Re: virus: What makes memes compete?

Dave Pape (
Thu, 10 Apr 1997 21:25:20 +0100 (BST)

Lee Crocker wrote:

>> Ten pounds sterling for the memeticist who describes, neurally or in=
>> of ideas animals eating/grooming/shagging each other, how memes actually
>> agree/disagree.
>Evolution operates by selection among organisms, and the overall nature
>of an organism is determined by genes and memes. To say that genes and
>memes compete is a rhetorical device to aid in understanding certain
>results; it is a technique of language, not an observable phenomenon.

Erm, sorry if I'm missing the point here but I thought selection (and thus,
effectively, competition) /did/ actually happen at the level of the gene,
and this was how Selfish Gene theory checks out. In that genes seem to
persist that compel organisms to do things which sap their resources in
favour of supporting other organisms (parenting effort for example), I'm
quite convinced by Selfish Gene stuff. And thus I quite like the idea of
Selfish Meme stuff too.

>If it gets in the way, abandon it and go back to reality.

What, objective reality, or just my subjective linguistic ideas about it? ;)

>Genes, and memes, [CLIP] are so interdependent and complex
>that one can very rarely find 1 locus =3D 1 gene =3D 1 phenotype.

Totally agree with this.

>For any
>one meme, it may be unlikely to find itself in the same organism as some
>other specific meme because they might share some part of output-space
>(say, different methods of throwing a rock). So in that sense, we might
>say they compete.

And this actually. I reckon this is close to what my =A310 ride on the
explanation of.

>But really there are likely to be several memes that
>influence how and when one throws rocks (for example, Palestinian
>cultural memes:), and they all interact with each other in complex ways

Still agree...

>to form the organism that genuinely competes

...and stop agreeing.

>Those memes who happen to find themselves
>in the surviving brains are successful; those who don't aren't.

Problem here is, you seem to be implying that brains become infested with a
stablish bunch of memes, and then it's the survival or not of the brain that
determines the survival or not of the memes. Which I disagree with because I
know my memes change all the time, without me dying. Yet.

And so do everyone else's. The memes corresponding to, eg, fanatical worship
of now-defunct boy-band Take That waxed and waned pretty much independent of
the survival of their host organisms: the same kids who used to have Take
That posters all over their bedrooms don't have as many (if any at all) any
more. It's not the case that now-defunct-boy-band-Take-That-meme-hosts all
died off to be replaced by a new generation of kids who liked Boyzone. The

I think that "changing your mind" can be explained by a process of newly
arrived memes outcompeting old ones. Which is what I wanted explained.
Though if I totally misunderstood you, erm, sorry, and... erm, still sorry.=

Dave Pape
Always bet on the guy with the spine.

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