RE: virus: ESS's and Punc. Equil.

Richard Brodie (
Tue, 22 Jun 1999 16:25:24 -0700

Tim wrote:

[RB] Memes do self-replicate by definition.

<<Nice circular logic ya got goin' there, Richard!

Memes are defined by you as "information which gets copies of itself made" so saying that they "self-replicate by definition" seems to be a bit of a there tautology isn't it?>>

Yes, that's what I'm saying. It is a tautology and therefore is beyond dispute. That's the definition of meme. They self-replicate. To say that memes don't self-replicate is to try to redefine meme, which I know some people are trying to do but after almost 25 years I really think it's nonproductive. They should come up with a different word if they don't like meme (mental self-replicator), memeplex (cultural self-replicator), or virus of the mind (same but with more negative connotation).

<<I'm well aware of the "intentional stance, thank you.>>

I know you are and I'm sorry if I implied otherwise. I was attempting to clarify the discussion by framing it.

<< Are you aware that

there are actual physical characteristics that are different in a self-replicating object (like a cell) and an externally replicated one (like book). I suspect any one of your programmer friends that works on anti-virus software would be willing to point them out for you.>>

No, I'm not aware of it and logically there is no difference. Each must somehow manipulate external raw materials into a new copy of itself.

The issue is further confused by talking about biological organisms as self-replicating. Very few of them are; it is the gene that neodarwinism calls the replicator and the selfish gene that evolves through natural selection.

<<Or you could try this experiment, put a living bacteria in a Petri dish
nutrients (food energy). And then beside it put a book in a bucket with wood
pulp, ink, binding glue, and some movable type. (Hell, maybe even toss in a whole printing press while your at it!) Now, come back later and see which one has made copies of itself.>>

OK, if you'll put a living bacterium and the text of Virus of the Mind into a copy machine and press the start button.

<<Saying that mind-viruses self-replicate does not imply that all memes do,
I'm sure you'll agree. (Unless you use that circular logic to define them that way.) And the distinction is important to those not wed to the mind-virus side of memetics.>>

Mind viruses are not memes. All memes self-replicate by definition. All mind viruses self-replicate by definition. A meme is one piece of mental information. A mind virus is a web of external artifacts, words, and so on.

[RB]>A lot of the confusion in memetics stems from not realizing there are more
>than one kind of cultural replicator.

<<And a lot of confusion in memetics also stems from expecting that everyone
wants to get the same level of description from their models as you do. Even if we're all taking about the same overall phenomena.

Are you willing to call all the cultural replicat(ors) "memes"?>>

No, see above.

<<And can you see how the difference between making-copies-of-yourself and
being-copied-by-another could be an important and necessary distinction for someone with interests in the process which are fundamentally different than yours?>>

No. In fact, the fact that there is no logical distinction is very important to the understanding of memetics.

Richard Brodie
Author, "Virus of the Mind: The New Science of the Meme" Free newsletter!