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#118802 - 01/04/04 07:38 PM meme  
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meme.
this word is rampant in political blogs these days, and I'm wondering if there's some information about its use; when it started making the rounds, etc.
it seems a useful little word, but people are beginning to express their displeasure at seeing it.
thoughts?



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#118803 - 01/04/04 08:13 PM Re: meme  
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I don't know enough about the word to discuss it. Quinion does at:
http://www.worldwidewords.org/topicalwords/tw-mem1.htm

But after reading it, I still can't discuss it.


#118804 - 01/04/04 08:31 PM Re: meme  
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that's a very interesting article Bill, thanks. I'll have to read it several more times...



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#118805 - 01/04/04 08:38 PM Re: meme  
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Te Ika a Maui
So, the good doctor is saying that the meme chose us. Plus ša change.


#118806 - 01/04/04 08:56 PM Re: the chosen one  
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mama meme-ah!



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#118807 - 01/04/04 10:19 PM Re: meme  
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the meme chose us

I knew *you'd get it, Max. You're welcome.


#118808 - 01/04/04 10:24 PM Re: meme  
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I think it's a good concept and should be worked with. It's bound to spawn some whacked notions; whether Ms. Blackmore's is one of these, I couldn't tell, but we'll never know if we reject it out of hand.


#118809 - 01/04/04 10:26 PM Re: meme  
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Te Ika a Maui
No, no, I knew you'd get my (very) implicit doff of the hat. I figured it wasn't worth endangering your reputation by publicly outing you as a pun-maker.


#118810 - 01/04/04 10:35 PM Re: meme  
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I like to think that my puns are good.


#118811 - 01/04/04 10:48 PM Re: meme  
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Your puns are good, it's just that I had the impression that, here at least, you sought to project an anti-pun stance. I didn't want to jeopardise that by revealing your facility at making them.


#118812 - 01/04/04 10:49 PM Re: meme  
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Better than your buns.


#118813 - 01/04/04 11:40 PM Re: meme  
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when i first started posting here, there was a thread (tsuwm started i think) about favorite words.. meme one was on the list (i remember grok and parallex were mine for sure,) i like meme too, --i first heard it about 10 years ago --i knew it for sure in 1994--maybe a bit before that-- but i don't remember who posted it as favorite..

you could look up when i became a member-- and start looking about that time.. (i don't know if search will pull it up, it was that long ago.)

ideas can perculate-gernerate-spread- through the world so that 'the same thing' shows up at the same time in different places (like radio's-- Marconni is one name i associate with radio's, but the was another person, who came up with the same concept at all most the same time)

it sometimes happens with new technologies.. ideas are born, in several places, at the same time, and spread through a system faster than other information... they take on a life of there own!


#118814 - 01/04/04 11:58 PM Re: meme-ories...  
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well, that was a fun time-trip! it was in 2000 that meme came up, Helen. it is sure making the blogs rounds now...



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#118815 - 01/05/04 12:01 AM Re: meme-ories...  
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well, many saw it here first!


#118816 - 01/05/04 12:20 PM Re: meme  
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an anti-pun stance

A good pun should involve, at least tangentially, both* meanings of the word or words used. Seeing how many ways you can warp some theme into a totally unrelated topic doesn't work for me. I try to avoid these fests but sometimes they just get the better of me.

*Or, in a really good pun, three or more.


#118817 - 01/05/04 04:23 PM Re: meme  
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Gee - and retro ol' me has been calling it "the grapevine" all this time.


#118818 - 01/05/04 04:39 PM Re: puns  
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I miss TEd.


#118819 - 01/06/04 04:46 AM Re: book recommendation!!  
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I'm wondering if there's some information about its use; when it started making the rounds

I can add a little to wwh's link, eta... I first read it in the same book, 'The Selfish Gene'. It was a path breaking book that came out in the seventies and has gone into innumerable editions and reprints since. A fascinating concept, amongst many, that he espoused in the book, was that of memes. It was a bird from NZ, Max, and its song (I forget thename) that first ignited this theory. Memes are meant to rhyme with gene and just like genes are the units of biological evolution/heredity, memes are the units of cultural evolution. (Language & Instinct over in miscellany come right in! ) Memes are ideas, catch phrases, songs, poetry, folklore, fashion; anything that is transimtted down the generations culturally, not by heredity and that itself evolves as well as spawns evolution. Think about it....an idea evolves over time; the same idea also changes the way we think!
.......Strong examples are religion, faith, and folklore.

Dawkins calls all life forms on earth, survival machines, and strongly argues the case for ruthless selfishness as the dominant attribute necessary for a successful gene. Primordial life was dominated by a molecule called the 'Replicator' - one that had the unique capacity for making copies of itself. Genes and DNA are their modern equivalent. In the primordial soup, there was a finite limit to how many replicators could be housed and to endure the intense competition for survival, different features aimed at increasing longevity and propagation were developed and the successful ones naturally went on to stay and replicate further. Successful replicators also needed to protect themselves from the physical onslaught of the environment and therefore started first by building walls of protein around themselves; they now had a nicely walled home, much like a hoarding ( Hi Bill!) and turned themselves into a composite unit called a survival machine. These early protective membranes, walls and coats steadily got bigger and more complex and slowly but surely morphed into body shapes of viruses, bacteria, amoebae, plankton, plants, animals and, yes! the human body too! This is where the lady in Quinion's site, comes in with her comment on the brain and memes....the brain is the survival machine of the memes!!

According to Dawkins, the three features that determine a successful gene/meme/replicator: longevity, fecundity and copying fidelity. For a gene or, in case of a meme, an ideology, fashion, thought, behaviour, song, etc., to be transmitted over generations, they should be able to survive, they should propagate/proliferate rapidly and they should be true copies or close. It is in the last trait, copying fidelity, that the meme theory and its similarity to genes comes a little unstuck. One has only to think of first hand information, second hand stories, hearsay, to understand the weakness of memes with copying. But, Dawkins explains that away by dividing both genes and memes into units, large and small, the essence and the interpretation. That is to say, that even if an idea has mutated in transmission, the essence of the idea that is the true copy, demonstrates copying fidelity in tranmission. It is only the interpretations that are not exact imitations of the original. The true meme is the essence and is transmitted rather faithfully; the interpretations are therefore mere distractions from the original.

Hope I didn't bore you guys; it just is a most fascinating subject and I have a problem with droning on about stuff like this, if given half a chance!



#118820 - 01/06/04 11:04 AM Re: book recommendation!!  
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Gotta argue with the 'true copy' aspect of the above, at least in one aspect. The copies must be, and are, in genetics as well as memetics, untrue copies or there would be no change over time, and we can all see that there is change over time. The offspring that improve in their changes will outperform those that stay the same or become worse. The mechanisms for change might be different in genetics and in memetics and may proceed at different rates but both must incorporate change.


#118821 - 01/06/04 02:15 PM Re: book recommendation!!  
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Maahey, what an amazing mind you have! [deep bow of admiration] Thank you.


#118822 - 01/06/04 02:35 PM Re: book recommendation!!  
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Maahey comprehends the incomprehensible.


#118823 - 01/06/04 02:59 PM Re: book recommendation!!  
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I first encountered the word in Dawkins book, and in The Selfish Gene he claims to have coined it, however I seem to remember some brouhaha a few years ago when an earlier usage was pointed out.


#118824 - 01/06/04 03:58 PM Re: book recommendation!!  
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> an earlier usage

you mean it was pre-memed? oi, so now we need a word for a self-referencing meme...


#118825 - 01/06/04 07:04 PM Re: book recommendation!!  
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Thanks for that, Maahey.

I first heard of memes, also, when I read The Selfish Gene, way back in my Uni years - early '80s. I think the book came out in '76, didn't it?

The philosopher Daniel Dennett, in Darwin's Dangerous Idea also favours the concept and makes much use of it. In fact Dennett and Dawkins form something of a mutual admiration society - they are both also founder/supporters of the 'brights' idea (a coined word, meant to become a meme, that is supposed to represent atheists, but remove the atheist connotation, just as 'gay' has replaced 'homosexual' and a number of other terms).

Susan Blackmore's book The meme machine is well worth reading, in my opinion. It can be a bit depressing at times, because if your body is built of genes, and your mind of memes, then where's the space left for whatever it is you think of as 'you'? In the end, though, it's a heartening vision of yourself, as a tinkered together machine, home to all these replicators, that has nevertheless managed to create (even if only as an epiphenomenon), a sense of self, of being at one with the stars, and of creating its own meaning in an otherwise meaningless universe.

I'm glad that memes are finding favour, even if some view the idea with disapprobation.

cheer

the sunshine warrior


#118826 - 01/06/04 11:16 PM Re: book recommendation!!  
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disapprobation

I think some folks are just getting tired of hearing it used for every little thing in every little blog.
thanks, Maahey for that elucidation. I still need to spend some think time and really get my head around the concept. I can see it, but i can't feel it yet.
perhaps I need to consult my mitochondria...


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#118827 - 01/07/04 01:14 AM Re: book recommendation!!  
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some folks are just getting tired of hearing it used for every little thing in every little blog.

It's a question of whether you can blame the word for its misuse at the hands of the unthinking.


#118828 - 01/07/04 01:23 AM Re: book recommendation!!  
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blame the word for its misuse
one shouldn't, should one?
but is there a "jump the shark" meme?



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#118829 - 01/07/04 01:25 AM Re: book recommendation!!  
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a "jump the shark" meme?

You lost me, cygne.


#118830 - 01/07/04 01:28 AM Re: book recommendation!!  
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Could animals responses to body language be called memes?
For instance when I am out walking, and a cat that has never seen me before exhibits anxiety, if I walk around it,
the anxiety immediately subsides.


#118831 - 01/07/04 01:34 AM Re: book recommendation!!  
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http://www.jumptheshark.com/
jump the shark is an expression getting lots of ink these days, and I'm curious as to whether the concept could be considered a meme. it's almost like the straw that broke the camel's back, or the one-hundredth monkey... I'm seeing these waves, trends that push forward and then fall back as the shark gets jumped, as the straw gets placed. as I write this, I think the hundredth monkey idea doesn't quite fit. but it's getting me thinking. again, I can't quite feel this. or maybe I can feel it, but can't quite touch it...
I'll shutup now.
oh, and Bill, probably. response to external stimulus could qualify as a meme, no?



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#118832 - 01/07/04 11:58 AM Re: Jumping sharks  
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I'm still baffled by this 'jump the shark' thing. I also think we should be careful in distinguishing between memes and instinctive responses. I would classify the cat's reactions as instinctive or a result of personal learning. Hunting behaviour might be memetic or a combination of memetic and genetic. There was a great scene in Jurassic Park II when the main bad guy got caught on the ship the were using to ship the T. rex family back to the island; the mommy and daddy T. rex had the baby in tow and one of them picked up the bad guy by the collar and dropped him alive in front of the baby, the other nudging the baby toward the petrified human. It looked just like a mama cat teaching her kittens by dropping a live mouse in front of them.


#118833 - 01/07/04 03:36 PM Re: book recommendation!!  
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Jackie, my dear,...you are too kind..it wasn't MY mind you know! Still, I shall treasure the comment!

Faldage, about coyping..As with *anything that is copied, errors WILL happen. One of the beautiful things about genetics is that whilst copying errors are a prerequisite for evolution, it is equally important to maintain copying fidelity. This is not paradoxical; you just have to listen to the gene's side of the story and also to the perspecive of the species. For the GENE to be successful and survive, it must be transmitted in its exacting entirety through to the next generation/s. For the SPECIES however, variation in the form of copying errors or otherwise is essential to successfully evolve. The balance between the two is necessary and crucial for life. Sexual reproduction helps immensely in bringing in variation by intermixing genetic information.

As for memes, the *transmission is key. It must be VERTICALLY transmitted to another generation; till then it cannot qualify. Just horizontal or lateral transmission satisfies only the fecundity rule, and that relegates it to the status of a fad, not a meme! ..says the meme with nose in air and haughty snort

Faldage nailed it on the animal response. Bill, the cat's response is reflex, instinctive or learned. If it has learnt this from its parents or family and if that learning is clearly not associated with a gene and is only acquired, then it qualifies for a meme.

Faldage, you can visualise 'jump the shark'; they have it in a picture there; sort of cresting a pass and everything downhill after that! DOes anyne remember that thread? thanks eta, shall surprise the folk at work tomorrow with that!


#118834 - 01/07/04 04:09 PM Re: book recommendation!!  
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Fear or avoidance responses do not seem to be learned. All living things have them in some form. They must be genetically transmitted. Same goes for mating activities.


#118835 - 01/07/04 04:14 PM Re: book recommendation!!  
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I agree with you Bill. Fear is hard-wired into the amygdala, eh? But the reaction of the cat to your walking around it or talking softly to it is learned. A domestic cat would behave differently from a wild cat if you talked softly to it, wouldn't it? That is what I was referring to.

EDIT:
Dear Bill, I think I misread walking around. I associated it with the anxiety dipping down and assumed that you were walking in a way that made it calmer. I have a finely developed repertoire of eccentric behaviour (to humans at least!) around animals that always seem to calm them down and make them more friendly. I see now, you were only talking about the cat's fear.


#118836 - 01/07/04 04:23 PM Re: book recommendation!!  
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And a dog that has been beaten will react differently to the sight of a stick than will a dog that has not been beaten. The fear may be hard-wired but the object to be feared can be learned.


#118837 - 01/07/04 05:07 PM Re: jump the shark  
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How long have you not had TV, Faldage? "Jump the shark" originated with an episode of Happy Days in which The Fonz was surfing and ... literally jumped a shark on his board. That apparently has become accepted as the point where the series lost it and headed downhill. The term has since been extended to any television show which has overstayed its welcome and become too silly, even for willing suspension of disbelief.


#118838 - 01/07/04 05:53 PM Re: book recommendation!!  
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Dear Faldage: I had a dog that would threaten to bite me when I held a handkerchief covering my face, and made growling sounds. I became a stranger; xenophobia is innate in both animals and humans. And a dog doesn't have to be hit with a stick to avoid a human with one in his hand.


#118839 - 01/07/04 05:58 PM Re: book recommendation!!  
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Unless he associates it with 'fetch.'


#118840 - 01/07/04 06:05 PM Re: book recommendation!!  
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Dear Faldage: how do you explain the willingness of retrievers to retrieve, and a Border Collie's just acting frighted of a ball in my hand? I never knew a Border Collie, smart as they are to learn to fetch. Given commands they have been taught, they will cut a single desired ewe out of a distant group, and drive it into an enclsure. But though I tried many times, I could never teach a Border Collie to play any kind of game.


#118841 - 01/07/04 06:16 PM Re: book recommendation!!  
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It is, of course, not a simple matter of genetics vs memetics. You can teach a retriever to fetch, but, I'm sure, if you beat one with a stick often enough you can teach it to fear sticks. Maybe you could teach the border collie to herd a giant fuzzy ball.


#118842 - 01/07/04 06:31 PM Re: Happy Days  
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Thanks for the explanation, Nancy! I used to watch that show but since missed all "jump the shark" references.


#118843 - 01/08/04 07:47 PM Don't think so...  
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Could animals responses to body language be called memes?
For instance when I am out walking, and a cat that has never seen me before exhibits anxiety, if I walk around it,
the anxiety immediately subsides.


Doc

A meme, as originally defined, was behaviour (or thought), learnt primarily through imitation (in fact Blackmore uses that in its strictest sense and does not consider other forms of learning.

A meme, then, is an 'idea', if you will, that multiplies by inhabiting more and more minds - a successful meme spreads like an epidemic.

eta - so yes, it could be a bit like the hundredth monkey urban myth (and it is a myth). The Salem witch hysteria, for instance (the behaviour of the accusing girls) would definitely be considered memetic. The spread of the use of the word meme itself (since it seems to be infesting the blogs) is also memetic.

Simple response to stimuli (Skinner's pigeons, for instance), even though it can lead to learned behaviour, should not be considered memetic.

Hope this helps.

cheer

the sunshine warrior





#118844 - 01/08/04 08:54 PM Re: Don't think so...  
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Dear Shanks: I was too much influenced by mention of genes
somewhere in the discussion. "If your're not confused, you just don't understand the situation." One experience I had a long time ago might fit. A neighbor whose garden was being robbed by starlings asked me to shoot them. They flew over a small building, behind which I could hide. I shot a couple dozen of them, and then bird started making detour around our property. Five years after the last time I shot one, the starlings were still making the detour around our
property. Would that fit? I'm just not able to master some of these lengthy discussions. Thanks for trying to help me. Bill


#118845 - 01/08/04 09:33 PM Re: Don't think so...  
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monkey urban myth (and it is a myth)
aw shucks, I liked that one.

ok, I think I'm beginning to get it. thanks, shanks.



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#118846 - 01/09/04 11:46 AM Re: Don't think so...  
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Arright. What's this 'hundredth monkey' thang? I've googled without success and I've gotta get out here and go to work.


#118847 - 01/09/04 12:50 PM Re: Hundredth monkey  
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Is it the one about the Complete Works of Oxford?


warning: cross-thread


#118848 - 01/09/04 01:53 PM Re: Hundredth monkey  
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That was infinite monkeys, IIRC. But hey, a hundred is just an iceberg away from infinity when it comes to monkeys. How many monkeys can dance on the head of a barrel?


Edit:

Found it.

http://www.worldtrans.org/pos/monkey.html

#118849 - 01/09/04 06:13 PM Re: Don't think so...  
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Posts: 1,004
shanks Offline
old hand
shanks  Offline
old hand

Joined: Mar 2000
Posts: 1,004
London, UK
Dear Doc

Five years after the last time I shot one, the starlings were still making the detour around our
property.


If these are not the same starlings who saw you with the gun, but are simply copying the others, then there's certainly a strong case for calling that memetic activity.

cheer

the sunshine warrior




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