The Meme Machine
4 journalers for this copy...
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.
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.
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.
I haven't finished reading the book yet, but...
> 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?
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.
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.