What is the mechanism that permits Mr. Underdog, to beat out Mr. Top Dog, in the 21st Century, where the Internet has accelerated the evolution of the human brain? What is the most modern notion of how ideas alter culture that is also the most ancient mechanism of the evolution of culture? And why is this mechanism so difficult for companies to understand? What is the most cost effective way to capture the imagination of large groups of customers?


The answer to that question is found in the notion of meme, which rhymes with gene, which was first stated in 1976, by a geneticist, named Richard Dawkins.

Memes is a concept, which explains how ideas replicate themselves; how ideas jump from brain to brain, how the virus mechanism of the Internet works, and how products can become "instant" intrinsic facets of pop culture, in the way that human replicate themselves through their genes. Memes are the "idea genes" of our brains.

Here's a hint: Just think of the Internet as the medium of the meme, which is just like an infectious plague of beaudacity.




Tony Lezard: Richard Dawkins, who coined the word in his, book The Selfish

Gene defines the meme as simply a unit of intellectual or cultural

information that survives long enough to be recognized as such, and which

can pass from mind to mind. There's not much of a sense of describing

thought processes, but nor is it just a model. As Richard Dawkins writes

(this is from memory), "God indeed exists, if only as a pattern in brain

structures replicated across the minds of billions of people throughout the

world." (Of course the patterns aren't physically identical, but they

represent the same thing.)


Richard Dawkins: Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes

fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches. Just as genes propagate

themselves in the gene pool by leading from body to body via sperm or eggs,

so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to

brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation. If a

scientist hears, or reads about, a good idea, he passes it on to his

colleagues and students. He mentions it in his articles and his lectures. If

the idea catches on, it can be said to propagate itself, spreading from

brain to brain.

Memes should be regarded as living structures, not just metaphorically but

technically. When you plant a fertile meme in my mind, you literally

parasitize my brain, turning it into a vehicle for the meme's propagation in

just the way that a virus may parasitize the genetic mechanism of a host

cell. And this isn't just a way of talking -- the meme for, say, 'belief in

life after death' is actually realized physically, millions of times over,

as a structure in the nervous systems of people all over the world.


Glenn Grant: Meme (pron. meem): A contagious information pattern that

replicates by parasitically infecting human minds and altering their

behavior, causing them to propagate the pattern. (Term coined by Dawkins, by

analogy with "gene".) Individual slogans, catch-phrases, melodies, icons,

inventions, and fashions are typical memes. An idea or information pattern

is not a meme until it causes someone to replicate it, to repeat it to

someone else. All transmitted knowledge is memetic.


H. Keith Henson: A meme survives in the world because people pass it on to

other people, either vertically to the next generation, or horizontally to

our fellows. This process is analogous to the way willow genes cause willow

trees to spread them, or perhaps closer to the way cold viruses make us

sneeze and spread them.


Heith Michael Rezabek: My favorite example of a crucial meme would be "fire"

or more importantly, "how to make a fire." This is a behavioral meme, mind

you, one which didn't necessarily need a word attached to it to spring up

and spread, merely a demonstration for another to follow. Once the meme was

out there, it would have spread like wildfire, for obvious reasons... But

when you start to think of memes like that -- behavioral memes -- then you

can begin to see how language itself, the idea of language, was a meme.

Writing was a meme. And within those areas, more specific memes emerged.


Lee Borkman: Memes, like genes, vary in their fitness to survive in the

environment of human intellect. Some reproduce like bunnies, but are very

short-lived (fashions), while others are slow to reproduce, but hang around

for eons (religions, perhaps?). Note that the fitness of the meme is not

necessarily related to the fitness that it confers upon the human being who

holds it. The most obvious example of this is the "Smoking is Cool" meme,

which does very well for itself while killing off its hosts at a great rate.


Back to The Triode Guild               Back to Meta-Gizmo   

e-mail Dr. Harvey "Gizmo" Rosenberg:

Copyright 2001 and Dr. Harvey "Gizmo" Rosenberg      All rights reserved.
All the material contained within the above articles may not be reproduced without his express permission