virus: Memetics. was: re: Angelica de Meme

Dan Plante (
Mon, 07 Apr 1997 00:26:09 -0700

At 01:00 PM 4/6/97 -0700, Prof. Tim wrote:
>On Sat, 6 Apr 1996, Tadeusz Niwinski wrote:
>> And because we also share *many* other hobbies is it OK to sell all of them
>> as memetics? According to your classification, Tim, is "Level-3
>> breakthrough": memetics paradigm, Life 101, mental masturbation, philosophy,
>> drug experimentation, queen's pussy, or all of the above?
>Have you looked lately at the percent of posts on this list that directly
>explore the nature and/or qualities of memes? I'm not asking for 100%,
>but can we at least raise the number into the double digits, please?

Well....okay, since you seem polite and genuine about it (noteworthy in
itself on this list), but I should caution you Tim; steel yourself for the
inevitable dearth of honestly constructive replies, and the equally
predictable deluge of posts nit-picking the single digit assertion. ;-)

I guess the natural thing to do when presented with a request like this
is to 'suck back and reload' as it were; to ask ourselves "What have we got
so far, and where do we want to go?", the answers to the former usually
shed light on critical factors that determine the latter.

What /do/ we have so far? Well, the usual tack I take in this situation
is to go over how we got here. I find this creates consensus on a shared
framework of knowledge and understanding to build on, and also serves to
weed out baseless assumptions and erroneous impressions that tend to worm
their way into our understanding of the subject over time. So, let's see if
I can go over this history and possibly get rid of some of my own worms.

As I understand it, Dawkins was the first to publish anything regarding
memes or memetics as it is 'understood' today. I also get the impression
that he came to the conclusions he did (sorry, I haven't read his work),
upon noticing patterns in how thoughts, ideas and their ilk, appear and
change in the human mind, spread through a population, and affect behaviour
at the individual and cultural level. He may have either noticed a pattern
first, then drawn a corollary with genetics later, or his understanding (or
model) of the overall dynamics of genetic evolution caused a direct recognition
of a similar functional dynamic. I think the latter is more likely, but either
way, the comparison was made and the term 'meme' was coined.

This begs the first question, one that I think needs to be addressed first
before any useful development of meme dynamics or 'memetics' can occur, and
has been touched on, but not followed through, on this list in the past. The
question is: How closely do the attributes of genes and the dynamics of
genetics correspond to the same in memes and memetics? As Richard Brodie
pointed out rather succinctly in a previous post:

Consciousness emerges from memes, which emerge from genes, which emerge
from chemicals, which emerge from atoms, which emerge from
energy...doesn't mean it's the same thing.

I believe we have to ask ourselves "Do they correspond? If so, how well,
and with which additions, deletions or caveats? If not, or not well enough
(define 'well enough' any way you like), then maybe we should take a closer
look at the percieved pattern itself, rather than the historical attribute
of 'gene-like'. Again, I think the latter is more likely, and revisiting
said patterns, especially from a cross-disciplinary viewpoint, might be

initial conditions = data (conception)
control of data = information (conception to puberty)
control of information = knowledge (puberty to marriage)
control of knowledge = wisdom (marriage to divorce)