virus: May the best meme win?

Richard Brodie (
Sat, 16 Nov 1996 08:43:29 -0800

David McF wrote:

>Interestingly Darwin himself understood memetics. His friend and
>T.H.Huxley suggested "survival of the fittest" in place of Darwin's
>"natural selection". Darwin said they should throw both of them
>out to the public and the best encapsulation of the idea would survive
>(or words to the effect).

But this is committing the naturalistic fallacy in the worst way!
"survival of the fittest" -- the WORDS -- did replicate, but evolved to
mean something simple and inaccurate. Not the best encapsulation if the
idea survived, but through the children's game of "telephone", the most
memetically fit idea survived.

This touches, by the way, on one of the most common phenomena I see
working against the spread of science. I call it distinguish-and-discard
mode, and I spoke about it for the first time at the Western Washington
Mensa meeting last Sunday on my birthday.

Here's how it works.

The Level-2 mind has one fixed model of reality. Any new input must fit
into that model (usually called Truth) or be discarded. In
distinguish-and-discard modem the Level-2 mind "recognizes" broad
classes of dissonant input -- such as new theories, unpleasant people,
disturbing political views, and so on -- and lumps them into a class of
memes "known" to be valueless.

This shows up constantly when I speak about memetics. The educated
Level-2'er will listen for a few seconds, then think, "ah, this is
sociobiology, it's been discredited" or "this smacks of self-help, which
is pop psychology, no need to pay attention." My challenge is to break
people out of that mode and let them learn a new paradigm.

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