Re: virus: Memetic ecology

Tim Rhodes (
Mon, 31 Mar 1997 09:56:11 -0800 (PST)

On Sun, 30 Mar 1997, Dave Pape wrote:

> Some new memes will be like rabbits introduced to the Australian outback:
> the rampant bastard aliens displace loads of species that were there before,
> upsetting a whole load of interspecies relationships as they go. Oh no! Hell
> shit!

And the introduction of the rabbits will open up a new niche in the
outback. In this example that niche would be one for parasites that live
off rabbits (rabbit fleas, ticks, etc). Existing fleas would adapt to
suit a new host, evolving to fit the new niche.

Lets take another example. You introduce a new flower into the ecology
of an isolated island. Say it has long bell-like flowers unlike any other
plant on the island and sweet sugary nectar. You have created a new niche
in that ecology. Those birds with long thin beaks or insects with a
similar probiscis will be in the best position to adapt to fill that
niche. And after several (maybe hundreds of) generations you would return
to find a new sub-species of bird or insect that lives off the flower.

Now let's change that to memes. A new meme (a generalist meme) is
introduced to a meme ecology. It creates new niches within that ecology.
The existing memes adapt (or bootstrap themselves) to better fit within
those niches.

For example: someone finds God. Many of the existing memes are
not displaced, but adapt. Memes such as "Don't cheat on your taxes
because you'll go to jail" evolve into "Don't cheat on your taxes because
its a sin."

> >Can a new meme create a niche that wasn't there before that meme
> >was introduced?
> Don't see why not, although I'd lay money that there's very few that could
> create a new niche without affecting existing niches in some way...