Re: virus: Maximum development of memes

John Porter (
Mon, 10 Jun 1996 15:18:14 -0400

So we need to consider the question of what constitutes a successful meme.
The salient feature of a meme is that it propagates from mind to mind.
If a meme "does this job well", it propagates quickly.

The number of minds currently hosting a meme is dependent on other factors --
environmental factors -- as well. It would be a very poor measure of a meme's

But there is another aspect, which is that the "success" criteria of a meme
may be embodied in the meme itself. In Vicki's hypothetical meme
"Tell me to one other person, then forget me", as long as that's what
people did with this meme, then the meme is successful by its own measure.
Other memes in the community of memes may not be so generous in their
judgement of this meme.

Vicki Rosenzweig wrote:
> This raises an interesting question. I've tended to think of a successful
> meme as one that has lots of hosts, rather than one that propagates
> quickly. For example, consider a hypothetical meme of the form
> "tell one friend about me, then forget I existed." Such a meme could
> propagate quickly, but only ever have one host. I'm not convinced that
> this meme would be more successful than one that was held by a billion
> people, each of who did their best to pass it to their children.

John Porter