Re: virus: Why not ramble

Eva-Lise Carlstrom (
Mon, 20 Oct 1997 14:41:18 -0700 (PDT)

On Tue, 14 Oct 1997, Wade T.Smith wrote:

> 2. Dreams have no memetic content. Memes are only active in actions. A
> comparative study of dreams against their precedents- the activities of
> the day- would necessarily separate the memes presented by one's actions
> like cream from milk. (In a way, I have here defined memes as those
> things which produce non-autonomous or non-habitual actions. I have not
> seen a better distillation.) It is time for a real hammer job on the
> romantic ideas about dreams. Nothing in the cognitive sciences raises
> them above the completely mundane. The whole notion of thought as well?
> Perhaps.

There seems to be continuing disagreement over whether the term "meme"
should be used to refer to ideas-in-the-mind or to behaviours and
institutions in the world that such ideas engender. Some people seem to
hold the position that the distinction doesn't really matter, but I think
if we don't make it clearly we find ourselves in a hopeless muddle, unable
to communicate coherently about either kind of phenomenon.

I hope we agree that dreams do involve ideas. I, at least, can quote
conversations and trains of thought from my dreams, besides the simple
fact that memories of dream events are themselves ideas. Even a theorist
who holds that dreams themselves are random noise must admit that we
produce memories of episodes from that "noise" by some process,
effectively transforming dreams into ideas if that's not what they are to
begin with.

If that's agreed, and your claim is that memes are behaviour, and dreams
are not behaviour, I can go along with that to some extent, but I think it
is more useful to use the term "meme" to refer to a potentially-infectious
idea than to use it to refer to behaviours prompted by such ideas. It
pays to distinguish genotype and phenotype. Dreams can be part of an
internal process of meme-juggling (I am using the internal interpretation
of "meme") that can ultimately affect outward behaviour.

I also take issue with your suggestion that dream content is dictated by
the "activities of the day"; it is more accurate to say that dream content
is dictated by the "thoughts of the day". I know I have had dreams that
centered around issues I have thought about but not engaged in any outward
behaviour about in the course of the day.

Oh...and concerning your last comment about "Maybe it's just because
winter is coming". I had a dream about that once: I was walking with a
friend of mine in autumn, noting the turned leaves and the frost on the
puddles, knowing it would get colder from here on, and thinking silently
what a poignant metaphor that was for our relationship at the time. That
dream and others are internal evidence of my own memetic makeup, much
as my speech and other behaviours are external evidence of it.

who sometimes responds to a dream with "Oh, is *that* what I'm thinking?"