking of biological metaphors for ideas, does the
>metaphor of food work better than that of genes? We gather them from outside,
>assimilate them into who we are as the useful ones act as material for
>building and maintaining our bodies, good ones are good for our health and
>when we are young they are good for our growth, etc. This avoids the problems

I think the food metaphor has some merit. "You are what you read" seems
more true to me than "You are what you eat". I guess I identify with my
mind more than my body.

>asociated with thinking ovf ourselves as fundamentally memetic ecologies when
>we can tell that this just isn't so through introspection, research, etc. It

I can't really accept that there are problems associated with thinking of
ourselves as fundamentally memetic ecologies until it has been shown to be

>'s also better than that of a viral metaphor since ideas are incapable of
>"infecting" and "reproducing" in and of themselves since they are not
>organisms and we know of little or no reason for thinking that they act in any
>way, much less in an organic way.

Are you saying that viruses are capable of infecting and reproducing in
and of themselves?

David McFadzean       
Memetic Engineer      
Merak Projects Ltd.