Re: virus: Definition of meme (from alt.memetics)

XYZ Customer Support (
Mon, 30 Dec 1996 22:05:44 -0700

> From: David McFadzean <>

>>A meme is a unit of information in a mind whose existence influences events
>>such that more copies of itself get created in other minds.

Why call it a meme then? If meme=good idea AND good idea=meme, why
not just call it a good idea? If it acts like an idea, quacks like an idea, and
looks like an idea...then it just only an idea!

>This is certainly the definition of an *active* meme. My proposal would
>be to also permit inactive, archived, or in-transmission units of
>information to be referred to as memes, as well as memes in the abstract.
>This tends to be consistent with the way we actually use words of this
>class, such as gene.

Viruses are little beads of protein that carry genes. A virus is a non-living
entity. When this non-living entity comes in contact with a living one, it
becomes absorbed by it's host. In becoming absorbed by it's host, the
genes carried within this parasite become exposed. The host will then blindly
follow the genetic instructions encoded in the virus genes and make more
viruses, even to the detriment of it's own health. This is because cells are
stupid and they don't know any better.

In keeping with that analogy:

Mind viruses can be present in any carrier of information that has meaning.
Within the information is a series of instructions that the host will blindly
follow upon being exposed to them, even to the detriment of the host's own
health. The mind should not be able to tell the difference between harmless
ideas and mind viruses, just like their physical counterparts can't.

......this is because minds are stupid and they don't know any better
then to blindly follow instructions?

>Context makes it clear what level is involved.

If memes were obvious, then we would have discovered them years
ago. If memes were only good ideas that get passed around, then a virus
of the mind is simply another word for communication and there is
nothing new about that concept. Memetics would contribute
nothing to science if that were the case. Now if memes are ideas that
get passed around without our conscious consent, now we are
talking about something new. If memes aren't simply just ideas or
good ideas, but ideas that need no outside help to spread,
hypnotic ideas that take over the host, now we are talking about
something revolutionary.

>"Baseball meme" (in the abstract, the information, not in any particular

>"Stored baseball meme" (A book of rules and descriptions from which a group
>of children could learn to play a recognizable game of baseball.)

>"Active baseball meme" in the minds of ten players ready to play a game.

Once again, we are talking about *symptoms* of memes and not
memes themselves.

Let's change the word baseball to football here.

What causes these people to think that football is fun to begin with?
Just because it is a good idea? That wouldn't work because it doesn't
explain everything. What is such a good idea about going out into a field,
throwing a ball around in certain patterns, and violently pushing or
knocking other fellow players around? And what about the idea of
men patting each other's butt's while the women take a break on the
sideline as cheerleaders? What is the real incentive to play? The money?
The challenge? The cheerleaders? Patting other men on their butts? What
is common to all of these things or is there nothing at all in common?
There doesn't even seem to be any room for memes in this scenario,
does it?