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

Alexander Williams (
Mon, 30 Dec 1996 14:59:18 -0500

David McFadzean wrote:
> Yes we are, I can't let you think you won :)

I thought we'd agreed that there was disagreement and left it at that;
how foolishly optimistic I be. :)

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

Actually, I don't want to redefine Viral doctrine; I'm content leading a
tiny group of heretics (Cleese: Splitters!) who hold to a different

As we've already established, homogenous groups have no internal
motivation toward evolution. Let's keep diversity alive! Altogether

> 1) Redefine memes to mean only "active memes", ie. memes in the mind.

Its actually possible, I'd say, to have `inactive memes' in the mind,
memes not actively directly affecting the behaviour of the organism but
passively being referenced by or referencing other memes.

> 2) Redefine stored memes, memes in transit, and otherwise "inactive memes"
> as meme spoor.

There's a reason I use the word "spoor," see below. I'd never suggest
my usage as the `proper scientific name of the beast', though. Its far
too rough and ready. :)

> 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.

No meme has ever been flawlessle recreated from an examination of its
spoor, either. From studying the tracks, droppings and trails of an
animal, a hunter may get a pretty good idea of the kind it is, its
habits, how old it is, if its wounded, and a hundred other things
depending on how well the tracks are laid and the hunter's experience,
/even if he's never see this animal before/. Likewise, memes leave
spoor in language, art, image, scrawl, voice, a hundred thousand tracks
that are left, sometimes deliberately, for others to find and get /an
idea of/ the depositor. They do not get the depositor.

Btw, technically `genes' /aren't/ passed from generation to generation.
At some point the DNA splits and RNA starts doing the copying; at such
point the "genes" are no longer coherent entities, they're read and
interpreted by amino acids to copy, and errors can occur, etc.

> 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?

In the off chance my opinion carries any weight /anywhere/, I vote I
remain a heretic but that the schism be conveyed whenever it comes up
since it does draw attention to important points. :)

   Alexander Williams { /}
  Prefect of the 8,000,000th Terran Overlord Government Experimental
      Strike Legion, Primary Transport TOG "Bellatores Inquieti"
   You ride in 250 tons of molecularly aligned crystalline titanium
wedded to a ceramic ablative matrix.  You carry a 200mm Gauss
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missiles, a Vulcan IV point defense anti-missile system, and a
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   Your vehicle is the ultimate product of 4,000 years of armored
   Your life expectancy is less than two minutes.