The Meme Machine

by Susan Blackmore | Science |
ISBN: 019286212x Global Overview for this book
Registered by kittiwake on 2/28/2005
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4 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by kittiwake on Monday, February 28, 2005
from the back cover:

Humans are extraordinary creatures, with the unique ability to imitate and so to copy from one another ideas, habits, skills, behaviours, inventions, songs, and stories. These are all memes, a term first coined by Richard Dawkins in 1976 in his book The Selfish Gene. Memes, like genes, are replicators, competing to find space in our minds and cultures, and this enthralling book investigates the consequences. Confronting the deepest questions, from why humans have such big brains and languager, to altruism, sez and the Internet, Susan Blackmore makes a compelling case for the theory that the inner conscious self and our sense of free will are illusions created by the memes for the sake of replication.

Journal Entry 2 by kittiwake on Tuesday, March 01, 2005
I am sending this book out on a book ring. I hope to get some enthusiastic journal entries that will encourage me to finally get round to reading it when it comes back to me.

mastulela
yiremyahu
nut <== here

Edited 2nd April:
I have decided that I don't want this book back so I am turning this ring into a ray.
Nut, when you have read this book, please feel free to keep it, wild release it or pass it on.

Journal Entry 3 by Mastulela from Nuneaton, Warwickshire United Kingdom on Monday, March 07, 2005
Arrived safely this morning, thank you.

Journal Entry 4 by Mastulela from Nuneaton, Warwickshire United Kingdom on Friday, March 18, 2005
The book took some time to read because the concept is new (to me). There is a lot of interesting material, especially in the second part of the book when Susan Blackmore expounds her own theories. I am not convinced that the meme is a true replicator in the same sense that the gene is. While her Buddhist type reccommendations at the end of the book are very appealing in our increasingly stressful and information overloaded lives, I am reminded of some malignant memes which have had widespread currency within the last century. These have required concerted effort to 'replace' or expunge which cannot be regarded a 'natural selection' in a truely undirected evolutionary sense.

With your permission, I will hold onto the book until after Easter, in case my niece (with her background in computers, psychology and artificial intelligence) wants to read it.

Journal Entry 5 by Mastulela from Nuneaton, Warwickshire United Kingdom on Monday, March 28, 2005
Postal release to Yiremyahu tomorrow.

Journal Entry 6 by Yiremyahu on Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Arrived today. Thanks!

Journal Entry 7 by Yiremyahu on Monday, April 04, 2005
Seems as good a place as any to start a discussion. >:)

I haven't finished reading the book yet, but...

Mastulela wrote:
> I am not convinced that the meme is a true replicator in the same
> sense that the gene is. [...] I am reminded of some malignant
> memes which have had widespread currency within the last century.
> These have required concerted effort to 'replace' or expunge
> which cannot be regarded a 'natural selection' in a truely
> undirected evolutionary sense.

I'm not sure that that disqualifies them from being replicators. As I understand it, humans have been directing the evolution of certain species for a long time (domestication of animals, farming). Also there have been concerted efforts to wipe out certain collections of genes (those carried by smallpox or polio, for example). I don't think that the evolution of replicators requires natural selection as such - all that is needed is some form of selection pressure, which could include the (directed) artificial selection applied by humans. Or am I missing something?

Journal Entry 8 by Yiremyahu on Sunday, April 10, 2005
An interesting book. The mem theory seems to make sense, but I find it difficult to follow some of the ideas in the book, probably because I'm not used to thinking in that way.

I didn't like the bit at the end, where she talks about the self meme, but then maybe I'm just too attached to the idea of myself as a separate entity to want to see 'myself' as a mimetic trick.

Journal Entry 9 by nut from Kilkenny City, Co. Kilkenny Ireland on Friday, April 15, 2005
Arrived today, thank you!
Thanks kittiwake, for turning it into a ray, as I think I'll need more than the standard month to get through it. I haven't finished Freedom Evolves yet, and I fear I'm reading it too quickly to really let the arguments sink in.

Continuing the discussion, I haven't even started the book yet, but I think the meme/replicator thing might be a matter of vocabulary. As I understand it, a replicator would be something that replicates, it doesn't need Darwinian natural selection to be a replicator.
Perhaps it is a question of how far the metaphor goes? One obvious difference is that memes would use Lamarckian evolution, which living organisms don't.
Or is the question what exactly "natural selection" is? Does it have to be "natural", e.g. we've wiped out smallpox, does that count? I don't know what the exact definition is, but I would tend to agree with Yiremyahu about selection pressure. To survive, something needs to be fit for its environment. If society doesn't like an idea, that dislike & desire to wipe it out is part of the meme's environment. Just like we're part of the environment for e.g. dog parasites.

Hmm... want to get dug into the book now. I should probably finish the other one first.

Journal Entry 10 by nut from Kilkenny City, Co. Kilkenny Ireland on Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Reserved for Novasoy when I've read it.

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