Memes

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Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 04:41 pm
Meme- is a postulated unit of cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena. (The etymology of the term relates to the Greek word μιμητισμός ([mɪmetɪsmos]) for "something imitated".)[2] Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes, in that they self-replicate and respond to selective pressures.[3]

I was wondering what your thoughts were on this relatively new idea. It goes beyond the idea of influencing other people to making an idea something that "mutates" in order to survive or it dies out. There are analogies to viral memes when referring to ideas that seem to manipulate the host to think a certain way in order to "brainwash" that person into spreading the viral meme.

I would also like to know how you think this idea might apply to philosophy. Why do some absurd ideas stick for so long? What philosophers do you feel thought up viral memes?
 
Emil
 
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 06:07 pm
@Scottydamion,
You really need to understand evolution before you can understand memetic theory (which is also a theory of evolution just of memes, not biological objects).

I suggest that you read Dawkins The Blind Watchmaker, and then The Selfish Gene. Then you should go on to read Virusses of the mind. You can get a good idea of evolution by seeing first the documentary version of the first Dawkins book that I mentioned. It is on video google.

It would be stupid to deny the existence of memes, but it may not be unjustified to deny memetic theory is a good way of seeing the facts.

Viruses of the Mind
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6413987104216231786#
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 06:18 pm
@Scottydamion,
Scottydamion;131993 wrote:
What philosophers do you feel thought up viral memes?


All the famous philosophers did, and the more famous, the more viral their memes. But sometimes these parasites have symbiotic intentions?

---------- Post added 02-24-2010 at 07:20 PM ----------

Scottydamion;131993 wrote:
Why do some absurd ideas stick for so long?

He had fixed so many problems with a screwdriver that he didn't want to believe a wrench was suddenly preferable. After all, he wasn't familiar with wrenches.

---------- Post added 02-24-2010 at 07:24 PM ----------

Scottydamion;131993 wrote:
There are analogies to viral memes when referring to ideas that seem to manipulate the host to think a certain way in order to "brainwash" that person into spreading the viral meme.

Sometimes a meme is good for an individual in the short term, but not perhaps for society at large considering its long term effects.

---------- Post added 02-24-2010 at 07:27 PM ----------

Scottydamion;131993 wrote:

I would also like to know how you think this idea might apply to philosophy.

Have you looked at the thread "Sentences are Viruses." This is a concentration on that sub-group of memes, thoughts-concepts-sentences-paragraphs. Text is viral. It's undead until the reader assimilates it into his/her network of belief and desires. Text is the RNA of a belief. Cold, passionless, lifeless, deathless. <--Assuming it can still be read by anyone.

---------- Post added 02-24-2010 at 07:28 PM ----------

Scottydamion;131993 wrote:

I was wondering what your thoughts were on this relatively new idea.

It's a great idea. And it's a great idea to start a thread on. Thanks!
 
sometime sun
 
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 06:32 pm
@Reconstructo,
All i know of is the Meme Machine by Susan Blackmore, been a while since i read it, but all i can remember is thinking, she has had the idea of a truth so it was not really her idea it was a fact not yet written about or named.
She did give it its name didn't she?
Will have to dig the book out.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 06:59 pm
@Scottydamion,
It just occurred to me that the concept of memes is itself a meme. That sort of thing amuses me, but I like Joseph Kosuth. Joseph Kosuth - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 
Scottydamion
 
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 07:25 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;132080 wrote:
It just occurred to me that the concept of memes is itself a meme. That sort of thing amuses me, but I like Joseph Kosuth. Joseph Kosuth - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Quit spreading the Joseph Kosuth meme Razz

Thank you guys for the input. I enjoy the idea in part because it may be an easier way of explaining evolution. People often get confused that there is some intent involved, especially when the term "natural selection" is brought up. Memes however are able to focus on a larger scale so to speak, and an easier form of reproduction, albeit much less enjoyable. I think it is hard to relate to small mutations at the DNA level, but give the following analogy:

Sit 20 people in a circle and tell them to pass a phrase from one to the next until they get back to where the first person was given the phrase.

That is a great example of how easy a mutation of a meme can occur, and I think helps point out the random nature of mutation (biological mutations at least) which is later applied to natural selection.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 08:08 pm
@Scottydamion,
Scottydamion;132094 wrote:

That is a great example of how easy a mutation of a meme can occur, and I think helps point out the random nature of mutation (biological mutations at least) which is later applied to natural selection.


I think it's risky to take the comparison of memes and genes too far. Genes require sex for transmission. Memes, generally, do not.
 
Scottydamion
 
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 08:13 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;132127 wrote:
I think it's risky to take the comparison of memes and genes too far. Genes require sex for transmission. Memes, generally, do not.


While I did mention that ("and an easier form of reproduction, albeit much less enjoyable), it is worth pointing out more explicitly.

The other issues are coming to terms with ideas such as free will as an illusion... it reminds me of the "thousand yard stare" one supposedly got after fighting in Vietnam (Full Metal Jacket is my reference here, lol). Once you understand the idea, it is hard to shake off no matter how it makes you feel.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 08:32 pm
@Scottydamion,
Scottydamion;132129 wrote:
While I did mention that ("and an easier form of reproduction, albeit much less enjoyable), it is worth pointing out more explicitly.

The other issues are coming to terms with ideas such as free will as an illusion... it reminds me of the "thousand yard stare" one supposedly got after fighting in Vietnam (Full Metal Jacket is my reference here, lol). Once you understand the idea, it is hard to shake off no matter how it makes you feel.


Sorry. I see what you meant now. You meant that memes could help explain genes to the less scientifically minded?

Is
free will an illusion? Is determinism an illusion? What if causality is transcendental? I think it's an open question. Kant tackled it. Is it a proof or a persuasion? What's the difference, right?
 
Scottydamion
 
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 08:43 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;132141 wrote:
Sorry. I see what you meant now. You meant that memes could help explain genes to the less scientifically minded?


Yes that is what I was trying to say, the examples are easier to relate to.

Quote:
Is free will an illusion? Is determinism an illusion? What if causality is transcendental? I think it's an open question. Kant tackled it. Is it a proof or a persuasion? What's the difference, right?


I think the hard part for most is it seems demeaning even though it is an open question. That the possibility of being a gear in a machine should never be discussed, because it gives no closure to the debate, it just adds another view, that it is perhaps an unanswerable question.
 
Emil
 
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 11:20 pm
@Scottydamion,
Scottydamion;132129 wrote:
While I did mention that ("and an easier form of reproduction, albeit much less enjoyable), it is worth pointing out more explicitly.

The other issues are coming to terms with ideas such as free will as an illusion... it reminds me of the "thousand yard stare" one supposedly got after fighting in Vietnam (Full Metal Jacket is my reference here, lol). Once you understand the idea, it is hard to shake off no matter how it makes you feel.


And genes do not require sex for reproduction. That is a quite dumb claim as the existence of artificial fertilization and non-sexual organisms is widely known.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Thu 25 Feb, 2010 02:26 am
@Scottydamion,
Scottydamion;132151 wrote:

I think the hard part for most is it seems demeaning even though it is an open question.


Yes, it's demeaning to some and to others perfect beauty. (Spinoza)
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Thu 25 Feb, 2010 04:13 am
@Scottydamion,
and just how are memes different from ideas? And why, again, do we think that such a thing as 'memes' exist? Isn't it just so Dawkins 'genetic ontology' can be extended into the noosphere?
 
Scottydamion
 
Reply Thu 25 Feb, 2010 01:01 pm
@Emil,
Emil;132211 wrote:
And genes do not require sex for reproduction. That is a quite dumb claim as the existence of artificial fertilization and non-sexual organisms is widely known.


Where did I mention sex in that post? I made a joke inferring our form of sexual reproduction, but do you think me ignorant of cellular biology?

*EDIT* Looking back I think I see what you were saying. Reconstructo said genes reproduce through sex, but I doubt he is ignorant of cellular biology either, it was probably just a badly put sentence. */EDIT*

---------- Post added 02-25-2010 at 01:03 PM ----------

jeeprs;132251 wrote:
and just how are memes different from ideas? And why, again, do we think that such a thing as 'memes' exist? Isn't it just so Dawkins 'genetic ontology' can be extended into the noosphere?


I tend to think it takes the "I" out of ideas. It makes us carriers in a sense and that helps us to study the spread of ideas. It is a useful concept even though I am not trying to say it should replace the term "idea".
 
Pepijn Sweep
 
Reply Thu 25 Feb, 2010 03:23 pm
@sometime sun,
sometime sun;132063 wrote:
All i know of is the Meme Machine by Susan Blackmore, been a while since i read it, but all i can remember is thinking, she has had the idea of a truth so it was not really her idea it was a fact not yet written about or named.
She did give it its name didn't she?
Will have to dig the book out.


I have read the same book; forgotten most of it... She bases her theory on Darkin if I remember well. I also go find the book and re-read it. The part about altruistic behaviour was interesting.:whoa-dude:
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Thu 25 Feb, 2010 09:49 pm
@Scottydamion,
Blackmore is a very odd person IMO. She started out life as a researcher into psychic phenomenon. Then she figured she couldn't get any results and switched sides to become a 'leading skeptic'. Writes columns and books defending materialism. She has now taken up writing about Buddhism, of all things. Very smart, but I don't know about wise.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Thu 25 Feb, 2010 10:09 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;132251 wrote:
and just how are memes different from ideas? And why, again, do we think that such a thing as 'memes' exist? Isn't it just so Dawkins 'genetic ontology' can be extended into the noosphere?


The concept of meme is a broader concept than that of idea, because memes are also practices, etc.

Actually the concept of meme might be too broad. It seems like something similar to cultural-atom, the byproduct of vivisecting cultures.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Thu 25 Feb, 2010 10:37 pm
@Scottydamion,
Anything other than Pop Sci that comes from the pen of Richard Dawkins fills me with a deep sense of distrust....
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Thu 25 Feb, 2010 10:39 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;132654 wrote:
Anything other than Pop Sci that comes from the pen of Richard Dawkins fills me with a deep sense of distrust....


I was disappointed to find out he had the "patent" on memes. I knew of the concept somehow w/o knowing its source.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Thu 25 Feb, 2010 10:44 pm
@Scottydamion,
well I think you have to have memes, in addition to genes, in order to account for that really complicated phenomenon known as 'human culture'. It is devilishly difficult to account for it in terms of molecular biology or adaptive necessity. So in true reductionist style, devise the intellectual equivalent of an atom as a kind of unit of meaning. Although it is not entirely without merit, I suppose. There is something in it.
 
 

 
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