Re: new project: FAQ (was Re: virus: Misc Questions)

Tyson Vaughan (
Tue, 31 Oct 1995 23:29:22 +0000

In the vein of relating to newbies or outsiders, I'd like to point out one
bit of language which confuses me in the definition of "meme" in the Virus
Web page lexicon. The definition states, in part: "A contagious
information pattern that replicates by parasitically infecting human minds
and altering their behavior, causing them to propagate the pattern."

My question is about the use of the word "parasitically." A parasite, by
definition, is an organism which lives in union with another organism AT
THE EXPENSE OF the host organism. I do not believe that all memes are, in
fact, parasitic. They may be beneficial to the host mind, or harmful, or
neither. I'd imagine that in most (possibly all) cases, whether they are
harmful or beneficial is a function of the host's particular environment.

Therefore, I think it would be reasonable to consider removing the word
"parasitically" from that definition. As an alternative, I suggest

"Symbiosis" is defined in my copy of Webster's as follows:
"The living together in intimate association or even close union of two
dissimilar organisms. In a broad sense the term includes parasitism, or
antagonistic, or antipathetic, symbiosis, in which the association is
disadvantageous or destructive to one of the organisms, but ordinarily it
is used of cases where the association is advantageous, or often necessary,
to one or both, and not harmful to either."


Tyson Vaughan memetic engineer graphic designer

A dream is a garden of devils, and all
dreams in this world were dreamed long ago.
-- Milorad Pavic