Re: virus: Definition of meme (from alt.memetics)

David McFadzean (
Mon, 30 Dec 1996 11:49:23 -0700

At 09:13 AM 30/12/96 -0500, Alex Williams wrote:
>Now, David, we're not going to go head first back into the Zanderian
>Heresy debate again, are we?

Yes we are, I can't let you think you won :)

>There is not total commitment to the idea that there /can/ be `memes
>in transit' or `memes offline-stored.' See `conduit theory' in the ML

I think a total commitment is a little too much to ask for.

>(To sum for those that missed it the first time, myself and a handful
>of acolytes believe that memes can /only/ exist within the mind,
>cannot be translated or encoded in any way; what you transmit and
>encode are the /products/ of memes, behaviours and patterns of change
>in the environment.)

Here's my analysis: Alex wants to make the following changes to
the Virus doctrine:

1) Redefine memes to mean only "active memes", ie. memes in the mind.
2) Redefine stored memes, memes in transit, and otherwise "inactive memes"
as meme spoor.

After careful consideration, I'm still unconvinced that would be a
good idea. First of all, I see no inherent advantages to the new
naming scheme. Don't get me wrong, I think it is all-important to
distinguish between memes-in-the-mind, and that which is communicated
and stored, hence the modifiers "active" and "dormant" and "in transit",
etc. Secondly I think "spoor" is very confusing. As far as I know,
an animal as never been recreated from its tracks or trail. Finally,
and most importantly, changing the definition now would make everything
that has been written about memetics up to this point incoherent. Not
unlike changing the definition of "gene" so that genes cannot be said
to be transmitted from generation to generation.

So, on the off chance that my opinion carries any weight in this forum,
I suggest we keep the "old" definition of meme, at least until we have
a good reason for changing it. Anyone agree?

David McFadzean       
Memetic Engineer      
Church of Virus