Meme Hunt
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14-10-2010, 07:10 AM
Meme Hunt
Hey, erbody.

So the idea of the meme hunt, or possibly better stated as memocide, possibly, came up in another thread and I just wanted to talk about it here.

We all host memes. We are survival machines for memes just as we are survival machines for genes. We are, as Dr. Susan Blackmore calls us, meme machines.

There are many memes in the world, each competing with each other for space in the finite number of human brains. Some of these memes are selected on their own virtue while other memes "band together" and form memeplexes: meme networks of articulated memes that support one another, leading to greater selection for all the memes in the memeplex and that provide the network a resistance to invasion by other memes.

So, like I said, memes are in competition with each other. On an given day, that competition is governed by the same law that governs genes: the Law of Limited Competition (compete to the best of your ability but do not annihilate your competition or undermine their ability to compete). In genetic terms, violating this rule (sometimes called the annihilator strategy) leads to things like monocroping and speciocide. When you are bat-shit crazy and actually believe crap like eugenics, annihilator manifests itself in things like the Holocaust.

The annihilator strategy basically means, wipe out your competition any way you can. It is an, unfortunately, widespread strategy and has been for the last 5-10 000 years. It is a maladaptive strategy because it reduces diversity and, in genetics, invariably leads to ecosystem collapse. Thus it is self-eliminating. When applied to memetics, it generally leads to campaigns to stamp out memes. As I said in another thread:
Quote:...the meme host is targeted to get at the meme which means that knowledge is destroyed (book burnings, censorship, punishment for practicing your culture, forced re-education) and that individuals and/or entire populations get ostracised, banished, imprisoned, injured, tortured, starved, killed or damned.

History is replete with examples of all of these. I just wanted to bring all of this up because we're in the middle of some rather intense meme hunts.

A famous one is the fight between Atheists and Theists over evolution and creationism in the classroom. Each side wants to wipe out the other's memes.

Another good one was the McCarthy trials.

We also see it today with Islam, both from the extremist Islamics trying to spread their religion by force and in Western countries trying to undermine Islam or stamp it out. France recently banned the niqab for example and the US hasn't exactly been buddy-buddy with Islam for the last few years.

I wanted to start this thread to discuss the idea in general (y'know, just to hash things out) and because I read an article this morning that sparked something in my brain. It's about how during the Cold War, Canada had a plan in place to round up Communists if there was a national emergency. It was a good example of a modern meme hunt: communism being a memeplex that, in Canada and the US, was in direct competition with the capitalism memeplex.

Anyhoo, I'll leave it at that. It's early and I'm kinda loopy. I hope this wasn't too scatterbrained.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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14-10-2010, 08:01 PM
 
RE: Meme Hunt
I remember reading about memes in some of Dawkins' writings, but I have to say it's been a while, and I don't feel well-informed enough to comment.

Is a meme comparable to a "paradigm"?
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14-10-2010, 09:20 PM
RE: Meme Hunt
I often see the comparison of memes to genes. Personally, I don't see the value of memes beyond cultural identity. If we were to wipe out all memes today and start from scratch what would it hurt us as a species? True it would destroy society as we understand it and definitely crush culture, but we'd still survive and new memes would arise to take their place. This is not the case with genes.

No memes; we'd still have language but lose colloquialisms. We'd still have sex but lose gender roles. We'd still have food but lose recipes. We'd still have science but lose gaming. We'd still have wonder but lose religion. We'd still have races but lose racism. Architecture would survive. Art may not. There'd be exercise, but there'd be no sports. Families would survive; Family dynamics would disappear. Cities with no rivalries, nations with no nationalism. No economy but also no classism. No comedy but also no guilt. Desires without shame. No charity but plenty of empathy.

It's interesting to think about. I wonder, would the archetypes fade away, or are they in our genetic makeup? If so, many of the same ugly ideas would just bubble up all over again.
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14-10-2010, 10:31 PM
RE: Meme Hunt
Good points, gamutman. I am not sure how accurate these points are, partly because I am new to the idea of memes, but they are definitely food for thought. I think ideologies is a word that I am familiar with that is the closest fit for the term memes.
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16-10-2010, 09:33 AM
RE: Meme Hunt
Hey, Athnostic.

No. It's different. Dawkins is the originator of the idea. It first appeared (as meme, there were grandfather ideas before him) in his 1976 book, "The Selfish Gene." He postulated that Darwinism was universal, like math or physics and that it would work the same anywhere in the universe with any replicator one might find on some exotic world. He then thought about whether there was a second replicator on Earth. He realised that culture replicates itself and that the unit of that replication was the meme. Memes are subject to the same rules of Darwinism (variation, mutation, selection) as the gene replicator.

Hey, gamutman.

There is no way to wipe out all of the world's memes short of wiping out all of the world's humans, books, computers, pictures, paintings, etc... Human's, Homo sapiens sapiens, can no more function without memes than we can function without lungs.

Also, it's important to note, that memes, as with genes, are more important than the human organism. The human organism is merely a survival machine for genes and for memes. They don't care about us beyond our ability to protect them and transmit them.

That being said, if we somehow found some magical electromagnet that would delete all memes from the world, we would lose all languages along with colloquialisms. Sex and sexual dimorphism are genetic traits but patriarchy and matriarchy would both go. Eating genetic, recipes memetic. Science, the method, and science, the accumulation of knowledge, and science, our ability to employ it, would be gone and so would gaming. The idea of race would be gone along with racism. Architecture and art, the physical structures, would remain, but we would not be able to replicate them, or understand their aesthetic meaning. Exercise science and kinesiology would be gone along with sports, but we'd retain our metabolic pathways. Heredity would survive along with child rearing (because human babies can't survive without it) but the idea of the family won't necessarily survive and family dynamics would be out the window. Cities, the structure, would survive, but cities, the strategy, would disappear. Competition would remain, but war (as a strategy rather than a reaction) would not. Nationalism would disappear only because nations would disappear. Classism would disappear because the economy would. Laughter would remain but the sum total of jokes would not. Guilt, desire and shame, are emotions, so they would remain, but the social rules that we believe make us guilty, covetous and shamed would disappear. Empathy is a genetic ability but charity (not a synonym for altruism) would go the way of the dodo. Anything that is cultural, fashion, political borders, flight, anything that doesn't come soft-wired into our brains at birth, would go.

The most important part of losing language, is that language isn't just the way we communicate, it is the basis of our mental construct of reality. Look around you and try to comprehend what's around you without using language. It's impossible. Abstracting the universe into discrete symbols that can be stored in the mind, meditated on and communicated is one of the primary functions of language. Homo sapiens without language are not Homo sapiens.

But this is the entire point of meme hunts. Memes form the basis of and transmit culture. When one culture believes that it is the right way, then all other ways are necessarily the wrong way. Because culture is transmissible, those wrong ways can invade the "right" culture, undermine it and even eliminate it. Therefore, the wrong culture must be wiped out.

Wade Davis, resident anthropologist at National Geographic has said many times in many ways:
Quote:-Every language is an old-growth forest of the mind...

-...other peoples are not failed attempts at being us. They're not failed attempts to keep up with the pace of history. They're not failed attempts to be modern. On the contrary, they are, by definition, unique answers to a fundamental question: what does it mean to be human and alive? And when the peoples of the world answer that question, they do so in at least 7,000 different voices, and those voices become our collective repertoire for dealing with the challenges that will confront us as a species in the ensuing millennia.

-Language isn't just a body of vocabulary or a set of grammatical rules; it's a flash of the human spirit, the vehicle through which the soul of each particular culture comes into the material world. When you and I were born there were 6,000 languages spoken on Earth. Now, fully half are not being taught to schoolchildren. Effectively, they're already dead unless something changes. What this means is that we are living through a period of time in which, within a single generation or two, by definition half of humanity's cultural legacy is being lost in a single generation. Whereas cultures can lose their language and maintain some semblance of their former selves, in general, it's the beginning of a slippery slope towards assimilation and acculturation and, in some sense, annihilation.

Memes are not just a nifty idea. They are an inextricable part of how we view the world and our place in it and how we prosecute our lives. Losing them is disastrous in terms of losing our knowledge and understanding of the universe and disastrous in terms of losing our ability to survive in it. Try surviving without making and using tools. Our society, our species, was made possible because some early version of us sat down, learned how to chip rocks to make axes and learned how to pass that knowledge on.

The loss of memetic diversity is devastating to us as a species. But to memes, who replicate selfishly and don't care about their survival machines beyond what we can do for them, like the corporate lackey, cares only for quarterly gains and not the big picture. The Catholic memeplex would like nothing more than to wipe out all competing memes in the world because there'd be more room for Catholicism. Same with science. Same with corporatism. Same with any memeplex. But that short-sighted selfish goal is not only devastating, but ultimately self-eliminating because diversity is what protects us from change and keeps us alive.

It is important to note that memes simply compete with one another. Just like genes. (Memes and genes also compete with each other, act as selection pressures and limiting factors on each other and can also co-evolve) Neither memes nor genes have an inherent desire to wipe out their competition. This is the ESS because wiping out competition is self-eliminating. Do it if you want but you’ll kill yourself in the process so it’s a more stable strategy to not do it. Naturally, genes and memes follow the Law of Limited Competition. Currently, there are a few memes that are driving entire cultures to break this law and to commit memocide. The first is, our way is the only right way. The second is, all people must be made to live like us. The third is, wipe out your competition. The fourth is, take what you need in whatever quantity you need by whatever means necessary. These four memes (there's a few others I'm not thinking of) form the basis of a powerful and utterly maladaptive memeplex that has worked its way into the fabric of almost every culture on earth. If it isn't stopped, it will kill us all.

Hey, No. J.

An ideology is a memeplex. A memeplex is a network of articulated memes that self-support one another. For example, apple pie and baseball are memes of the American memeplex. These memes support one another and increase the chances of each being selected. Communism, Christianity, Fascism, Monarchy, Confucianism, are all memeplexes.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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16-10-2010, 09:52 AM
RE: Meme Hunt
That post really helped me understand memes better. Thanks for that Matt.

So many cats, so few good recipes.
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16-10-2010, 08:34 PM
RE: Meme Hunt
(16-10-2010 09:33 AM)Ghost Wrote:  Hey, gamutman.

There is no way to wipe out all of the world's memes short of wiping out all of the world's humans, books, computers, pictures, paintings, etc... Human's, Homo sapiens sapiens, can no more function without memes than we can function without lungs.

Also, it's important to note, that memes, as with genes, are more important than the human organism. The human organism is merely a survival machine for genes and for memes. They don't care about us beyond our ability to protect them and transmit them.

That being said, if we somehow found some magical electromagnet that would delete all memes from the world, we would lose all languages along with colloquialisms. Sex and sexual dimorphism are genetic traits but patriarchy and matriarchy would both go. Eating genetic, recipes memetic. Science, the method, and science, the accumulation of knowledge, and science, our ability to employ it, would be gone and so would gaming. The idea of race would be gone along with racism. Architecture and art, the physical structures, would remain, but we would not be able to replicate them, or understand their aesthetic meaning. Exercise science and kinesiology would be gone along with sports, but we'd retain our metabolic pathways. Heredity would survive along with child rearing (because human babies can't survive without it) but the idea of the family won't necessarily survive and family dynamics would be out the window. Cities, the structure, would survive, but cities, the strategy, would disappear. Competition would remain, but war (as a strategy rather than a reaction) would not. Nationalism would disappear only because nations would disappear. Classism would disappear because the economy would. Laughter would remain but the sum total of jokes would not. Guilt, desire and shame, are emotions, so they would remain, but the social rules that we believe make us guilty, covetous and shamed would disappear. Empathy is a genetic ability but charity (not a synonym for altruism) would go the way of the dodo. Anything that is cultural, fashion, political borders, flight, anything that doesn't come soft-wired into our brains at birth, would go.

The most important part of losing language, is that language isn't just the way we communicate, it is the basis of our mental construct of reality. Look around you and try to comprehend what's around you without using language. It's impossible. Abstracting the universe into discrete symbols that can be stored in the mind, meditated on and communicated is one of the primary functions of language. Homo sapiens without language are not Homo sapiens.

I was speaking poetically about wiping out memes, and of course you're right about everything you said, but I do want to defend a few of my inclusions.

Race would still exist although the idea of race (you are correct) would not. Language, in the sense of English, French, Farsi et al, would of course disappear. However, body language is innate and grunts and inflections do count as language. Family - I am pretty sure - is also innately understood. And finally, while guilt is an emotional response, it is a response to memetically learned roots. So until there were new memes telling us that something is shameful, there'd be no guilt.

As for science, you are 100% correct. I was thinking that the benefits of science would remain, but without an understanding of how to apply them (which is memetic) it may as well have all gone away. Architecture, on the other hand, would still be functional and immediately understood. The purpose of a window and a door is the same and needs no explanation whether the window is a sash type or a portal on a boat. Finally, when I said exercise I meant running jumping and anything aerobic. Perhaps I should have said play.
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17-10-2010, 12:44 PM
RE: Meme Hunt
Hey, gamutman.

Not that I want this to become a thread about what a meme is but you're somewhat off in what you said.

Quote:Race would still exist although the idea of race (you are correct) would not. Language, in the sense of English, French, Farsi et al, would of course disappear. However, body language is innate and grunts and inflections do count as language. Family - I am pretty sure - is also innately understood. And finally, while guilt is an emotional response, it is a response to memetically learned roots. So until there were new memes telling us that something is shameful, there'd be no guilt.

As for science, you are 100% correct. I was thinking that the benefits of science would remain, but without an understanding of how to apply them (which is memetic) it may as well have all gone away. Architecture, on the other hand, would still be functional and immediately understood. The purpose of a window and a door is the same and needs no explanation whether the window is a sash type or a portal on a boat. Finally, when I said exercise I meant running jumping and anything aerobic. Perhaps I should have said play.

Race is a construct. There would still be people with white and black and red and yellow and brown skin, but the concept of race would be gone. That is to say, the cultural significance of those differences would be gone along with the practice of dividing them into groups in the first place. This is not to say that it would not some day be replaced, but that the idea as we know it would cease to exist.

Your language theory is incorrect. While the waggle and round dances of bees constitute an instinctual langue that requires no education, human language is meaningless without semiotic meaning. That is to say that asside from being effective indicators of mood, gestures and grunts have no meaning without language. Homo hablis was a meme transmitter but did not have our vocal chords. In fact, our vocal chords are the result of a meme-gene co-evolution that began with that species. The evolution of the vocal chord allowed us to be better meme transmitters, not meme transmitters in the first place. All of that being said, human meme transmission is as effective as it is because of syntax. Without memes, the sum total of current syntactical rules would disapear.

Like I said, heredity and child care would remain because those are genetic imperatives. But mother, father, mating for life, marriage, cousins, second cousins and not to mention the ridiculously detailed names for relatives in an Indian language, I can't remember which, would be gone.

As for the guilt thing, you repeated what I'd already said so we agree. To a point. The ability to identify the self as an individual and therefore, another as an individual is the process that allows us to feel remourse for treating others poorly, an ability not present in psychopaths. This is a process learned in infancy. So one could still feel guilt without memes.

I don't see how the benefits of science could remain. We would have no way to access or apply the information and no way to use the technology we have created.

Architecture would not be immediately understood. Without memes we would not know the meaning of roof, door, window, latch, carpet, gothic, art deco, etc... Without memes, you would have no concept of the function of windows. Why would you open one when you didn't know they opened? Without memes we couldn't build grass huts, let alone unlock deadbolts.

Not sure what you're saying about play.

The important thing here is the significance of memes. Anything you can think of that is not a universal human behaviour (like eating, breathing, having sex, fighting) and that has variation from culture to culture, is a meme. It is a cultural trait transmitted by memes.

So while the notion that wiping out all memes is simply an interesting thought exercise, the notion of wiping out competing memes is the definition of a meme hunt. The importance of understanding what memes are is that it allows us to better identify when meme hunts are occuring.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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17-10-2010, 10:30 PM
 
RE: Meme Hunt
(16-10-2010 09:33 AM)Ghost Wrote:  Hey, Athnostic.

No. It's different. Dawkins is the originator of the idea. It first appeared (as meme, there were grandfather ideas before him) in his 1976 book, "The Selfish Gene." He postulated that Darwinism was universal, like math or physics and that it would work the same anywhere in the universe with any replicator one might find on some exotic world. He then thought about whether there was a second replicator on Earth. He realised that culture replicates itself and that the unit of that replication was the meme. Memes are subject to the same rules of Darwinism (variation, mutation, selection) as the gene replicator.

That helps a lot. Thanks, Ghost!
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18-10-2010, 01:52 AM
 
RE: Meme Hunt
I'm afraid I find any debate about a counterfactual hypothesis (i.e., wiping out all memes at once) to be of only mild interest at most, especially given that there's no way actually to accomplish that, short of the extinction of the human species.

But thanks for the information about memes, Matt.
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