virus: Is the term "meme" necessary?

Richard Brodie (
Mon, 13 May 1996 22:13:52 -0700

There has been some questioning on both lists as to the value of the
term "meme" versus similar words such as "idea" or "concept." Having
invested a bit of my reputation in the subtitle of my book, "Virus of
the Mind: The New Science of the Meme", I'd like to argue for the
usefulness of the term.

The relationship between "meme" and "concept" is much like the
relationship between "mass" and "weight". While you could often
interchange the words and still make sense, the former carries with it a
whole scientific model and thereby focuses your thinking in a useful

When we talk about an object's mass, we easily have access to ideas
about its acceleration, momentum, and so on, that we don't get with
"weight." Likewise, when we use the word "meme" we usually are talking
about a concept, but the memetic model leads us to think about
interesting things like how well the concept replicates to other minds,
how it got in my mind in the first place, and so on.

The study of how and why memes evolve and spread will be one of the
driving forces of social change over the next century; that's why I
train myself to use the word "meme" and to identify them on a daily


Richard Brodie +1.206.688.8600
CEO, Brodie Technology Group, Inc., Bellevue, WA USA
Do you know what a "meme" is?