virus: Re: Virus: Minds and Memes

David McFadzean (
Thu, 26 Oct 1995 14:43:21 -0600

At 07:25 PM 10/20/95 -0800, (Chris Stefaniw) wrote:
>I'm new to this whole idea of memes. I read that a meme is "a contagious
>information pattern that replicates by parasitically infecting human minds and
>altering their behavior, causing them to propogate the pattern"(Memetic
>Lexicon by Glenn Grant). Doesn't this imply that these information patterns
>are agents while minimizing the role of individual human minds as agents? I

Not really. Memes are postulated as a mechanism underlying the behaviour
of human minds. They exist on a different level of explanation than minds
so they don't affect the role of minds as agents any more than neurons
minimize the role of brains. In fact, I've proposed that saying a mind
is infected by memes is akin to saying the brain is infected by neurons.

>find the idea of information patterns being exchanged, critically examined,
>and refined, and being developed through this process attractive, but I don't
>understand how an information pattern can truly be self-replicating (*causing*
>someone to replicate it). Do information patterns realy _cause_ anything?

Not alone, but in the proper context, i.e., when they are interpreted by
the appropriate causal engine, they can. Software is, after all, "only" an
information pattern, and it can only have effects when run on the appropriate

>The whole epistemology of memetics feels alien to me. Is this more of an
>active or passive mind theory? You'll probably be able to tell just how new I

I'm not sure of the distinction, could you elaborate?

>am to the subject by my question of whether this whole theory is somehow
>related to the theories that involve innate ideas and a priori categories
>(both Kant and Hegel held theories involving a priori categories of thought-
>or would you say that they were hosts of meme-complexes that involved a priori
>categories of thought). Does anyone have any suggestions for how I can at

Are a priori categories related to Platonic forms?

>least learn how to get the jargon straight and begin to understand the theory
>behind the jargon? The Memetic Lexicon is good and helps keep me from being
>totally clueless about what you guys are talking about, but I still get the
>impression that I have yet to really scratch the surface of memetic theory.

The best texts I've come across on memetic theory, such as it is, are
on the web. Check out the alt.memetics home page:

David McFadzean       
Memetic Engineer      
Merak Projects Ltd.