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Understanding Memetics – SCP Foundation

Summary, for those in a hurry:

Memetics deals with information transfer, specifically cultural information in society. The basic idea is to conflate the exchange of information between people with genetic material, to track the mutation of ideas as they are transmitted from one person to the next in the way you could track viral transmissions and mutations. However, a meme also provides benefits to the carrier if they spread it.

Meme : Memetics :: Gene : Genetics

Memetics does NOT refer to telepathy, ESP or any imaginary psychic mental magic. These words are memetic, and if you understand them then they are having a completely ordinary memetic effect on you.

Memetics in regards to SCP objects tends to focus on the impossible rather than the mundane, regarding effects that are transmitted via information. In general, the effects themselves should remain in the realm of information. A memetic SCP would be more likely to be a phrase that makes you think you have wings as opposed to a phrase that makes you actually grow a pair of wings. If you write up magic words that make people grow wings, it should be described as something other than memetic.

Memetic SCPs do not emanate auras or project beams. They are SCPs which involve ideas and symbols which trigger a response in those who understand them.

Memetic is often incorrectly used by new personnel as the official sounding term for “Weird Mind Shit.” However, that is not actually what memetic means. These words are memetic. They are producing a memetic effect in your mind right now, without any magical mind rays lashing out of your computer monitor to grasp your fragile consciousness. Memes are information, more specifically, cultural information.

Outside of the Foundation’s walls the concept of memetics is not taken very seriously; it is a theory that conflates the transfer of cultural information with evolutionary biology.

meme : memetic :: gene : genetic

The idea was that certain memes prosper and others wither the same way certain genes produce stronger offspring that out-compete creatures with different genes. Also, it is easy to compare the spread and mutation of information to the spread of a virus. The reason we use the term memetic in our work is largely due to this, as the truly dangerous memes out there can spread like wildfire due to the fact that the very knowledge of them can count as an infection.

Understanding the true nature of memetic threats is critical to surviving them. You cannot wear a special set of magical goggles made of telekill to protect yourself from a meme. THE GOGGLES DO NOTHING. If you just read those words in your head with a bad Teutonic accent, congratulations on being victim to yet another memetic effect. If you did not know that phrase was an oft-repeated quote from the Simpsons then congratulations; you are now infected with that knowledge and are free to participate in its spread.

A meme perpetuates itself by being beneficial to the carrier to spread to new hosts. You now understand that THE GOGGLES DO NOTHING; you’re in on the joke. However, you might have friends who aren’t, and don’t get it. It benefits you to explain them, because then you both have something new to laugh together about when it gets brought up. This is what makes a meme effective – how much incentive a carrier has to spread it. Unless an anomalous meme’s effect is the compulsive urge for the carrier to infect others, there needs to be incentive to spread it.

An artifact can no more have a memetic aura or project a memetic beam than a creature could have a genetic aura or genetic beam. Even though you could imagine a creature with genes that allow it to produce some kind of aura or beam like a big doofy X-man, remember that the examples we have of such creatures in containment are not getting their super-powered emanations from anything resembling our scientific understanding of genetics and biology. Neither are the memetic artifacts. We contain these things specifically because we cannot understand or explain them yet. At the end of the day we’re still using a clumsy concept to describe things we don’t have a full grasp of.

It is very rare that anything with a dangerous memetic component could be described as hostile to begin with. We do not contain memetic threats because they are out to get us. They are threats because it is dangerous for us to merely perceive them. It is exceptionally rare for dangerous memes to even have anything resembling sapience with the exception of certain known entities which exist entirely within the medium of “cultural information” such as SCP-, SCP-732 and SCP-423.

A dangerous meme is basically a trigger that sets off something inside of you that you may or may have not been aware of. What would your knee jerk reaction be to knowing that your rival is sleeping with your one true love? How would you react if you were to unwittingly catch them in the act? That kind of sudden revelation can make a mild mannered citizen into a killer, so don’t be surprised that there are other strange bits of information out there that can break the human mind in different yet equally drastic ways.

Protecting yourself from memetic threat is very tricky and can be worse than the threat itself. There are reasons that we behave the way we do, there are reasons our emotions soar when we hear just the right combination of sounds in a piece of music. Do you want to stop thinking about the Simpsons or your obnoxious nerdy friends that quote it every time you hear the phrase THE GOGGLES DO NOTHING? That would require forgetting about the Simpsons and your friends.

Do you want to survive hearing or reading the phrase ” ?” Well, sadly we don’t quite know what other information you need to forget or know to prevent [DATA EXPUNGED] but we’re getting better. Lobotomies and pills help, and are one of the few times that the cure is not worse than the disease. The sum total of our human condition; our cultural knowledge and upbringing and memories and identity; this is what makes us susceptible to the occasional memetic compulsion.

So it’s not the basalt monolith or its bizarre carvings that is making you strangle your companions with your own intestines, the problem was within you all along.

Should you ever find yourself under a memetic compulsion and aware of the fact, remember that there are certain mental exercises that you can perform which may save your life or the lives of your companions. Changing the information your mind is being presented with may just change how you react to it, and the more abrupt or absurd the change is the better.

Imagine the fearsome entity is wearing a bright pink nightgown. Draw a mustache on the haunted painting. Pee on the stone altar. Wear the terrible sculpture like a hat.

And if all else fails, bend over and kiss your ass goodbye. I’m not kidding. That could actually help.

– Dr. Johannes Sorts received a special dispensation to use the word “doofy” in this document

But seriously

This was originally intended as a piece of fiction on its own before it got stuck into the information bar with plenty of other plainly out-of-character writing guides. So here’s the important things to take away:

1 – “Memetics” is a specific concept regarding information exchange. It has nothing to do with telepathy or ESP or psychic compulsions.

2 – SCP-148 has no effect on anything memetic. Don’t screw this up or we will give you an incredibly hard time about it.

3 – Psychic compulsions are lame and you should think twice before using them in your new SCP, even if you avoid misusing the term “memetic” when you do it.

4 – Sorts’ Rule for all memetic SCPs is “Memetic effect + crazy to death = failure.”

5 – Wear it like a haaaaat!!

Here is the original post:

Understanding Memetics – SCP Foundation

Memetics | Definition of Memetics by Merriam-Webster

: the study of memes Memetics sees ideas as a kind of virus, sometimes propagating in spite of truth and logic. Its maxim is: Beliefs that survive aren’t necessarily true, rules that survive aren’t necessarily fair and rituals that survive aren’t necessarily necessary. Things that survive do so because they are good at surviving. Los Angeles Times, 20 Mar. 1999

Go here to read the rest:

Memetics | Definition of Memetics by Merriam-Webster

Meme – Wikipedia

Thought or idea that can be shared, in analogy to a gene

A meme ( MEEM[1][2][3]) is an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a cultureoften with the aim of conveying a particular phenomenon, theme, or meaning represented by the meme.[4] A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices, that can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena with a mimicked theme. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures.[5]

Proponents theorize that memes are a viral phenomenon that may evolve by natural selection in a manner analogous to that of biological evolution. Memes do this through the processes of variation, mutation, competition, and inheritance, each of which influences a meme’s reproductive success. Memes spread through the behavior that they generate in their hosts. Memes that propagate less prolifically may become extinct, while others may survive, spread, and (for better or for worse) mutate. Memes that replicate most effectively enjoy more success, and some may replicate effectively even when they prove to be detrimental to the welfare of their hosts.[6]

A field of study called memetics[7] arose in the 1990s to explore the concepts and transmission of memes in terms of an evolutionary model. Criticism from a variety of fronts has challenged the notion that academic study can examine memes empirically. However, developments in neuroimaging may make empirical study possible.[8] Some commentators in the social sciences question the idea that one can meaningfully categorize culture in terms of discrete units, and are especially critical of the biological nature of the theory’s underpinnings.[9] Others have argued that this use of the term is the result of a misunderstanding of the original proposal.[10]

The word meme is a neologism coined by Richard Dawkins.[11] It originated from Dawkins’ 1976 book The Selfish Gene. Dawkins’s own position is somewhat ambiguous: he welcomed N. K. Humphrey’s suggestion that “memes should be considered as living structures, not just metaphorically”[12] and proposed to regard memes as “physically residing in the brain”.[13] Later, he argued that his original intentions, presumably before his approval of Humphrey’s opinion, had been simpler.[14]

The word meme is a shortening (modeled on gene) of mimeme (from Ancient Greek pronounced[mmma] mmma, “imitated thing”, from mimeisthai, “to imitate”, from mimos, “mime”)[15] coined by British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene (1976)[11][16] as a concept for discussion of evolutionary principles in explaining the spread of ideas and cultural phenomena. Examples of memes given in the book included melodies, catchphrases, fashion, and the technology of building arches.[17] Kenneth Pike had in 1954 coined the related terms emic and etic, generalizing the linguistic units of phoneme, morpheme, grapheme, lexeme, and tagmeme (as set out by Leonard Bloomfield), distinguishing insider and outside views of communicative behavior.[18]

The word meme originated with Richard Dawkins’ 1976 book The Selfish Gene. Dawkins cites as inspiration the work of geneticist L. L. Cavalli-Sforza, anthropologist F. T. Cloak[19] and ethologist J. M. Cullen.[20] Dawkins wrote that evolution depended not on the particular chemical basis of genetics, but only on the existence of a self-replicating unit of transmissionin the case of biological evolution, the gene. For Dawkins, the meme exemplified another self-replicating unit with potential significance in explaining human behavior and cultural evolution. Although Dawkins invented the term ‘meme’ and developed meme theory, the possibility that ideas were subject to the same pressures of evolution as were biological attributes was discussed in Darwin’s time. T. H. Huxley claimed that ‘The struggle for existence holds as much in the intellectual as in the physical world. A theory is a species of thinking, and its right to exist is coextensive with its power of resisting extinction by its rivals.'[21]

Dawkins used the term to refer to any cultural entity that an observer might consider a replicator. He hypothesized that one could view many cultural entities as replicators, and pointed to melodies, fashions and learned skills as examples. Memes generally replicate through exposure to humans, who have evolved as efficient copiers of information and behavior. Because humans do not always copy memes perfectly, and because they may refine, combine or otherwise modify them with other memes to create new memes, they can change over time. Dawkins likened the process by which memes survive and change through the evolution of culture to the natural selection of genes in biological evolution.[17]

Dawkins defined the meme as a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation and replication, but later definitions would vary. The lack of a consistent, rigorous, and precise understanding of what typically makes up one unit of cultural transmission remains a problem in debates about memetics.[23] In contrast, the concept of genetics gained concrete evidence with the discovery of the biological functions of DNA. Meme transmission requires a physical medium, such as photons, sound waves, touch, taste, or smell because memes can be transmitted only through the senses.

Dawkins noted that in a society with culture a person need not have descendants to remain influential in the actions of individuals thousands of years after their death:

But if you contribute to the world’s culture, if you have a good idea…it may live on, intact, long after your genes have dissolved in the common pool. Socrates may or may not have a gene or two alive in the world today, as G.C. Williams has remarked, but who cares? The meme-complexes of Socrates, Leonardo, Copernicus and Marconi are still going strong.[24]

Although Dawkins invented the term meme, he has not claimed that the idea was entirely novel,[25] and there have been other expressions for similar ideas in the past.[26] In 1904, Richard Semon published Die Mneme (which appeared in English in 1924 as The Mneme). The term mneme was also used in Maurice Maeterlinck’s The Life of the White Ant (1926), with some parallels to Dawkins’s concept.[26]

Memes, analogously to genes, vary in their aptitude to replicate; successful memes remain and spread, whereas unfit ones stall and are forgotten. Thus memes that prove more effective at replicating and surviving are selected in the meme pool.

Memes first need retention. The longer a meme stays in its hosts, the higher its chances of propagation are. When a host uses a meme, the meme’s life is extended.[27] The reuse of the neural space hosting a certain meme’s copy to host different memes is the greatest threat to that meme’s copy.[28]

A meme which increases the longevity of its hosts will generally survive longer. On the contrary, a meme which shortens the longevity of its hosts will tend to disappear faster. However, as hosts are mortal, retention is not sufficient to perpetuate a meme in the long term; memes also need transmission.

Life-forms can transmit information both vertically (from parent to child, via replication of genes) and horizontally (through viruses and other means).Memes can replicate vertically or horizontally within a single biological generation. They may also lie dormant for long periods of time.

Memes reproduce by copying from a nervous system to another one, either by communication or imitation. Imitation often involves the copying of an observed behavior of another individual. Communication may be direct or indirect, where memes transmit from one individual to another through a copy recorded in an inanimate source, such as a book or a musical score. Adam McNamara has suggested that memes can be thereby classified as either internal or external memes (i-memes or e-memes).[8]

Some commentators have likened the transmission of memes to the spread of contagions.[29] Social contagions such as fads, hysteria, copycat crime, and copycat suicide exemplify memes seen as the contagious imitation of ideas. Observers distinguish the contagious imitation of memes from instinctively contagious phenomena such as yawning and laughing, which they consider innate (rather than socially learned) behaviors.[30]

Aaron Lynch described seven general patterns of meme transmission, or “thought contagion”:[31]

Dawkins initially defined meme as a noun that “conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation”.[17] John S. Wilkins retained the notion of meme as a kernel of cultural imitation while emphasizing the meme’s evolutionary aspect, defining the meme as “the least unit of sociocultural information relative to a selection process that has favorable or unfavorable selection bias that exceeds its endogenous tendency to change”.[32] The meme as a unit provides a convenient means of discussing “a piece of thought copied from person to person”, regardless of whether that thought contains others inside it, or forms part of a larger meme. A meme could consist of a single word, or a meme could consist of the entire speech in which that word first occurred. This forms an analogy to the idea of a gene as a single unit of self-replicating information found on the self-replicating chromosome.

While the identification of memes as “units” conveys their nature to replicate as discrete, indivisible entities, it does not imply that thoughts somehow become quantized or that “atomic” ideas exist that cannot be dissected into smaller pieces. A meme has no given size. Susan Blackmore writes that melodies from Beethoven’s symphonies are commonly used to illustrate the difficulty involved in delimiting memes as discrete units. She notes that while the first four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (listen(helpinfo)) form a meme widely replicated as an independent unit, one can regard the entire symphony as a single meme as well.[23]

The inability to pin an idea or cultural feature to quantifiable key units is widely acknowledged as a problem for memetics. It has been argued however that the traces of memetic processing can be quantified utilizing neuroimaging techniques which measure changes in the connectivity profiles between brain regions.”[8] Blackmore meets such criticism by stating that memes compare with genes in this respect: that while a gene has no particular size, nor can we ascribe every phenotypic feature directly to a particular gene, it has value because it encapsulates that key unit of inherited expression subject to evolutionary pressures. To illustrate, she notes evolution selects for the gene for features such as eye color; it does not select for the individual nucleotide in a strand of DNA. Memes play a comparable role in understanding the evolution of imitated behaviors.[23]

The 1981 book Genes, Mind, and Culture: The Coevolutionary Process by Charles J. Lumsden and E. O. Wilson proposed the theory that genes and culture co-evolve, and that the fundamental biological units of culture must correspond to neuronal networks that function as nodes of semantic memory. They coined their own word, “culturgen”, which did not catch on. Coauthor Wilson later acknowledged the term meme as the best label for the fundamental unit of cultural inheritance in his 1998 book Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, which elaborates upon the fundamental role of memes in unifying the natural and social sciences.[33]

Dawkins noted the three conditions that must exist for evolution to occur:[34]

Dawkins emphasizes that the process of evolution naturally occurs whenever these conditions co-exist, and that evolution does not apply only to organic elements such as genes. He regards memes as also having the properties necessary for evolution, and thus sees meme evolution as not simply analogous to genetic evolution, but as a real phenomenon subject to the laws of natural selection. Dawkins noted that as various ideas pass from one generation to the next, they may either enhance or detract from the survival of the people who obtain those ideas, or influence the survival of the ideas themselves. For example, a certain culture may develop unique designs and methods of tool-making that give it a competitive advantage over another culture. Each tool-design thus acts somewhat similarly to a biological gene in that some populations have it and others do not, and the meme’s function directly affects the presence of the design in future generations. In keeping with the thesis that in evolution one can regard organisms simply as suitable “hosts” for reproducing genes, Dawkins argues that one can view people as “hosts” for replicating memes. Consequently, a successful meme may or may not need to provide any benefit to its host.[34]

Unlike genetic evolution, memetic evolution can show both Darwinian and Lamarckian traits. Cultural memes will have the characteristic of Lamarckian inheritance when a host aspires to replicate the given meme through inference rather than by exactly copying it. Take for example the case of the transmission of a simple skill such as hammering a nail, a skill that a learner imitates from watching a demonstration without necessarily imitating every discrete movement modeled by the teacher in the demonstration, stroke for stroke.[35] Susan Blackmore distinguishes the difference between the two modes of inheritance in the evolution of memes, characterizing the Darwinian mode as “copying the instructions” and the Lamarckian as “copying the product.”[23]

Clusters of memes, or memeplexes (also known as meme complexes or as memecomplexes), such as cultural or political doctrines and systems, may also play a part in the acceptance of new memes. Memeplexes comprise groups of memes that replicate together and coadapt.[23] Memes that fit within a successful memeplex may gain acceptance by “piggybacking” on the success of the memeplex.As an example, John D. Gottsch discusses the transmission, mutation and selection of religious memeplexes and the theistic memes contained.[36] Theistic memes discussed include the “prohibition of aberrant sexual practices such as incest, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, castration, and religious prostitution”, which may have increased vertical transmission of the parent religious memeplex. Similar memes are thereby included in the majority of religious memeplexes, and harden over time; they become an “inviolable canon” or set of dogmas, eventually finding their way into secular law. This could also be referred to as the propagation of a taboo.

The discipline of memetics, which dates from the mid-1980s, provides an approach to evolutionary models of cultural information transfer based on the concept of the meme. Memeticists have proposed that just as memes function analogously to genes, memetics functions analogously to genetics. Memetics attempts to apply conventional scientific methods (such as those used in population genetics and epidemiology) to explain existing patterns and transmission of cultural ideas.

Principal criticisms of memetics include the claim that memetics ignores established advances in other fields of cultural study, such as sociology, cultural anthropology, cognitive psychology, and social psychology. Questions remain whether or not the meme concept counts as a validly disprovable scientific theory. This view regards memetics as a theory in its infancy: a protoscience to proponents, or a pseudoscience to some detractors.

An objection to the study of the evolution of memes in genetic terms (although not to the existence of memes) involves a perceived gap in the gene/meme analogy: the cumulative evolution of genes depends on biological selection-pressures neither too great nor too small in relation to mutation-rates. There seems no reason to think that the same balance will exist in the selection pressures on memes.[37]

Luis Benitez-Bribiesca M.D., a critic of memetics, calls the theory a “pseudoscientific dogma” and “a dangerous idea that poses a threat to the serious study of consciousness and cultural evolution”. As a factual criticism, Benitez-Bribiesca points to the lack of a “code script” for memes (analogous to the DNA of genes), and to the excessive instability of the meme mutation mechanism (that of an idea going from one brain to another), which would lead to a low replication accuracy and a high mutation rate, rendering the evolutionary process chaotic.[38]

British political philosopher John Gray has characterized Dawkins’ memetic theory of religion as “nonsense” and “not even a theory… the latest in a succession of ill-judged Darwinian metaphors”, comparable to Intelligent Design in its value as a science.[39]

Another critique comes from semiotic theorists such as Deacon[40] and Kull.[41] This view regards the concept of “meme” as a primitivized concept of “sign”. The meme is thus described in memetics as a sign lacking a triadic nature. Semioticians can regard a meme as a “degenerate” sign, which includes only its ability of being copied. Accordingly, in the broadest sense, the objects of copying are memes, whereas the objects of translation and interpretation are signs.[clarification needed]

Fracchia and Lewontin regard memetics as reductionist and inadequate.[42] Evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr disapproved of Dawkins’ gene-based view and usage of the term “meme”, asserting it to be an “unnecessary synonym” for “concept”, reasoning that concepts are not restricted to an individual or a generation, may persist for long periods of time, and may evolve.[43]

Opinions differ as to how best to apply the concept of memes within a “proper” disciplinary framework. One view sees memes as providing a useful philosophical perspective with which to examine cultural evolution. Proponents of this view (such as Susan Blackmore and Daniel Dennett) argue that considering cultural developments from a meme’s-eye viewas if memes themselves respond to pressure to maximise their own replication and survivalcan lead to useful insights and yield valuable predictions into how culture develops over time. Others such as Bruce Edmonds and Robert Aunger have focused on the need to provide an empirical grounding for memetics to become a useful and respected scientific discipline.[44][45]

A third approach, described by Joseph Poulshock, as “radical memetics” seeks to place memes at the centre of a materialistic theory of mind and of personal identity.[46]

Prominent researchers in evolutionary psychology and anthropology, including Scott Atran, Dan Sperber, Pascal Boyer, John Tooby and others, argue the possibility of incompatibility between modularity of mind and memetics.[citation needed] In their view, minds structure certain communicable aspects of the ideas produced, and these communicable aspects generally trigger or elicit ideas in other minds through inference (to relatively rich structures generated from often low-fidelity input) and not high-fidelity replication or imitation. Atran discusses communication involving religious beliefs as a case in point. In one set of experiments he asked religious people to write down on a piece of paper the meanings of the Ten Commandments. Despite the subjects’ own expectations of consensus, interpretations of the commandments showed wide ranges of variation, with little evidence of consensus. In another experiment, subjects with autism and subjects without autism interpreted ideological and religious sayings (for example, “Let a thousand flowers bloom” or “To everything there is a season”). People with autism showed a significant tendency to closely paraphrase and repeat content from the original statement (for example: “Don’t cut flowers before they bloom”). Controls tended to infer a wider range of cultural meanings with little replicated content (for example: “Go with the flow” or “Everyone should have equal opportunity”). Only the subjects with autismwho lack the degree of inferential capacity normally associated with aspects of theory of mindcame close to functioning as “meme machines”.[47]

In his book The Robot’s Rebellion, Stanovich uses the memes and memeplex concepts to describe a program of cognitive reform that he refers to as a “rebellion”. Specifically, Stanovich argues that the use of memes as a descriptor for cultural units is beneficial because it serves to emphasize transmission and acquisition properties that parallel the study of epidemiology. These properties make salient the sometimes parasitic nature of acquired memes, and as a result individuals should be motivated to reflectively acquire memes using what he calls a “Neurathian bootstrap” process.[48]

Although social scientists such as Max Weber sought to understand and explain religion in terms of a cultural attribute, Richard Dawkins called for a re-analysis of religion in terms of the evolution of self-replicating ideas apart from any resulting biological advantages they might bestow.

As an enthusiastic Darwinian, I have been dissatisfied with explanations that my fellow-enthusiasts have offered for human behaviour. They have tried to look for ‘biological advantages’ in various attributes of human civilization. For instance, tribal religion has been seen as a mechanism for solidifying group identity, valuable for a pack-hunting species whose individuals rely on cooperation to catch large and fast prey. Frequently the evolutionary preconception in terms of which such theories are framed is implicitly group-selectionist, but it is possible to rephrase the theories in terms of orthodox gene selection.

He argued that the role of key replicator in cultural evolution belongs not to genes, but to memes replicating thought from person to person by means of imitation. These replicators respond to selective pressures that may or may not affect biological reproduction or survival.[17]

In her book The Meme Machine, Susan Blackmore regards religions as particularly tenacious memes. Many of the features common to the most widely practiced religions provide built-in advantages in an evolutionary context, she writes. For example, religions that preach of the value of faith over evidence from everyday experience or reason inoculate societies against many of the most basic tools people commonly use to evaluate their ideas. By linking altruism with religious affiliation, religious memes can proliferate more quickly because people perceive that they can reap societal as well as personal rewards. The longevity of religious memes improves with their documentation in revered religious texts.[23]

Aaron Lynch attributed the robustness of religious memes in human culture to the fact that such memes incorporate multiple modes of meme transmission. Religious memes pass down the generations from parent to child and across a single generation through the meme-exchange of proselytism. Most people will hold the religion taught them by their parents throughout their life. Many religions feature adversarial elements, punishing apostasy, for instance, or demonizing infidels. In Thought Contagion Lynch identifies the memes of transmission in Christianity as especially powerful in scope. Believers view the conversion of non-believers both as a religious duty and as an act of altruism. The promise of heaven to believers and threat of hell to non-believers provide a strong incentive for members to retain their belief. Lynch asserts that belief in the Crucifixion of Jesus in Christianity amplifies each of its other replication advantages through the indebtedness believers have to their Savior for sacrifice on the cross. The image of the crucifixion recurs in religious sacraments, and the proliferation of symbols of the cross in homes and churches potently reinforces the wide array of Christian memes.[31]

Although religious memes have proliferated in human cultures, the modern scientific community has been relatively resistant to religious belief. Robertson (2007) [49] reasoned that if evolution is accelerated in conditions of propagative difficulty,[50] then we would expect to encounter variations of religious memes, established in general populations, addressed to scientific communities. Using a memetic approach, Robertson deconstructed two attempts to privilege religiously held spirituality in scientific discourse. Advantages of a memetic approach as compared to more traditional “modernization” and “supply side” theses in understanding the evolution and propagation of religion were explored.

In Cultural Software: A Theory of Ideology, Jack Balkin argued that memetic processes can explain many of the most familiar features of ideological thought. His theory of “cultural software” maintained that memes form narratives, social networks, metaphoric and metonymic models, and a variety of different mental structures. Balkin maintains that the same structures used to generate ideas about free speech or free markets also serve to generate racistic beliefs. To Balkin, whether memes become harmful or maladaptive depends on the environmental context in which they exist rather than in any special source or manner to their origination. Balkin describes racist beliefs as “fantasy” memes that become harmful or unjust “ideologies” when diverse peoples come together, as through trade or competition.[51]

In A Theory of Architecture, Nikos Salingaros speaks of memes as “freely propagating clusters of information” which can be beneficial or harmful. He contrasts memes to patterns and true knowledge, characterizing memes as “greatly simplified versions of patterns” and as “unreasoned matching to some visual or mnemonic prototype”.[52] Taking reference to Dawkins, Salingaros emphasizes that they can be transmitted due to their own communicative properties, that “the simpler they are, the faster they can proliferate”, and that the most successful memes “come with a great psychological appeal”.[53]

Architectural memes, according to Salingaros, can have destructive power. “Images portrayed in architectural magazines representing buildings that could not possibly accommodate everyday uses become fixed in our memory, so we reproduce them unconsciously.”[54] He lists various architectural memes that circulated since the 1920s and which, in his view, have led to contemporary architecture becoming quite decoupled from human needs. They lack connection and meaning, thereby preventing “the creation of true connections necessary to our understanding of the world”. He sees them as no different from antipatterns in software designas solutions that are false but are re-utilized nonetheless.[55]

An “Internet meme” is a concept that spreads rapidly from person to person via the Internet, largely through Internet-based E-mailing, blogs, forums, imageboards like 4chan, social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, instant messaging, social news sites or thread sites like Reddit, and video hosting services like YouTube and Twitch.[56]

In 2013, Richard Dawkins characterized an Internet meme as one deliberately altered by human creativity, distinguished from Dawkins’s original idea involving mutation by random change and a form of Darwinian selection.[57]

One technique of meme mapping represents the evolution and transmission of a meme across time and space.[58] Such a meme map uses a figure-8 diagram (an analemma) to map the gestation (in the lower loop), birth (at the choke point), and development (in the upper loop) of the selected meme. Such meme maps are nonscalar, with time mapped onto the y-axis and space onto the x-axis transect. One can read the temporal progression of the mapped meme from south to north on such a meme map. Paull has published a worked example using the “organics meme” (as in organic agriculture).[58]

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Meme – Wikipedia

Meme – Wikipedia

Thought or idea that can be shared, in analogy to a gene

A meme ( MEEM[1][2][3]) is an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a cultureoften with the aim of conveying a particular phenomenon, theme, or meaning represented by the meme.[4] A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices, that can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena with a mimicked theme. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures.[5]

Proponents theorize that memes are a viral phenomenon that may evolve by natural selection in a manner analogous to that of biological evolution. Memes do this through the processes of variation, mutation, competition, and inheritance, each of which influences a meme’s reproductive success. Memes spread through the behavior that they generate in their hosts. Memes that propagate less prolifically may become extinct, while others may survive, spread, and (for better or for worse) mutate. Memes that replicate most effectively enjoy more success, and some may replicate effectively even when they prove to be detrimental to the welfare of their hosts.[6]

A field of study called memetics[7] arose in the 1990s to explore the concepts and transmission of memes in terms of an evolutionary model. Criticism from a variety of fronts has challenged the notion that academic study can examine memes empirically. However, developments in neuroimaging may make empirical study possible.[8] Some commentators in the social sciences question the idea that one can meaningfully categorize culture in terms of discrete units, and are especially critical of the biological nature of the theory’s underpinnings.[9] Others have argued that this use of the term is the result of a misunderstanding of the original proposal.[10]

The word meme is a neologism coined by Richard Dawkins.[11] It originated from Dawkins’ 1976 book The Selfish Gene. Dawkins’s own position is somewhat ambiguous: he welcomed N. K. Humphrey’s suggestion that “memes should be considered as living structures, not just metaphorically”[12] and proposed to regard memes as “physically residing in the brain”.[13] Later, he argued that his original intentions, presumably before his approval of Humphrey’s opinion, had been simpler.[14]

The word meme is a shortening (modeled on gene) of mimeme (from Ancient Greek pronounced[mmma] mmma, “imitated thing”, from mimeisthai, “to imitate”, from mimos, “mime”)[15] coined by British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene (1976)[11][16] as a concept for discussion of evolutionary principles in explaining the spread of ideas and cultural phenomena. Examples of memes given in the book included melodies, catchphrases, fashion, and the technology of building arches.[17] Kenneth Pike had in 1954 coined the related terms emic and etic, generalizing the linguistic units of phoneme, morpheme, grapheme, lexeme, and tagmeme (as set out by Leonard Bloomfield), distinguishing insider and outside views of communicative behavior.[18]

The word meme originated with Richard Dawkins’ 1976 book The Selfish Gene. Dawkins cites as inspiration the work of geneticist L. L. Cavalli-Sforza, anthropologist F. T. Cloak[19] and ethologist J. M. Cullen.[20] Dawkins wrote that evolution depended not on the particular chemical basis of genetics, but only on the existence of a self-replicating unit of transmissionin the case of biological evolution, the gene. For Dawkins, the meme exemplified another self-replicating unit with potential significance in explaining human behavior and cultural evolution. Although Dawkins invented the term ‘meme’ and developed meme theory, the possibility that ideas were subject to the same pressures of evolution as were biological attributes was discussed in Darwin’s time. T. H. Huxley claimed that ‘The struggle for existence holds as much in the intellectual as in the physical world. A theory is a species of thinking, and its right to exist is coextensive with its power of resisting extinction by its rivals.'[21]

Dawkins used the term to refer to any cultural entity that an observer might consider a replicator. He hypothesized that one could view many cultural entities as replicators, and pointed to melodies, fashions and learned skills as examples. Memes generally replicate through exposure to humans, who have evolved as efficient copiers of information and behavior. Because humans do not always copy memes perfectly, and because they may refine, combine or otherwise modify them with other memes to create new memes, they can change over time. Dawkins likened the process by which memes survive and change through the evolution of culture to the natural selection of genes in biological evolution.[17]

Dawkins defined the meme as a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation and replication, but later definitions would vary. The lack of a consistent, rigorous, and precise understanding of what typically makes up one unit of cultural transmission remains a problem in debates about memetics.[23] In contrast, the concept of genetics gained concrete evidence with the discovery of the biological functions of DNA. Meme transmission requires a physical medium, such as photons, sound waves, touch, taste, or smell because memes can be transmitted only through the senses.

Dawkins noted that in a society with culture a person need not have descendants to remain influential in the actions of individuals thousands of years after their death:

But if you contribute to the world’s culture, if you have a good idea…it may live on, intact, long after your genes have dissolved in the common pool. Socrates may or may not have a gene or two alive in the world today, as G.C. Williams has remarked, but who cares? The meme-complexes of Socrates, Leonardo, Copernicus and Marconi are still going strong.[24]

Although Dawkins invented the term meme, he has not claimed that the idea was entirely novel,[25] and there have been other expressions for similar ideas in the past.[26] In 1904, Richard Semon published Die Mneme (which appeared in English in 1924 as The Mneme). The term mneme was also used in Maurice Maeterlinck’s The Life of the White Ant (1926), with some parallels to Dawkins’s concept.[26]

Memes, analogously to genes, vary in their aptitude to replicate; successful memes remain and spread, whereas unfit ones stall and are forgotten. Thus memes that prove more effective at replicating and surviving are selected in the meme pool.

Memes first need retention. The longer a meme stays in its hosts, the higher its chances of propagation are. When a host uses a meme, the meme’s life is extended.[27] The reuse of the neural space hosting a certain meme’s copy to host different memes is the greatest threat to that meme’s copy.[28]

A meme which increases the longevity of its hosts will generally survive longer. On the contrary, a meme which shortens the longevity of its hosts will tend to disappear faster. However, as hosts are mortal, retention is not sufficient to perpetuate a meme in the long term; memes also need transmission.

Life-forms can transmit information both vertically (from parent to child, via replication of genes) and horizontally (through viruses and other means).Memes can replicate vertically or horizontally within a single biological generation. They may also lie dormant for long periods of time.

Memes reproduce by copying from a nervous system to another one, either by communication or imitation. Imitation often involves the copying of an observed behavior of another individual. Communication may be direct or indirect, where memes transmit from one individual to another through a copy recorded in an inanimate source, such as a book or a musical score. Adam McNamara has suggested that memes can be thereby classified as either internal or external memes (i-memes or e-memes).[8]

Some commentators have likened the transmission of memes to the spread of contagions.[29] Social contagions such as fads, hysteria, copycat crime, and copycat suicide exemplify memes seen as the contagious imitation of ideas. Observers distinguish the contagious imitation of memes from instinctively contagious phenomena such as yawning and laughing, which they consider innate (rather than socially learned) behaviors.[30]

Aaron Lynch described seven general patterns of meme transmission, or “thought contagion”:[31]

Dawkins initially defined meme as a noun that “conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation”.[17] John S. Wilkins retained the notion of meme as a kernel of cultural imitation while emphasizing the meme’s evolutionary aspect, defining the meme as “the least unit of sociocultural information relative to a selection process that has favorable or unfavorable selection bias that exceeds its endogenous tendency to change”.[32] The meme as a unit provides a convenient means of discussing “a piece of thought copied from person to person”, regardless of whether that thought contains others inside it, or forms part of a larger meme. A meme could consist of a single word, or a meme could consist of the entire speech in which that word first occurred. This forms an analogy to the idea of a gene as a single unit of self-replicating information found on the self-replicating chromosome.

While the identification of memes as “units” conveys their nature to replicate as discrete, indivisible entities, it does not imply that thoughts somehow become quantized or that “atomic” ideas exist that cannot be dissected into smaller pieces. A meme has no given size. Susan Blackmore writes that melodies from Beethoven’s symphonies are commonly used to illustrate the difficulty involved in delimiting memes as discrete units. She notes that while the first four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (listen(helpinfo)) form a meme widely replicated as an independent unit, one can regard the entire symphony as a single meme as well.[23]

The inability to pin an idea or cultural feature to quantifiable key units is widely acknowledged as a problem for memetics. It has been argued however that the traces of memetic processing can be quantified utilizing neuroimaging techniques which measure changes in the connectivity profiles between brain regions.”[8] Blackmore meets such criticism by stating that memes compare with genes in this respect: that while a gene has no particular size, nor can we ascribe every phenotypic feature directly to a particular gene, it has value because it encapsulates that key unit of inherited expression subject to evolutionary pressures. To illustrate, she notes evolution selects for the gene for features such as eye color; it does not select for the individual nucleotide in a strand of DNA. Memes play a comparable role in understanding the evolution of imitated behaviors.[23]

The 1981 book Genes, Mind, and Culture: The Coevolutionary Process by Charles J. Lumsden and E. O. Wilson proposed the theory that genes and culture co-evolve, and that the fundamental biological units of culture must correspond to neuronal networks that function as nodes of semantic memory. They coined their own word, “culturgen”, which did not catch on. Coauthor Wilson later acknowledged the term meme as the best label for the fundamental unit of cultural inheritance in his 1998 book Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, which elaborates upon the fundamental role of memes in unifying the natural and social sciences.[33]

Dawkins noted the three conditions that must exist for evolution to occur:[34]

Dawkins emphasizes that the process of evolution naturally occurs whenever these conditions co-exist, and that evolution does not apply only to organic elements such as genes. He regards memes as also having the properties necessary for evolution, and thus sees meme evolution as not simply analogous to genetic evolution, but as a real phenomenon subject to the laws of natural selection. Dawkins noted that as various ideas pass from one generation to the next, they may either enhance or detract from the survival of the people who obtain those ideas, or influence the survival of the ideas themselves. For example, a certain culture may develop unique designs and methods of tool-making that give it a competitive advantage over another culture. Each tool-design thus acts somewhat similarly to a biological gene in that some populations have it and others do not, and the meme’s function directly affects the presence of the design in future generations. In keeping with the thesis that in evolution one can regard organisms simply as suitable “hosts” for reproducing genes, Dawkins argues that one can view people as “hosts” for replicating memes. Consequently, a successful meme may or may not need to provide any benefit to its host.[34]

Unlike genetic evolution, memetic evolution can show both Darwinian and Lamarckian traits. Cultural memes will have the characteristic of Lamarckian inheritance when a host aspires to replicate the given meme through inference rather than by exactly copying it. Take for example the case of the transmission of a simple skill such as hammering a nail, a skill that a learner imitates from watching a demonstration without necessarily imitating every discrete movement modeled by the teacher in the demonstration, stroke for stroke.[35] Susan Blackmore distinguishes the difference between the two modes of inheritance in the evolution of memes, characterizing the Darwinian mode as “copying the instructions” and the Lamarckian as “copying the product.”[23]

Clusters of memes, or memeplexes (also known as meme complexes or as memecomplexes), such as cultural or political doctrines and systems, may also play a part in the acceptance of new memes. Memeplexes comprise groups of memes that replicate together and coadapt.[23] Memes that fit within a successful memeplex may gain acceptance by “piggybacking” on the success of the memeplex.As an example, John D. Gottsch discusses the transmission, mutation and selection of religious memeplexes and the theistic memes contained.[36] Theistic memes discussed include the “prohibition of aberrant sexual practices such as incest, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, castration, and religious prostitution”, which may have increased vertical transmission of the parent religious memeplex. Similar memes are thereby included in the majority of religious memeplexes, and harden over time; they become an “inviolable canon” or set of dogmas, eventually finding their way into secular law. This could also be referred to as the propagation of a taboo.

The discipline of memetics, which dates from the mid-1980s, provides an approach to evolutionary models of cultural information transfer based on the concept of the meme. Memeticists have proposed that just as memes function analogously to genes, memetics functions analogously to genetics. Memetics attempts to apply conventional scientific methods (such as those used in population genetics and epidemiology) to explain existing patterns and transmission of cultural ideas.

Principal criticisms of memetics include the claim that memetics ignores established advances in other fields of cultural study, such as sociology, cultural anthropology, cognitive psychology, and social psychology. Questions remain whether or not the meme concept counts as a validly disprovable scientific theory. This view regards memetics as a theory in its infancy: a protoscience to proponents, or a pseudoscience to some detractors.

An objection to the study of the evolution of memes in genetic terms (although not to the existence of memes) involves a perceived gap in the gene/meme analogy: the cumulative evolution of genes depends on biological selection-pressures neither too great nor too small in relation to mutation-rates. There seems no reason to think that the same balance will exist in the selection pressures on memes.[37]

Luis Benitez-Bribiesca M.D., a critic of memetics, calls the theory a “pseudoscientific dogma” and “a dangerous idea that poses a threat to the serious study of consciousness and cultural evolution”. As a factual criticism, Benitez-Bribiesca points to the lack of a “code script” for memes (analogous to the DNA of genes), and to the excessive instability of the meme mutation mechanism (that of an idea going from one brain to another), which would lead to a low replication accuracy and a high mutation rate, rendering the evolutionary process chaotic.[38]

British political philosopher John Gray has characterized Dawkins’ memetic theory of religion as “nonsense” and “not even a theory… the latest in a succession of ill-judged Darwinian metaphors”, comparable to Intelligent Design in its value as a science.[39]

Another critique comes from semiotic theorists such as Deacon[40] and Kull.[41] This view regards the concept of “meme” as a primitivized concept of “sign”. The meme is thus described in memetics as a sign lacking a triadic nature. Semioticians can regard a meme as a “degenerate” sign, which includes only its ability of being copied. Accordingly, in the broadest sense, the objects of copying are memes, whereas the objects of translation and interpretation are signs.[clarification needed]

Fracchia and Lewontin regard memetics as reductionist and inadequate.[42] Evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr disapproved of Dawkins’ gene-based view and usage of the term “meme”, asserting it to be an “unnecessary synonym” for “concept”, reasoning that concepts are not restricted to an individual or a generation, may persist for long periods of time, and may evolve.[43]

Opinions differ as to how best to apply the concept of memes within a “proper” disciplinary framework. One view sees memes as providing a useful philosophical perspective with which to examine cultural evolution. Proponents of this view (such as Susan Blackmore and Daniel Dennett) argue that considering cultural developments from a meme’s-eye viewas if memes themselves respond to pressure to maximise their own replication and survivalcan lead to useful insights and yield valuable predictions into how culture develops over time. Others such as Bruce Edmonds and Robert Aunger have focused on the need to provide an empirical grounding for memetics to become a useful and respected scientific discipline.[44][45]

A third approach, described by Joseph Poulshock, as “radical memetics” seeks to place memes at the centre of a materialistic theory of mind and of personal identity.[46]

Prominent researchers in evolutionary psychology and anthropology, including Scott Atran, Dan Sperber, Pascal Boyer, John Tooby and others, argue the possibility of incompatibility between modularity of mind and memetics.[citation needed] In their view, minds structure certain communicable aspects of the ideas produced, and these communicable aspects generally trigger or elicit ideas in other minds through inference (to relatively rich structures generated from often low-fidelity input) and not high-fidelity replication or imitation. Atran discusses communication involving religious beliefs as a case in point. In one set of experiments he asked religious people to write down on a piece of paper the meanings of the Ten Commandments. Despite the subjects’ own expectations of consensus, interpretations of the commandments showed wide ranges of variation, with little evidence of consensus. In another experiment, subjects with autism and subjects without autism interpreted ideological and religious sayings (for example, “Let a thousand flowers bloom” or “To everything there is a season”). People with autism showed a significant tendency to closely paraphrase and repeat content from the original statement (for example: “Don’t cut flowers before they bloom”). Controls tended to infer a wider range of cultural meanings with little replicated content (for example: “Go with the flow” or “Everyone should have equal opportunity”). Only the subjects with autismwho lack the degree of inferential capacity normally associated with aspects of theory of mindcame close to functioning as “meme machines”.[47]

In his book The Robot’s Rebellion, Stanovich uses the memes and memeplex concepts to describe a program of cognitive reform that he refers to as a “rebellion”. Specifically, Stanovich argues that the use of memes as a descriptor for cultural units is beneficial because it serves to emphasize transmission and acquisition properties that parallel the study of epidemiology. These properties make salient the sometimes parasitic nature of acquired memes, and as a result individuals should be motivated to reflectively acquire memes using what he calls a “Neurathian bootstrap” process.[48]

Although social scientists such as Max Weber sought to understand and explain religion in terms of a cultural attribute, Richard Dawkins called for a re-analysis of religion in terms of the evolution of self-replicating ideas apart from any resulting biological advantages they might bestow.

As an enthusiastic Darwinian, I have been dissatisfied with explanations that my fellow-enthusiasts have offered for human behaviour. They have tried to look for ‘biological advantages’ in various attributes of human civilization. For instance, tribal religion has been seen as a mechanism for solidifying group identity, valuable for a pack-hunting species whose individuals rely on cooperation to catch large and fast prey. Frequently the evolutionary preconception in terms of which such theories are framed is implicitly group-selectionist, but it is possible to rephrase the theories in terms of orthodox gene selection.

He argued that the role of key replicator in cultural evolution belongs not to genes, but to memes replicating thought from person to person by means of imitation. These replicators respond to selective pressures that may or may not affect biological reproduction or survival.[17]

In her book The Meme Machine, Susan Blackmore regards religions as particularly tenacious memes. Many of the features common to the most widely practiced religions provide built-in advantages in an evolutionary context, she writes. For example, religions that preach of the value of faith over evidence from everyday experience or reason inoculate societies against many of the most basic tools people commonly use to evaluate their ideas. By linking altruism with religious affiliation, religious memes can proliferate more quickly because people perceive that they can reap societal as well as personal rewards. The longevity of religious memes improves with their documentation in revered religious texts.[23]

Aaron Lynch attributed the robustness of religious memes in human culture to the fact that such memes incorporate multiple modes of meme transmission. Religious memes pass down the generations from parent to child and across a single generation through the meme-exchange of proselytism. Most people will hold the religion taught them by their parents throughout their life. Many religions feature adversarial elements, punishing apostasy, for instance, or demonizing infidels. In Thought Contagion Lynch identifies the memes of transmission in Christianity as especially powerful in scope. Believers view the conversion of non-believers both as a religious duty and as an act of altruism. The promise of heaven to believers and threat of hell to non-believers provide a strong incentive for members to retain their belief. Lynch asserts that belief in the Crucifixion of Jesus in Christianity amplifies each of its other replication advantages through the indebtedness believers have to their Savior for sacrifice on the cross. The image of the crucifixion recurs in religious sacraments, and the proliferation of symbols of the cross in homes and churches potently reinforces the wide array of Christian memes.[31]

Although religious memes have proliferated in human cultures, the modern scientific community has been relatively resistant to religious belief. Robertson (2007) [49] reasoned that if evolution is accelerated in conditions of propagative difficulty,[50] then we would expect to encounter variations of religious memes, established in general populations, addressed to scientific communities. Using a memetic approach, Robertson deconstructed two attempts to privilege religiously held spirituality in scientific discourse. Advantages of a memetic approach as compared to more traditional “modernization” and “supply side” theses in understanding the evolution and propagation of religion were explored.

In Cultural Software: A Theory of Ideology, Jack Balkin argued that memetic processes can explain many of the most familiar features of ideological thought. His theory of “cultural software” maintained that memes form narratives, social networks, metaphoric and metonymic models, and a variety of different mental structures. Balkin maintains that the same structures used to generate ideas about free speech or free markets also serve to generate racistic beliefs. To Balkin, whether memes become harmful or maladaptive depends on the environmental context in which they exist rather than in any special source or manner to their origination. Balkin describes racist beliefs as “fantasy” memes that become harmful or unjust “ideologies” when diverse peoples come together, as through trade or competition.[51]

In A Theory of Architecture, Nikos Salingaros speaks of memes as “freely propagating clusters of information” which can be beneficial or harmful. He contrasts memes to patterns and true knowledge, characterizing memes as “greatly simplified versions of patterns” and as “unreasoned matching to some visual or mnemonic prototype”.[52] Taking reference to Dawkins, Salingaros emphasizes that they can be transmitted due to their own communicative properties, that “the simpler they are, the faster they can proliferate”, and that the most successful memes “come with a great psychological appeal”.[53]

Architectural memes, according to Salingaros, can have destructive power. “Images portrayed in architectural magazines representing buildings that could not possibly accommodate everyday uses become fixed in our memory, so we reproduce them unconsciously.”[54] He lists various architectural memes that circulated since the 1920s and which, in his view, have led to contemporary architecture becoming quite decoupled from human needs. They lack connection and meaning, thereby preventing “the creation of true connections necessary to our understanding of the world”. He sees them as no different from antipatterns in software designas solutions that are false but are re-utilized nonetheless.[55]

An “Internet meme” is a concept that spreads rapidly from person to person via the Internet, largely through Internet-based E-mailing, blogs, forums, imageboards like 4chan, social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, instant messaging, social news sites or thread sites like Reddit, and video hosting services like YouTube and Twitch.[56]

In 2013, Richard Dawkins characterized an Internet meme as one deliberately altered by human creativity, distinguished from Dawkins’s original idea involving mutation by random change and a form of Darwinian selection.[57]

One technique of meme mapping represents the evolution and transmission of a meme across time and space.[58] Such a meme map uses a figure-8 diagram (an analemma) to map the gestation (in the lower loop), birth (at the choke point), and development (in the upper loop) of the selected meme. Such meme maps are nonscalar, with time mapped onto the y-axis and space onto the x-axis transect. One can read the temporal progression of the mapped meme from south to north on such a meme map. Paull has published a worked example using the “organics meme” (as in organic agriculture).[58]

See the article here:

Meme – Wikipedia

Understanding Memetics – SCP Foundation

Summary, for those in a hurry:

Memetics deals with information transfer, specifically cultural information in society. The basic idea is to conflate the exchange of information between people with genetic material, to track the mutation of ideas as they are transmitted from one person to the next in the way you could track viral transmissions and mutations. However, a meme also provides benefits to the carrier if they spread it.

Meme : Memetics :: Gene : Genetics

Memetics does NOT refer to telepathy, ESP or any imaginary psychic mental magic. These words are memetic, and if you understand them then they are having a completely ordinary memetic effect on you.

Memetics in regards to SCP objects tends to focus on the impossible rather than the mundane, regarding effects that are transmitted via information. In general, the effects themselves should remain in the realm of information. A memetic SCP would be more likely to be a phrase that makes you think you have wings as opposed to a phrase that makes you actually grow a pair of wings. If you write up magic words that make people grow wings, it should be described as something other than memetic.

Memetic SCPs do not emanate auras or project beams. They are SCPs which involve ideas and symbols which trigger a response in those who understand them.

Memetic is often incorrectly used by new personnel as the official sounding term for “Weird Mind Shit.” However, that is not actually what memetic means. These words are memetic. They are producing a memetic effect in your mind right now, without any magical mind rays lashing out of your computer monitor to grasp your fragile consciousness. Memes are information, more specifically, cultural information.

Outside of the Foundation’s walls the concept of memetics is not taken very seriously; it is a theory that conflates the transfer of cultural information with evolutionary biology.

meme : memetic :: gene : genetic

The idea was that certain memes prosper and others wither the same way certain genes produce stronger offspring that out-compete creatures with different genes. Also, it is easy to compare the spread and mutation of information to the spread of a virus. The reason we use the term memetic in our work is largely due to this, as the truly dangerous memes out there can spread like wildfire due to the fact that the very knowledge of them can count as an infection.

Understanding the true nature of memetic threats is critical to surviving them. You cannot wear a special set of magical goggles made of telekill to protect yourself from a meme. THE GOGGLES DO NOTHING. If you just read those words in your head with a bad Teutonic accent, congratulations on being victim to yet another memetic effect. If you did not know that phrase was an oft-repeated quote from the Simpsons then congratulations; you are now infected with that knowledge and are free to participate in its spread.

A meme perpetuates itself by being beneficial to the carrier to spread to new hosts. You now understand that THE GOGGLES DO NOTHING; you’re in on the joke. However, you might have friends who aren’t, and don’t get it. It benefits you to explain them, because then you both have something new to laugh together about when it gets brought up. This is what makes a meme effective – how much incentive a carrier has to spread it. Unless an anomalous meme’s effect is the compulsive urge for the carrier to infect others, there needs to be incentive to spread it.

An artifact can no more have a memetic aura or project a memetic beam than a creature could have a genetic aura or genetic beam. Even though you could imagine a creature with genes that allow it to produce some kind of aura or beam like a big doofy X-man, remember that the examples we have of such creatures in containment are not getting their super-powered emanations from anything resembling our scientific understanding of genetics and biology. Neither are the memetic artifacts. We contain these things specifically because we cannot understand or explain them yet. At the end of the day we’re still using a clumsy concept to describe things we don’t have a full grasp of.

It is very rare that anything with a dangerous memetic component could be described as hostile to begin with. We do not contain memetic threats because they are out to get us. They are threats because it is dangerous for us to merely perceive them. It is exceptionally rare for dangerous memes to even have anything resembling sapience with the exception of certain known entities which exist entirely within the medium of “cultural information” such as SCP-, SCP-732 and SCP-423.

A dangerous meme is basically a trigger that sets off something inside of you that you may or may have not been aware of. What would your knee jerk reaction be to knowing that your rival is sleeping with your one true love? How would you react if you were to unwittingly catch them in the act? That kind of sudden revelation can make a mild mannered citizen into a killer, so don’t be surprised that there are other strange bits of information out there that can break the human mind in different yet equally drastic ways.

Protecting yourself from memetic threat is very tricky and can be worse than the threat itself. There are reasons that we behave the way we do, there are reasons our emotions soar when we hear just the right combination of sounds in a piece of music. Do you want to stop thinking about the Simpsons or your obnoxious nerdy friends that quote it every time you hear the phrase THE GOGGLES DO NOTHING? That would require forgetting about the Simpsons and your friends.

Do you want to survive hearing or reading the phrase ” ?” Well, sadly we don’t quite know what other information you need to forget or know to prevent [DATA EXPUNGED] but we’re getting better. Lobotomies and pills help, and are one of the few times that the cure is not worse than the disease. The sum total of our human condition; our cultural knowledge and upbringing and memories and identity; this is what makes us susceptible to the occasional memetic compulsion.

So it’s not the basalt monolith or its bizarre carvings that is making you strangle your companions with your own intestines, the problem was within you all along.

Should you ever find yourself under a memetic compulsion and aware of the fact, remember that there are certain mental exercises that you can perform which may save your life or the lives of your companions. Changing the information your mind is being presented with may just change how you react to it, and the more abrupt or absurd the change is the better.

Imagine the fearsome entity is wearing a bright pink nightgown. Draw a mustache on the haunted painting. Pee on the stone altar. Wear the terrible sculpture like a hat.

And if all else fails, bend over and kiss your ass goodbye. I’m not kidding. That could actually help.

– Dr. Johannes Sorts received a special dispensation to use the word “doofy” in this document

But seriously

This was originally intended as a piece of fiction on its own before it got stuck into the information bar with plenty of other plainly out-of-character writing guides. So here’s the important things to take away:

1 – “Memetics” is a specific concept regarding information exchange. It has nothing to do with telepathy or ESP or psychic compulsions.

2 – SCP-148 has no effect on anything memetic. Don’t screw this up or we will give you an incredibly hard time about it.

3 – Psychic compulsions are lame and you should think twice before using them in your new SCP, even if you avoid misusing the term “memetic” when you do it.

4 – Sorts’ Rule for all memetic SCPs is “Memetic effect + crazy to death = failure.”

5 – Wear it like a haaaaat!!

Read more:

Understanding Memetics – SCP Foundation

Memetics | Definition of Memetics by Merriam-Webster

: the study of memes Memetics sees ideas as a kind of virus, sometimes propagating in spite of truth and logic. Its maxim is: Beliefs that survive aren’t necessarily true, rules that survive aren’t necessarily fair and rituals that survive aren’t necessarily necessary. Things that survive do so because they are good at surviving. Los Angeles Times, 20 Mar. 1999

Excerpt from:

Memetics | Definition of Memetics by Merriam-Webster

Dual inheritance theory – Wikipedia

Dual inheritance theory (DIT), also known as geneculture coevolution or biocultural evolution,[1] was developed in the 1960s through early 1980s to explain how human behavior is a product of two different and interacting evolutionary processes: genetic evolution and cultural evolution. Genes and culture continually interact in a feedback loop,[2] changes in genes can lead to changes in culture which can then influence genetic selection, and vice versa. One of the theory’s central claims is that culture evolves partly through a Darwinian selection process, which dual inheritance theorists often describe by analogy to genetic evolution.[3]

‘Culture’, in this context is defined as ‘socially learned behavior’, and ‘social learning’ is defined as copying behaviors observed in others or acquiring behaviors through being taught by others. Most of the modelling done in the field relies on the first dynamic (copying) though it can be extended to teaching. Social learning at its simplest involves blind copying of behaviors from a model (someone observed behaving), though it is also understood to have many potential biases, including success bias (copying from those who are perceived to be better off), status bias (copying from those with higher status), homophily (copying from those most like ourselves), conformist bias (disproportionately picking up behaviors that more people are performing), etc.. Understanding social learning is a system of pattern replication, and understanding that there are different rates of survival for different socially learned cultural variants, this sets up, by definition, an evolutionary structure: cultural evolution.[4]

Because genetic evolution is relatively well understood, most of DIT examines cultural evolution and the interactions between cultural evolution and genetic evolution.

DIT holds that genetic and cultural evolution interacted in the evolution of Homo sapiens. DIT recognizes that the natural selection of genotypes is an important component of the evolution of human behavior and that cultural traits can be constrained by genetic imperatives. However, DIT also recognizes that genetic evolution has endowed the human species with a parallel evolutionary process of cultural evolution. DIT makes three main claims:[5]

The human capacity to store and transmit culture arose from genetically evolved psychological mechanisms. This implies that at some point during the evolution of the human species a type of social learning leading to cumulative cultural evolution was evolutionarily advantageous.

Social learning processes give rise to cultural evolution. Cultural traits are transmitted differently from genetic traits and, therefore, result in different population-level effects on behavioral variation.

Cultural traits alter the social and physical environments under which genetic selection operates. For example, the cultural adoptions of agriculture and dairying have, in humans, caused genetic selection for the traits to digest starch and lactose, respectively.[6][7][8][9][10][11] As another example, it is likely that once culture became adaptive, genetic selection caused a refinement of the cognitive architecture that stores and transmits cultural information. This refinement may have further influenced the way culture is stored and the biases that govern its transmission.

DIT also predicts that, under certain situations, cultural evolution may select for traits that are genetically maladaptive. An example of this is the demographic transition, which describes the fall of birth rates within industrialized societies. Dual inheritance theorists hypothesize that the demographic transition may be a result of a prestige bias, where individuals that forgo reproduction to gain more influence in industrial societies are more likely to be chosen as cultural models.[12][13]

People have defined the word “culture” to describe a large set of different phenomena.[14][15] A definition that sums up what is meant by “culture” in DIT is:

Culture is socially learned information stored in individuals’ brains that is capable of affecting behavior.[16][17]

This view of culture emphasizes population thinking by focusing on the process by which culture is generated and maintained. It also views culture as a dynamic property of individuals, as opposed to a view of culture as a superorganic entity to which individuals must conform.[18] This view’s main advantage is that it connects individual-level processes to population-level outcomes.[19]

Genes affect cultural evolution via psychological predispositions on cultural learning.[20] Genes encode much of the information needed to form the human brain. Genes constrain the brain’s structure and, hence, the ability of the brain to acquire and store culture. Genes may also endow individuals with certain types of transmission bias (described below).

Culture can profoundly influence gene frequencies in a population.

Lactase persistence

One of the best known examples is the prevalence of the genotype for adult lactose absorption in human populations, such as Northern Europeans and some African societies, with a long history of raising cattle for milk. Until around 7,500 years ago,[21] lactase production stopped shortly after weaning,[22] and in societies which did not develop dairying, such as East Asians and Amerindians, this is still true today.[23][24] In areas with lactase persistence, it is believed that by domesticating animals, a source of milk became available while an adult and thus strong selection for lactase persistence could occur,[21][25] in a Scandinavian population the estimated selection coefficient was 0.09-0.19.[25] This implies that the cultural practice of raising cattle first for meat and later for milk led to selection for genetic traits for lactose digestion.[26] Recently, analysis of natural selection on the human genome suggests that civilization has accelerated genetic change in humans over the past 10,000 years.[27]

Food processing

Culture has driven changes to the human digestive systems making many digestive organs, like our teeth or stomach, smaller than expected for primates of a similar size,[28] and has been attributed to one of the reasons why humans have such large brains compared to other great apes.[29][30] This is due to food processing. Early examples of food processing include pounding, marinating and most notably cooking. Pounding meat breaks down the muscle fibres, hence taking away some of the job from the mouth, teeth and jaw.[31][32] Marinating emulates the action of the stomach with high acid levels. Cooking partially breaks down food making it more easily digestible. Food enters the body effectively partly digested, and as such food processing reduces the work that the digestive system has to do. This means that there is selection for smaller digestive organs as the tissue is energetically expensive,[28] those with smaller digestive organs can process their food but at a lower energetic cost than those with larger organs.[33] Cooking is notable because the energy available from food increases when cooked and this also means less time is spent looking for food.[29][34][35]

Humans living on cooked diets spend only a fraction of their day chewing compared to other extant primates living on raw diets. American girls and boys spent on average 8 and 7 percent of their day chewing respectively, compared to chimpanzees who spend more than 6 hours a day chewing.[36] This frees up time which can be used for hunting. A raw diet means hunting is constrained since time spent hunting is time not spent eating and chewing plant material, but cooking reduces the time required to get the day’s energy requirements, allowing for more subsistence activities.[37] Digestibility of cooked carbohydrates is approximately on average 30% higher than digestibility of non cooked carbohydrates.[34][38] This increased energy intake, more free time and savings made on tissue used in the digestive system allowed for the selection of genes for larger brain size.

Despite its benefits, brain tissue requires a large amount of calories, hence a main constraint in selection for larger brains is calorie intake. A greater calorie intake can support greater quantities of brain tissue. This is argued to explain why human brains can be much larger than other apes, since humans are the only ape to engage in food processing.[29] The cooking of food has influenced genes to the extent that, research suggests, humans cannot live without cooking.[39][29] A study on 513 individuals consuming long term raw diets found that as the percentage of their diet which was made up of raw food and/or the length they had been on a diet of raw food increased, their BMI decreased.[39] This is despite access to many non thermal processing, like grinding, pounding or heating to 48 deg. c. (118 deg. F).[39] With approximately 86 billion neurons in the human brain and 6070kg body mass, an exclusively raw diet close to that of what extant primates have would be not viable as, when modelled, it is argued that it would require an infeasible level of more than nine hours of feeding everyday.[29] However, this is contested, with alternative modelling showing enough calories could be obtained within 56 hours per day.[40] Some scientists and anthropologists point to evidence that brain size in the Homo lineage started to increase well before the advent of cooking due to increased consumption of meat[28][40][41] and that basic food processing (slicing) accounts for the size reduction in organs related to chewing.[42] Cornlio et al. argues that improving cooperative abilities and a varying of diet to more meat and seeds improved foraging and hunting efficiency. It is this that allowed for the brain expansion, independent of cooking which they argue came much later, a consequence from the complex cognition that developed.[40] Yet this is still an example of a cultural shift in diet and the resulting genetic evolution. Further criticism comes from the controversy of the archaeological evidence available. Some claim there is a lack of evidence of fire control when brain sizes first started expanding.[40][43] Wrangham argues that anatomical evidence around the time of the origin of Homo erectus (1.8 million years ago), indicates that the control of fire and hence cooking occurred.[34] At this time, the largest reductions in tooth size in the entirety of human evolution occurred, indicating that softer foods became prevalent in the diet. Also at this time was a narrowing of the pelvis indicating a smaller gut and also there is evidence that there was a loss of the ability to climb which Wrangham argues indicates the control of fire, since sleeping on the ground needs fire to ward off predators.[44] The proposed increases in brain size from food processing will have led to a greater mental capacity for further cultural innovation in food processing which will have increased digestive efficiency further providing more energy for further gains in brain size.[45] This positive feedback loop is argued to have led to the rapid brain size increases seen in the Homo lineage.[46][40]

In DIT, the evolution and maintenance of cultures is described by five major mechanisms: natural selection of cultural variants, random variation, cultural drift, guided variation and transmission bias.

Cultural differences among individuals can lead to differential survival of individuals. The patterns of this selective process depend on transmission biases and can result in behavior that is more adaptive to a given environment.

Random variation arises from errors in the learning, display or recall of cultural information, and is roughly analogous to the process of mutation in genetic evolution.

Cultural drift is a process roughly analogous to genetic drift in evolutionary biology.[47][48][49] In cultural drift, the frequency of cultural traits in a population may be subject to random fluctuations due to chance variations in which traits are observed and transmitted (sometimes called “sampling error”).[50] These fluctuations might cause cultural variants to disappear from a population. This effect should be especially strong in small populations.[51] A model by Hahn and Bentley shows that cultural drift gives a reasonably good approximation to changes in the popularity of American baby names.[50] Drift processes have also been suggested to explain changes in archaeological pottery and technology patent applications.[49] Changes in the songs of song birds are also thought to arise from drift processes, where distinct dialects in different groups occur due to errors in songbird singing and acquisition by successive generations.[52] Cultural drift is also observed in an early computer model of cultural evolution.[53]

Cultural traits may be gained in a population through the process of individual learning. Once an individual learns a novel trait, it can be transmitted to other members of the population. The process of guided variation depends on an adaptive standard that determines what cultural variants are learned.

Understanding the different ways that culture traits can be transmitted between individuals has been an important part of DIT research since the 1970s.[54][55] Transmission biases occur when some cultural variants are favored over others during the process of cultural transmission.[56] Boyd and Richerson (1985)[56] defined and analytically modeled a number of possible transmission biases. The list of biases has been refined over the years, especially by Henrich and McElreath.[57]

Content biases result from situations where some aspect of a cultural variant’s content makes them more likely to be adopted.[58] Content biases can result from genetic preferences, preferences determined by existing cultural traits, or a combination of the two. For example, food preferences can result from genetic preferences for sugary or fatty foods and socially-learned eating practices and taboos.[58] Content biases are sometimes called “direct biases.”[56]

Context biases result from individuals using clues about the social structure of their population to determine what cultural variants to adopt. This determination is made without reference to the content of the variant. There are two major categories of context biases: model-based biases, and frequency-dependent biases.

Model-based biases result when an individual is biased to choose a particular “cultural model” to imitate. There are four major categories of model-based biases: prestige bias, skill bias, success bias, and similarity bias.[5][59] A “prestige bias” results when individuals are more likely to imitate cultural models that are seen as having more prestige. A measure of prestige could be the amount of deference shown to a potential cultural model by other individuals. A “skill bias” results when individuals can directly observe different cultural models performing a learned skill and are more likely to imitate cultural models that perform better at the specific skill. A “success bias” results from individuals preferentially imitating cultural models that they determine are most generally successful (as opposed to successful at a specific skill as in the skill bias.) A “similarity bias” results when individuals are more likely to imitate cultural models that are perceived as being similar to the individual based on specific traits.

Frequency-dependent biases result when an individual is biased to choose particular cultural variants based on their perceived frequency in the population. The most explored frequency-dependent bias is the “conformity bias.” Conformity biases result when individuals attempt to copy the mean or the mode cultural variant in the population. Another possible frequency dependent bias is the “rarity bias.” The rarity bias results when individuals preferentially choose cultural variants that are less common in the population. The rarity bias is also sometimes called a “nonconformist” or “anti-conformist” bias.

In DIT, the evolution of culture is dependent on the evolution of social learning. Analytic models show that social learning becomes evolutionarily beneficial when the environment changes with enough frequency that genetic inheritance can not track the changes, but not fast enough that individual learning is more efficient.[60] For environments that have very little variability, social learning is not needed since genes can adapt fast enough to the changes that occur, and innate behaviour is able to deal with the constant environment.[61] In fast changing environments cultural learning would not be useful because what the previous generation knew is now outdated and will provide no benefit in the changed environment, and hence individual learning is more beneficial. It is only in the moderately changing environment where cultural learning becomes useful since each generation shares a mostly similar environment but genes have insufficient time to change to changes in the environment.[62] While other species have social learning, and thus some level of culture, only humans, some birds and chimpanzees are known to have cumulative culture.[63] Boyd and Richerson argue that the evolution of cumulative culture depends on observational learning and is uncommon in other species because it is ineffective when it is rare in a population. They propose that the environmental changes occurring in the Pleistocene may have provided the right environmental conditions.[62] Michael Tomasello argues that cumulative cultural evolution results from a ratchet effect that began when humans developed the cognitive architecture to understand others as mental agents.[64] Furthermore, Tomasello proposed in the 80s that there are some disparities between the observational learning mechanisms found in humans and great apes – which go some way to explain the observable difference between great ape traditions and human types of culture (see Emulation (observational learning)).

Although group selection is commonly thought to be nonexistent or unimportant in genetic evolution,[65][66][67] DIT predicts that, due to the nature of cultural inheritance, it may be an important force in cultural evolution. Group selection occurs in cultural evolution because conformist biases make it difficult for novel cultural traits to spread through a population (see above section on transmission biases). Conformist bias also helps maintain variation between groups. These two properties, rare in genetic transmission, are necessary for group selection to operate.[68] Based on an earlier model by Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman,[69] Boyd and Richerson show that conformist biases are almost inevitable when traits spread through social learning,[70] implying that group selection is common in cultural evolution. Analysis of small groups in New Guinea imply that cultural group selection might be a good explanation for slowly changing aspects of social structure, but not for rapidly changing fads.[71] The ability of cultural evolution to maintain intergroup diversity is what allows for the study of cultural phylogenetics.[72]

The idea that human cultures undergo a similar evolutionary process as genetic evolution goes back at least to Darwin[73] In the 1960s, Donald T. Campbell published some of the first theoretical work that adapted principles of evolutionary theory to the evolution of cultures.[74] In 1976, two developments in cultural evolutionary theory set the stage for DIT. In that year Richard Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene introduced ideas of cultural evolution to a popular audience. Although one of the best-selling science books of all time, because of its lack of mathematical rigor, it had little effect on the development of DIT. Also in 1976, geneticists Marcus Feldman and Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza published the first dynamic models of geneculture coevolution.[75] These models were to form the basis for subsequent work on DIT, heralded by the publication of three seminal books in the 1980s.

The first was Charles Lumsden and E.O. Wilson’s Genes, Mind and Culture.[76] This book outlined a series of mathematical models of how genetic evolution might favor the selection of cultural traits and how cultural traits might, in turn, affect the speed of genetic evolution. While it was the first book published describing how genes and culture might coevolve, it had relatively little effect on the further development of DIT.[77] Some critics felt that their models depended too heavily on genetic mechanisms at the expense of cultural mechanisms.[78] Controversy surrounding Wilson’s sociobiological theories may also have decreased the lasting effect of this book.[77]

The second 1981 book was Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman’s Cultural Transmission and Evolution: A Quantitative Approach.[48] Borrowing heavily from population genetics and epidemiology, this book built a mathematical theory concerning the spread of cultural traits. It describes the evolutionary implications of vertical transmission, passing cultural traits from parents to offspring; oblique transmission, passing cultural traits from any member of an older generation to a younger generation; and horizontal transmission, passing traits between members of the same population.

The next significant DIT publication was Robert Boyd and Peter Richerson’s 1985 Culture and the Evolutionary Process.[56] This book presents the now-standard mathematical models of the evolution of social learning under different environmental conditions, the population effects of social learning, various forces of selection on cultural learning rules, different forms of biased transmission and their population-level effects, and conflicts between cultural and genetic evolution. The book’s conclusion also outlined areas for future research that are still relevant today.[79]

In their 1985 book, Boyd and Richerson outlined an agenda for future DIT research. This agenda, outlined below, called for the development of both theoretical models and empirical research. DIT has since built a rich tradition of theoretical models over the past two decades.[80] However, there has not been a comparable level of empirical work.

In a 2006 interview Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson expressed disappointment at the little attention afforded to DIT:

“…for some reason I haven’t fully fathomed, this most promising frontier of scientific research has attracted very few people and very little effort.”[81]

Kevin Laland and Gillian Ruth Brown attribute this lack of attention to DIT’s heavy reliance on formal modeling.

“In many ways the most complex and potentially rewarding of all approaches, [DIT], with its multiple processes and cerebral onslaught of sigmas and deltas, may appear too abstract to all but the most enthusiastic reader. Until such a time as the theoretical hieroglyphics can be translated into a respectable empirical science most observers will remain immune to its message.”[82]

Economist Herbert Gintis disagrees with this critique, citing empirical work as well as more recent work using techniques from behavioral economics.[83] These behavioral economic techniques have been adapted to test predictions of cultural evolutionary models in laboratory settings[84][85][86] as well as studying differences in cooperation in fifteen small-scale societies in the field.[87]

Since one of the goals of DIT is to explain the distribution of human cultural traits, ethnographic and ethnologic techniques may also be useful for testing hypothesis stemming from DIT. Although findings from traditional ethnologic studies have been used to buttress DIT arguments,[88][89] thus far there have been little ethnographic fieldwork designed to explicitly test these hypotheses.[71][87][90]

Herb Gintis has named DIT one of the two major conceptual theories with potential for unifying the behavioral sciences, including economics, biology, anthropology, sociology, psychology and political science. Because it addresses both the genetic and cultural components of human inheritance, Gintis sees DIT models as providing the best explanations for the ultimate cause of human behavior and the best paradigm for integrating those disciplines with evolutionary theory.[91] In a review of competing evolutionary perspectives on human behavior, Laland and Brown see DIT as the best candidate for uniting the other evolutionary perspectives under one theoretical umbrella.[92]

Two major topics of study in both sociology and cultural anthropology are human cultures and cultural variation.However, Dual Inheritance theorists charge that both disciplines too often treat culture as a static superorganic entity that dictates human behavior.[93][94] Cultures are defined by a suite of common traits shared by a large group of people. DIT theorists argue that this doesn’t sufficiently explain variation in cultural traits at the individual level. By contrast, DIT models human culture at the individual level and views culture as the result of a dynamic evolutionary process at the population level.[93][95]

Evolutionary psychologists study the evolved architecture of the human mind. They see it as composed of many different programs that process information, each with assumptions and procedures that were specialized by natural selection to solve a different adaptive problem faced by our hunter-gatherer ancestors (e.g., choosing mates, hunting, avoiding predators, cooperating, using aggression).[96] These evolved programs contain content-rich assumptions about how the world and other people work. As ideas are passed from mind to mind, they are changed by these evolved inference systems (much like messages get changed in a game of telephone). But the changes are not random. Evolved programs add and subtract information, reshaping the ideas in ways that make them more “intuitive”, more memorable, and more attention-grabbing. In other words, “memes” (ideas) are not like genes. Genes are copied faithfully as they are replicated, but ideas are not. Its not just that ideas mutate every once in awhile, like genes do. Ideas are transformed every time they are passed from mind to mind, because the sender’s message is being interpreted by evolved inference systems in the receiver.[97][98] There is no necessary contradiction between evolutionary psychology and DIT, but evolutionary psychologists argue that the psychology implicit in many DIT models is too simple; evolved programs have a rich inferential structure not captured by the idea of a “content bias”. They also argue that some of the phenomena DIT models attribute to cultural evolution are cases of “evoked culture”situations in which different evolved programs are activated in different places, in response to cues in the environment.[99]

Human sociobiologists try to understand how maximizing genetic fitness, in either the modern era or past environments, can explain human behavior. When faced with a trait that seems maladaptive, some sociobiologists try to determine how the trait actually increases genetic fitness (maybe through kin selection or by speculating about early evolutionary environments). Dual inheritance theorists, in contrast, will consider a variety of genetic and cultural processes in addition to natural selection on genes.

Human behavioral ecology (HBE) and DIT have a similar relationship to what ecology and evolutionary biology have in the biological sciences. HBE is more concerned about ecological process and DIT more focused on historical process.[100] One difference is that human behavioral ecologists often assume that culture is a system that produces the most adaptive outcome in a given environment. This implies that similar behavioral traditions should be found in similar environments. However, this is not always the case. A study of African cultures showed that cultural history was a better predictor of cultural traits than local ecological conditions.[101]

Memetics, which comes from the meme idea described in Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene, is similar to DIT in that it treats culture as an evolutionary process that is distinct from genetic transmission. However, there are some philosophical differences between memetics and DIT.[102] One difference is that memetics’ focus is on the selection potential of discrete replicators (memes), where DIT allows for transmission of both non-replicators and non-discrete cultural variants. DIT does not assume that replicators are necessary for cumulative adaptive evolution. DIT also more strongly emphasizes the role of genetic inheritance in shaping the capacity for cultural evolution. But perhaps the biggest difference is a difference in academic lineage. Memetics as a label is more influential in popular culture than in academia. Critics of memetics argue that it is lacking in empirical support or is conceptually ill-founded, and question whether there is hope for the memetic research program succeeding. Proponents point out that many cultural traits are discrete, and that many existing models of cultural inheritance assume discrete cultural units, and hence involve memes.[103]

Serious criticisms have been levelled against DIT.[104][105][106] Use of the term dual inheritance to refer to not just traits that are transmitted by way of a self-assembly code (as in genetic evolution) but also traits that are not transmitted by way of a self-assembly code (as in cultural evolution) is misleading, because this second use does not capture the algorithmic structure that makes an inheritance system require a particular kind of mathematical framework.[107] The population genetics framework was designed to solve the problem of how does evolution occur–i.e., how are fit traits preserved in a lineage–in a system wherein acquired change is discarded at the end of each generation. Darwin noticed that there are two kinds of traits: acquired traits (e.g., a tattoo, or knowledge of the layout of a particular city) which are discarded, while inherited traits (e.g., blood type) are preserved. His ingenious solution was to develop a population level explanation, and show that evolution was due to differential replication of heritable variation in response to selection. We now know that the reason for the distinction between these two kinds of traits is that some traits (inherited traits) are encoded in genes which collectively constitute self-assembly code and are transmitted to offspring, while all other traits (acquired traits) are shed at the end of a generation with the deaths of those who bore them.Thus, the reason that horizontal transmission of ideas is algorithmically dissimilar to vertical transmission (reproduction) in genetic evolution is that it does not provide a means of preserving fit traits in a system wherein those traits would otherwise be lost from the lineage. Proponents of DIT argue that 1) even genetic evolution uses non-vertical transmission through the environmental alteration of the genome during life by acquired circumstance: epigenetics, and 2) genetic evolution is also affected by direct horizontal transmission between separate species of plants and strains of bacteria: horizontal gene transfer. However, these arguments are irrelevant to the issue of whether a Darwinian (or selectionist, or population genetics) mathematical framework is appropriate to the description of cultural evolution, since these aspects of biological evolution are themselves not accommodated by such a framework. The point is that although it is not essential that inherited traits be transmitted by way of genes (necessarily) for a population genetics framework to be applicable, but they need to be transmitted by way of a self-assembly code, or some other such mechanism that may exist out there in the universe that does the same thing: preserving traits that would otherwise be lost from a lineage due to the death of individuals.

The above criticism of DIT arises due to the choice of Darwinian selection as an explanatory framework for culture. Cultural evolution does not possess the algorithmic structure of a process that can be modeled in a Darwinian framework as characterized by John von Neumann[108] and used by John Holland to design the genetic algorithm.[109] Forcing culture into a Darwinian framework gives a distorted picture of the process for several reasons. First, Darwinian selection only works as an explanatory framework when variation is randomly generated.[citation needed] To the extent that transmission biases are operative in culture, they mitigate the effect of Darwinian change, i.e. change in the distribution of variants over generations of exposure to selective pressures.[citation needed] Second, since acquired change can accumulate orders of magnitude faster than inherited change, if it is not getting regularly discarded each generation, it quickly overwhelms the population-level mechanism of change identified by Darwin; it swamps the phylogenetic signal.[citation needed]DIT proponents reply that their theory includes a very important role for decision-making forces.[110] As a point of history, Darwin had a rather sophisticated theory of human cultural evolution that depended on natural selection “to a subordinate degree” compared to “laws, customs, and traditions” supported by public opinion.[111] Critics do not see the relevance of this reply to the point they are making. When critics claim that DIT is too “Darwinian” they are claiming that culture does not have the algorithmic structure of the kind of process that the formalisms of population genetics were developed to capture.

A related problem stems from the reconstructive manner in which ideas are encoded and retrieved from memory, and the fact that ideas are interpreted in terms of existing conceptual structure and creatively adapted to their bearer’s needs, views, and tastes prior to cultural transmission. This means that what biologists call ‘acquired change’ is ubiquitous in culture, and the population genetics framework was specifically developed to describe the evolution of inherited change in a system where acquired change is regularly discarded from the lineage. Proponents argue “But if this criticism was valid then it would be comparatively much easier to argue an unpopular or incorrect concepts than it actually is.” Critics do not know what they mean by this. Proponents also claim, “In addition, nothing about DIT runs counter to the idea that an internally selective process (some would call creativity) also determines the fitness of ideas received and sent. In fact this decision making is a large part of the territory embraced by DIT proponents but is poorly understood due to limitations in neurobiology (for more information see Neural Darwinism).” Critics, however, do not view creativity as an “internally selective process”, and their criticism has nothing to do with whether creativity “determines the fitness of ideas received and sent.” (They also point out that there is a vast psychological literature on decision making; it would only appear to be “poorly understood” to someone whose only source for papers on decision making is the literature on Neural Darwinism.) The point critics are making in regard to creativity is that creativity introduces acquired change which is not handled by a selectionist, or Darwinian, or population genetics (it doesn’t matter what you call it) type of mathematical framework.

Related criticisms of the effort to frame culture in Darwinian terms have been leveled by Richard Lewontin,[112] Niles Eldredge,[113] and Stuart Kauffman.[114]

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Dual inheritance theory – Wikipedia

Meme – Wikipedia

This article is about the term “meme” in general. For the usage of the term on the internet (or a fad that spreads quickly), see Internet meme. For other uses, see Meme (disambiguation).

A meme ( MEEM[1][2][3]) is an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a cultureoften with the aim of conveying a particular phenomenon, theme, or meaning represented by the meme.[4] A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices, that can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena with a mimicked theme. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures.[5]

Proponents theorize that memes are a viral phenomenon that may evolve by natural selection in a manner analogous to that of biological evolution. Memes do this through the processes of variation, mutation, competition, and inheritance, each of which influences a meme’s reproductive success. Memes spread through the behavior that they generate in their hosts. Memes that propagate less prolifically may become extinct, while others may survive, spread, and (for better or for worse) mutate. Memes that replicate most effectively enjoy more success, and some may replicate effectively even when they prove to be detrimental to the welfare of their hosts.[6]

A field of study called memetics[7] arose in the 1990s to explore the concepts and transmission of memes in terms of an evolutionary model. Criticism from a variety of fronts has challenged the notion that academic study can examine memes empirically. However, developments in neuroimaging may make empirical study possible.[8] Some commentators in the social sciences question the idea that one can meaningfully categorize culture in terms of discrete units, and are especially critical of the biological nature of the theory’s underpinnings.[9] Others have argued that this use of the term is the result of a misunderstanding of the original proposal.[10]

The word meme is a neologism coined by Richard Dawkins.[11] It originated from Dawkins’ 1976 book The Selfish Gene. Dawkins’s own position is somewhat ambiguous: he welcomed N. K. Humphrey’s suggestion that “memes should be considered as living structures, not just metaphorically”[12] and proposed to regard memes as “physically residing in the brain”.[13] Later, he argued that his original intentions, presumably before his approval of Humphrey’s opinion, had been simpler.[14]

The word meme is a shortening (modeled on gene) of mimeme (from Ancient Greek pronounced[mmma] mmma, “imitated thing”, from mimeisthai, “to imitate”, from mimos, “mime”)[15] coined by British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene (1976)[11][16] as a concept for discussion of evolutionary principles in explaining the spread of ideas and cultural phenomena. Examples of memes given in the book included melodies, catchphrases, fashion, and the technology of building arches.[17] Kenneth Pike had in 1954 coined the related terms emic and etic, generalizing the linguistic units of phoneme, morpheme, grapheme, lexeme, and tagmeme (as set out by Leonard Bloomfield), distinguishing insider and outside views of communicative behavior.[18]

The word meme originated with Richard Dawkins’ 1976 book The Selfish Gene. Dawkins cites as inspiration the work of geneticist L. L. Cavalli-Sforza, anthropologist F. T. Cloak[19] and ethologist J. M. Cullen.[20] Dawkins wrote that evolution depended not on the particular chemical basis of genetics, but only on the existence of a self-replicating unit of transmissionin the case of biological evolution, the gene. For Dawkins, the meme exemplified another self-replicating unit with potential significance in explaining human behavior and cultural evolution. Although Dawkins invented the term ‘meme’ and developed meme theory, the possibility that ideas were subject to the same pressures of evolution as were biological attributes was discussed in Darwin’s time. T. H. Huxley claimed that ‘The struggle for existence holds as much in the intellectual as in the physical world. A theory is a species of thinking, and its right to exist is coextensive with its power of resisting extinction by its rivals.'[21]

Dawkins used the term to refer to any cultural entity that an observer might consider a replicator. He hypothesized that one could view many cultural entities as replicators, and pointed to melodies, fashions and learned skills as examples. Memes generally replicate through exposure to humans, who have evolved as efficient copiers of information and behavior. Because humans do not always copy memes perfectly, and because they may refine, combine or otherwise modify them with other memes to create new memes, they can change over time. Dawkins likened the process by which memes survive and change through the evolution of culture to the natural selection of genes in biological evolution.[17]

Dawkins defined the meme as a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation and replication, but later definitions would vary. The lack of a consistent, rigorous, and precise understanding of what typically makes up one unit of cultural transmission remains a problem in debates about memetics.[23] In contrast, the concept of genetics gained concrete evidence with the discovery of the biological functions of DNA. Meme transmission requires a physical medium, such as photons, sound waves, touch, taste, or smell because memes can be transmitted only through the senses.

Dawkins noted that in a society with culture a person need not have descendants to remain influential in the actions of individuals thousands of years after their death:

But if you contribute to the world’s culture, if you have a good idea…it may live on, intact, long after your genes have dissolved in the common pool. Socrates may or may not have a gene or two alive in the world today, as G.C. Williams has remarked, but who cares? The meme-complexes of Socrates, Leonardo, Copernicus and Marconi are still going strong.[24]

Although Dawkins invented the term meme, he has not claimed that the idea was entirely novel,[25] and there have been other expressions for similar ideas in the past.[26] In 1904, Richard Semon published Die Mneme (which appeared in English in 1924 as The Mneme). The term mneme was also used in Maurice Maeterlinck’s The Life of the White Ant (1926), with some parallels to Dawkins’s concept.[26]

Memes, analogously to genes, vary in their aptitude to replicate; successful memes remain and spread, whereas unfit ones stall and are forgotten. Thus memes that prove more effective at replicating and surviving are selected in the meme pool.

Memes first need retention. The longer a meme stays in its hosts, the higher its chances of propagation are. When a host uses a meme, the meme’s life is extended.[27] The reuse of the neural space hosting a certain meme’s copy to host different memes is the greatest threat to that meme’s copy.[28]

A meme which increases the longevity of its hosts will generally survive longer. On the contrary, a meme which shortens the longevity of its hosts will tend to disappear faster. However, as hosts are mortal, retention is not sufficient to perpetuate a meme in the long term; memes also need transmission.

Life-forms can transmit information both vertically (from parent to child, via replication of genes) and horizontally (through viruses and other means).Memes can replicate vertically or horizontally within a single biological generation. They may also lie dormant for long periods of time.

Memes reproduce by copying from a nervous system to another one, either by communication or imitation. Imitation often involves the copying of an observed behavior of another individual. Communication may be direct or indirect, where memes transmit from one individual to another through a copy recorded in an inanimate source, such as a book or a musical score. Adam McNamara has suggested that memes can be thereby classified as either internal or external memes (i-memes or e-memes).[8]

Some commentators have likened the transmission of memes to the spread of contagions.[29] Social contagions such as fads, hysteria, copycat crime, and copycat suicide exemplify memes seen as the contagious imitation of ideas. Observers distinguish the contagious imitation of memes from instinctively contagious phenomena such as yawning and laughing, which they consider innate (rather than socially learned) behaviors.[30]

Aaron Lynch described seven general patterns of meme transmission, or “thought contagion”:[31]

Dawkins initially defined meme as a noun that “conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation”.[17] John S. Wilkins retained the notion of meme as a kernel of cultural imitation while emphasizing the meme’s evolutionary aspect, defining the meme as “the least unit of sociocultural information relative to a selection process that has favorable or unfavorable selection bias that exceeds its endogenous tendency to change”.[32] The meme as a unit provides a convenient means of discussing “a piece of thought copied from person to person”, regardless of whether that thought contains others inside it, or forms part of a larger meme. A meme could consist of a single word, or a meme could consist of the entire speech in which that word first occurred. This forms an analogy to the idea of a gene as a single unit of self-replicating information found on the self-replicating chromosome.

While the identification of memes as “units” conveys their nature to replicate as discrete, indivisible entities, it does not imply that thoughts somehow become quantized or that “atomic” ideas exist that cannot be dissected into smaller pieces. A meme has no given size. Susan Blackmore writes that melodies from Beethoven’s symphonies are commonly used to illustrate the difficulty involved in delimiting memes as discrete units. She notes that while the first four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (listen(helpinfo)) form a meme widely replicated as an independent unit, one can regard the entire symphony as a single meme as well.[23]

The inability to pin an idea or cultural feature to quantifiable key units is widely acknowledged as a problem for memetics. It has been argued however that the traces of memetic processing can be quantified utilizing neuroimaging techniques which measure changes in the connectivity profiles between brain regions.”[8] Blackmore meets such criticism by stating that memes compare with genes in this respect: that while a gene has no particular size, nor can we ascribe every phenotypic feature directly to a particular gene, it has value because it encapsulates that key unit of inherited expression subject to evolutionary pressures. To illustrate, she notes evolution selects for the gene for features such as eye color; it does not select for the individual nucleotide in a strand of DNA. Memes play a comparable role in understanding the evolution of imitated behaviors.[23]

The 1981 book Genes, Mind, and Culture: The Coevolutionary Process by Charles J. Lumsden and E. O. Wilson proposed the theory that genes and culture co-evolve, and that the fundamental biological units of culture must correspond to neuronal networks that function as nodes of semantic memory. They coined their own word, “culturgen”, which did not catch on. Coauthor Wilson later acknowledged the term meme as the best label for the fundamental unit of cultural inheritance in his 1998 book Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, which elaborates upon the fundamental role of memes in unifying the natural and social sciences.[33]

Dawkins noted the three conditions that must exist for evolution to occur:[34]

Dawkins emphasizes that the process of evolution naturally occurs whenever these conditions co-exist, and that evolution does not apply only to organic elements such as genes. He regards memes as also having the properties necessary for evolution, and thus sees meme evolution as not simply analogous to genetic evolution, but as a real phenomenon subject to the laws of natural selection. Dawkins noted that as various ideas pass from one generation to the next, they may either enhance or detract from the survival of the people who obtain those ideas, or influence the survival of the ideas themselves. For example, a certain culture may develop unique designs and methods of tool-making that give it a competitive advantage over another culture. Each tool-design thus acts somewhat similarly to a biological gene in that some populations have it and others do not, and the meme’s function directly affects the presence of the design in future generations. In keeping with the thesis that in evolution one can regard organisms simply as suitable “hosts” for reproducing genes, Dawkins argues that one can view people as “hosts” for replicating memes. Consequently, a successful meme may or may not need to provide any benefit to its host.[34]

Unlike genetic evolution, memetic evolution can show both Darwinian and Lamarckian traits. Cultural memes will have the characteristic of Lamarckian inheritance when a host aspires to replicate the given meme through inference rather than by exactly copying it. Take for example the case of the transmission of a simple skill such as hammering a nail, a skill that a learner imitates from watching a demonstration without necessarily imitating every discrete movement modeled by the teacher in the demonstration, stroke for stroke.[35] Susan Blackmore distinguishes the difference between the two modes of inheritance in the evolution of memes, characterizing the Darwinian mode as “copying the instructions” and the Lamarckian as “copying the product.”[23]

Clusters of memes, or memeplexes (also known as meme complexes or as memecomplexes), such as cultural or political doctrines and systems, may also play a part in the acceptance of new memes. Memeplexes comprise groups of memes that replicate together and coadapt.[23] Memes that fit within a successful memeplex may gain acceptance by “piggybacking” on the success of the memeplex.As an example, John D. Gottsch discusses the transmission, mutation and selection of religious memeplexes and the theistic memes contained.[36] Theistic memes discussed include the “prohibition of aberrant sexual practices such as incest, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, castration, and religious prostitution”, which may have increased vertical transmission of the parent religious memeplex. Similar memes are thereby included in the majority of religious memeplexes, and harden over time; they become an “inviolable canon” or set of dogmas, eventually finding their way into secular law. This could also be referred to as the propagation of a taboo.

The discipline of memetics, which dates from the mid-1980s, provides an approach to evolutionary models of cultural information transfer based on the concept of the meme. Memeticists have proposed that just as memes function analogously to genes, memetics functions analogously to genetics. Memetics attempts to apply conventional scientific methods (such as those used in population genetics and epidemiology) to explain existing patterns and transmission of cultural ideas.

Principal criticisms of memetics include the claim that memetics ignores established advances in other fields of cultural study, such as sociology, cultural anthropology, cognitive psychology, and social psychology. Questions remain whether or not the meme concept counts as a validly disprovable scientific theory. This view regards memetics as a theory in its infancy: a protoscience to proponents, or a pseudoscience to some detractors.

An objection to the study of the evolution of memes in genetic terms (although not to the existence of memes) involves a perceived gap in the gene/meme analogy: the cumulative evolution of genes depends on biological selection-pressures neither too great nor too small in relation to mutation-rates. There seems no reason to think that the same balance will exist in the selection pressures on memes.[37]

Luis Benitez-Bribiesca M.D., a critic of memetics, calls the theory a “pseudoscientific dogma” and “a dangerous idea that poses a threat to the serious study of consciousness and cultural evolution”. As a factual criticism, Benitez-Bribiesca points to the lack of a “code script” for memes (analogous to the DNA of genes), and to the excessive instability of the meme mutation mechanism (that of an idea going from one brain to another), which would lead to a low replication accuracy and a high mutation rate, rendering the evolutionary process chaotic.[38]

British political philosopher John Gray has characterized Dawkins’ memetic theory of religion as “nonsense” and “not even a theory… the latest in a succession of ill-judged Darwinian metaphors”, comparable to Intelligent Design in its value as a science.[39]

Another critique comes from semiotic theorists such as Deacon[40] and Kull.[41] This view regards the concept of “meme” as a primitivized concept of “sign”. The meme is thus described in memetics as a sign lacking a triadic nature. Semioticians can regard a meme as a “degenerate” sign, which includes only its ability of being copied. Accordingly, in the broadest sense, the objects of copying are memes, whereas the objects of translation and interpretation are signs.[clarification needed]

Fracchia and Lewontin regard memetics as reductionist and inadequate.[42] Evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr disapproved of Dawkins’ gene-based view and usage of the term “meme”, asserting it to be an “unnecessary synonym” for “concept”, reasoning that concepts are not restricted to an individual or a generation, may persist for long periods of time, and may evolve.[43]

Opinions differ as to how best to apply the concept of memes within a “proper” disciplinary framework. One view sees memes as providing a useful philosophical perspective with which to examine cultural evolution. Proponents of this view (such as Susan Blackmore and Daniel Dennett) argue that considering cultural developments from a meme’s-eye viewas if memes themselves respond to pressure to maximise their own replication and survivalcan lead to useful insights and yield valuable predictions into how culture develops over time. Others such as Bruce Edmonds and Robert Aunger have focused on the need to provide an empirical grounding for memetics to become a useful and respected scientific discipline.[44][45]

A third approach, described by Joseph Poulshock, as “radical memetics” seeks to place memes at the centre of a materialistic theory of mind and of personal identity.[46]

Prominent researchers in evolutionary psychology and anthropology, including Scott Atran, Dan Sperber, Pascal Boyer, John Tooby and others, argue the possibility of incompatibility between modularity of mind and memetics.[citation needed] In their view, minds structure certain communicable aspects of the ideas produced, and these communicable aspects generally trigger or elicit ideas in other minds through inference (to relatively rich structures generated from often low-fidelity input) and not high-fidelity replication or imitation. Atran discusses communication involving religious beliefs as a case in point. In one set of experiments he asked religious people to write down on a piece of paper the meanings of the Ten Commandments. Despite the subjects’ own expectations of consensus, interpretations of the commandments showed wide ranges of variation, with little evidence of consensus. In another experiment, subjects with autism and subjects without autism interpreted ideological and religious sayings (for example, “Let a thousand flowers bloom” or “To everything there is a season”). People with autism showed a significant tendency to closely paraphrase and repeat content from the original statement (for example: “Don’t cut flowers before they bloom”). Controls tended to infer a wider range of cultural meanings with little replicated content (for example: “Go with the flow” or “Everyone should have equal opportunity”). Only the subjects with autismwho lack the degree of inferential capacity normally associated with aspects of theory of mindcame close to functioning as “meme machines”.[47]

In his book The Robot’s Rebellion, Stanovich uses the memes and memeplex concepts to describe a program of cognitive reform that he refers to as a “rebellion”. Specifically, Stanovich argues that the use of memes as a descriptor for cultural units is beneficial because it serves to emphasize transmission and acquisition properties that parallel the study of epidemiology. These properties make salient the sometimes parasitic nature of acquired memes, and as a result individuals should be motivated to reflectively acquire memes using what he calls a “Neurathian bootstrap” process.[48]

Although social scientists such as Max Weber sought to understand and explain religion in terms of a cultural attribute, Richard Dawkins called for a re-analysis of religion in terms of the evolution of self-replicating ideas apart from any resulting biological advantages they might bestow.

As an enthusiastic Darwinian, I have been dissatisfied with explanations that my fellow-enthusiasts have offered for human behaviour. They have tried to look for ‘biological advantages’ in various attributes of human civilization. For instance, tribal religion has been seen as a mechanism for solidifying group identity, valuable for a pack-hunting species whose individuals rely on cooperation to catch large and fast prey. Frequently the evolutionary preconception in terms of which such theories are framed is implicitly group-selectionist, but it is possible to rephrase the theories in terms of orthodox gene selection.

He argued that the role of key replicator in cultural evolution belongs not to genes, but to memes replicating thought from person to person by means of imitation. These replicators respond to selective pressures that may or may not affect biological reproduction or survival.[17]

In her book The Meme Machine, Susan Blackmore regards religions as particularly tenacious memes. Many of the features common to the most widely practiced religions provide built-in advantages in an evolutionary context, she writes. For example, religions that preach of the value of faith over evidence from everyday experience or reason inoculate societies against many of the most basic tools people commonly use to evaluate their ideas. By linking altruism with religious affiliation, religious memes can proliferate more quickly because people perceive that they can reap societal as well as personal rewards. The longevity of religious memes improves with their documentation in revered religious texts.[23]

Aaron Lynch attributed the robustness of religious memes in human culture to the fact that such memes incorporate multiple modes of meme transmission. Religious memes pass down the generations from parent to child and across a single generation through the meme-exchange of proselytism. Most people will hold the religion taught them by their parents throughout their life. Many religions feature adversarial elements, punishing apostasy, for instance, or demonizing infidels. In Thought Contagion Lynch identifies the memes of transmission in Christianity as especially powerful in scope. Believers view the conversion of non-believers both as a religious duty and as an act of altruism. The promise of heaven to believers and threat of hell to non-believers provide a strong incentive for members to retain their belief. Lynch asserts that belief in the Crucifixion of Jesus in Christianity amplifies each of its other replication advantages through the indebtedness believers have to their Savior for sacrifice on the cross. The image of the crucifixion recurs in religious sacraments, and the proliferation of symbols of the cross in homes and churches potently reinforces the wide array of Christian memes.[31]

Although religious memes have proliferated in human cultures, the modern scientific community has been relatively resistant to religious belief. Robertson (2007) [49] reasoned that if evolution is accelerated in conditions of propagative difficulty,[50] then we would expect to encounter variations of religious memes, established in general populations, addressed to scientific communities. Using a memetic approach, Robertson deconstructed two attempts to privilege religiously held spirituality in scientific discourse. Advantages of a memetic approach as compared to more traditional “modernization” and “supply side” theses in understanding the evolution and propagation of religion were explored.

In Cultural Software: A Theory of Ideology, Jack Balkin argued that memetic processes can explain many of the most familiar features of ideological thought. His theory of “cultural software” maintained that memes form narratives, social networks, metaphoric and metonymic models, and a variety of different mental structures. Balkin maintains that the same structures used to generate ideas about free speech or free markets also serve to generate racistic beliefs. To Balkin, whether memes become harmful or maladaptive depends on the environmental context in which they exist rather than in any special source or manner to their origination. Balkin describes racist beliefs as “fantasy” memes that become harmful or unjust “ideologies” when diverse peoples come together, as through trade or competition.[51]

In A Theory of Architecture, Nikos Salingaros speaks of memes as “freely propagating clusters of information” which can be beneficial or harmful. He contrasts memes to patterns and true knowledge, characterizing memes as “greatly simplified versions of patterns” and as “unreasoned matching to some visual or mnemonic prototype”.[52] Taking reference to Dawkins, Salingaros emphasizes that they can be transmitted due to their own communicative properties, that “the simpler they are, the faster they can proliferate”, and that the most successful memes “come with a great psychological appeal”.[53]

Architectural memes, according to Salingaros, can have destructive power. “Images portrayed in architectural magazines representing buildings that could not possibly accommodate everyday uses become fixed in our memory, so we reproduce them unconsciously.”[54] He lists various architectural memes that circulated since the 1920s and which, in his view, have led to contemporary architecture becoming quite decoupled from human needs. They lack connection and meaning, thereby preventing “the creation of true connections necessary to our understanding of the world”. He sees them as no different from antipatterns in software designas solutions that are false but are re-utilized nonetheless.[55]

An “Internet meme” is a concept that spreads rapidly from person to person via the Internet, largely through Internet-based E-mailing, blogs, forums, imageboards like 4chan, social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, instant messaging, social news sites or thread sites like Reddit, and video hosting services like YouTube and Twitch.[56]

In 2013, Richard Dawkins characterized an Internet meme as one deliberately altered by human creativity, distinguished from Dawkins’s original idea involving mutation by random change and a form of Darwinian selection.[57]

One technique of meme mapping represents the evolution and transmission of a meme across time and space.[58] Such a meme map uses a figure-8 diagram (an analemma) to map the gestation (in the lower loop), birth (at the choke point), and development (in the upper loop) of the selected meme. Such meme maps are nonscalar, with time mapped onto the y-axis and space onto the x-axis transect. One can read the temporal progression of the mapped meme from south to north on such a meme map. Paull has published a worked example using the “organics meme” (as in organic agriculture).[58]

Read the original here:

Meme – Wikipedia

Memetics | Definition of Memetics by Merriam-Webster

: the study of memes Memetics sees ideas as a kind of virus, sometimes propagating in spite of truth and logic. Its maxim is: Beliefs that survive aren’t necessarily true, rules that survive aren’t necessarily fair and rituals that survive aren’t necessarily necessary. Things that survive do so because they are good at surviving. Los Angeles Times, 20 Mar. 1999

See the article here:

Memetics | Definition of Memetics by Merriam-Webster

Understanding Memetics – SCP Foundation

Summary, for those in a hurry:

Memetics deals with information transfer, specifically cultural information in society. The basic idea is to conflate the exchange of information between people with genetic material, to track the mutation of ideas as they are transmitted from one person to the next in the way you could track viral transmissions and mutations. However, a meme also provides benefits to the carrier if they spread it.

Meme : Memetics :: Gene : Genetics

Memetics does NOT refer to telepathy, ESP or any imaginary psychic mental magic. These words are memetic, and if you understand them then they are having a completely ordinary memetic effect on you.

Memetics in regards to SCP objects tends to focus on the impossible rather than the mundane, regarding effects that are transmitted via information. In general, the effects themselves should remain in the realm of information. A memetic SCP would be more likely to be a phrase that makes you think you have wings as opposed to a phrase that makes you actually grow a pair of wings. If you write up magic words that make people grow wings, it should be described as something other than memetic.

Memetic SCPs do not emanate auras or project beams. They are SCPs which involve ideas and symbols which trigger a response in those who understand them.

Memetic is often incorrectly used by new personnel as the official sounding term for “Weird Mind Shit.” However, that is not actually what memetic means. These words are memetic. They are producing a memetic effect in your mind right now, without any magical mind rays lashing out of your computer monitor to grasp your fragile consciousness. Memes are information, more specifically, cultural information.

Outside of the Foundation’s walls the concept of memetics is not taken very seriously; it is a theory that conflates the transfer of cultural information with evolutionary biology.

meme : memetic :: gene : genetic

The idea was that certain memes prosper and others wither the same way certain genes produce stronger offspring that out-compete creatures with different genes. Also, it is easy to compare the spread and mutation of information to the spread of a virus. The reason we use the term memetic in our work is largely due to this, as the truly dangerous memes out there can spread like wildfire due to the fact that the very knowledge of them can count as an infection.

Understanding the true nature of memetic threats is critical to surviving them. You cannot wear a special set of magical goggles made of telekill to protect yourself from a meme. THE GOGGLES DO NOTHING. If you just read those words in your head with a bad Teutonic accent, congratulations on being victim to yet another memetic effect. If you did not know that phrase was an oft-repeated quote from the Simpsons then congratulations; you are now infected with that knowledge and are free to participate in its spread.

A meme perpetuates itself by being beneficial to the carrier to spread to new hosts. You now understand that THE GOGGLES DO NOTHING; you’re in on the joke. However, you might have friends who aren’t, and don’t get it. It benefits you to explain them, because then you both have something new to laugh together about when it gets brought up. This is what makes a meme effective – how much incentive a carrier has to spread it. Unless an anomalous meme’s effect is the compulsive urge for the carrier to infect others, there needs to be incentive to spread it.

An artifact can no more have a memetic aura or project a memetic beam than a creature could have a genetic aura or genetic beam. Even though you could imagine a creature with genes that allow it to produce some kind of aura or beam like a big doofy X-man, remember that the examples we have of such creatures in containment are not getting their super-powered emanations from anything resembling our scientific understanding of genetics and biology. Neither are the memetic artifacts. We contain these things specifically because we cannot understand or explain them yet. At the end of the day we’re still using a clumsy concept to describe things we don’t have a full grasp of.

It is very rare that anything with a dangerous memetic component could be described as hostile to begin with. We do not contain memetic threats because they are out to get us. They are threats because it is dangerous for us to merely perceive them. It is exceptionally rare for dangerous memes to even have anything resembling sapience with the exception of certain known entities which exist entirely within the medium of “cultural information” such as SCP-, SCP-732 and SCP-423.

A dangerous meme is basically a trigger that sets off something inside of you that you may or may have not been aware of. What would your knee jerk reaction be to knowing that your rival is sleeping with your one true love? How would you react if you were to unwittingly catch them in the act? That kind of sudden revelation can make a mild mannered citizen into a killer, so don’t be surprised that there are other strange bits of information out there that can break the human mind in different yet equally drastic ways.

Protecting yourself from memetic threat is very tricky and can be worse than the threat itself. There are reasons that we behave the way we do, there are reasons our emotions soar when we hear just the right combination of sounds in a piece of music. Do you want to stop thinking about the Simpsons or your obnoxious nerdy friends that quote it every time you hear the phrase THE GOGGLES DO NOTHING? That would require forgetting about the Simpsons and your friends.

Do you want to survive hearing or reading the phrase ” ?” Well, sadly we don’t quite know what other information you need to forget or know to prevent [DATA EXPUNGED] but we’re getting better. Lobotomies and pills help, and are one of the few times that the cure is not worse than the disease. The sum total of our human condition; our cultural knowledge and upbringing and memories and identity; this is what makes us susceptible to the occasional memetic compulsion.

So it’s not the basalt monolith or its bizarre carvings that is making you strangle your companions with your own intestines, the problem was within you all along.

Should you ever find yourself under a memetic compulsion and aware of the fact, remember that there are certain mental exercises that you can perform which may save your life or the lives of your companions. Changing the information your mind is being presented with may just change how you react to it, and the more abrupt or absurd the change is the better.

Imagine the fearsome entity is wearing a bright pink nightgown. Draw a mustache on the haunted painting. Pee on the stone altar. Wear the terrible sculpture like a hat.

And if all else fails, bend over and kiss your ass goodbye. I’m not kidding. That could actually help.

– Dr. Johannes Sorts received a special dispensation to use the word “doofy” in this document

But seriously

This was originally intended as a piece of fiction on its own before it got stuck into the information bar with plenty of other plainly out-of-character writing guides. So here’s the important things to take away:

1 – “Memetics” is a specific concept regarding information exchange. It has nothing to do with telepathy or ESP or psychic compulsions.

2 – SCP-148 has no effect on anything memetic. Don’t screw this up or we will give you an incredibly hard time about it.

3 – Psychic compulsions are lame and you should think twice before using them in your new SCP, even if you avoid misusing the term “memetic” when you do it.

4 – Sorts’ Rule for all memetic SCPs is “Memetic effect + crazy to death = failure.”

5 – Wear it like a haaaaat!!

Originally posted here:

Understanding Memetics – SCP Foundation

Meme – Wikipedia

This article is about the term “meme” in general. For the usage of the term on the internet (or a fad that spreads quickly), see Internet meme. For other uses, see Meme (disambiguation).

A meme ( MEEM[1][2][3]) is an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a cultureoften with the aim of conveying a particular phenomenon, theme, or meaning represented by the meme.[4] A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices, that can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena with a mimicked theme. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures.[5]

Proponents theorize that memes are a viral phenomenon that may evolve by natural selection in a manner analogous to that of biological evolution. Memes do this through the processes of variation, mutation, competition, and inheritance, each of which influences a meme’s reproductive success. Memes spread through the behavior that they generate in their hosts. Memes that propagate less prolifically may become extinct, while others may survive, spread, and (for better or for worse) mutate. Memes that replicate most effectively enjoy more success, and some may replicate effectively even when they prove to be detrimental to the welfare of their hosts.[6]

A field of study called memetics[7] arose in the 1990s to explore the concepts and transmission of memes in terms of an evolutionary model. Criticism from a variety of fronts has challenged the notion that academic study can examine memes empirically. However, developments in neuroimaging may make empirical study possible.[8] Some commentators in the social sciences question the idea that one can meaningfully categorize culture in terms of discrete units, and are especially critical of the biological nature of the theory’s underpinnings.[9] Others have argued that this use of the term is the result of a misunderstanding of the original proposal.[10]

The word meme is a neologism coined by Richard Dawkins.[11] It originated from Dawkins’ 1976 book The Selfish Gene. Dawkins’s own position is somewhat ambiguous: he welcomed N. K. Humphrey’s suggestion that “memes should be considered as living structures, not just metaphorically”[12] and proposed to regard memes as “physically residing in the brain”.[13] Later, he argued that his original intentions, presumably before his approval of Humphrey’s opinion, had been simpler.[14]

The word meme is a shortening (modeled on gene) of mimeme (from Ancient Greek pronounced[mmma] mmma, “imitated thing”, from mimeisthai, “to imitate”, from mimos, “mime”)[15] coined by British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene (1976)[11][16] as a concept for discussion of evolutionary principles in explaining the spread of ideas and cultural phenomena. Examples of memes given in the book included melodies, catchphrases, fashion, and the technology of building arches.[17] Kenneth Pike had in 1954 coined the related terms emic and etic, generalizing the linguistic units of phoneme, morpheme, grapheme, lexeme, and tagmeme (as set out by Leonard Bloomfield), distinguishing insider and outside views of communicative behavior.[18]

The word meme originated with Richard Dawkins’ 1976 book The Selfish Gene. Dawkins cites as inspiration the work of geneticist L. L. Cavalli-Sforza, anthropologist F. T. Cloak[19] and ethologist J. M. Cullen.[20] Dawkins wrote that evolution depended not on the particular chemical basis of genetics, but only on the existence of a self-replicating unit of transmissionin the case of biological evolution, the gene. For Dawkins, the meme exemplified another self-replicating unit with potential significance in explaining human behavior and cultural evolution. Although Dawkins invented the term ‘meme’ and developed meme theory, the possibility that ideas were subject to the same pressures of evolution as were biological attributes was discussed in Darwin’s time. T. H. Huxley claimed that ‘The struggle for existence holds as much in the intellectual as in the physical world. A theory is a species of thinking, and its right to exist is coextensive with its power of resisting extinction by its rivals.'[21]

Dawkins used the term to refer to any cultural entity that an observer might consider a replicator. He hypothesized that one could view many cultural entities as replicators, and pointed to melodies, fashions and learned skills as examples. Memes generally replicate through exposure to humans, who have evolved as efficient copiers of information and behavior. Because humans do not always copy memes perfectly, and because they may refine, combine or otherwise modify them with other memes to create new memes, they can change over time. Dawkins likened the process by which memes survive and change through the evolution of culture to the natural selection of genes in biological evolution.[17]

Dawkins defined the meme as a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation and replication, but later definitions would vary. The lack of a consistent, rigorous, and precise understanding of what typically makes up one unit of cultural transmission remains a problem in debates about memetics.[23] In contrast, the concept of genetics gained concrete evidence with the discovery of the biological functions of DNA. Meme transmission requires a physical medium, such as photons, sound waves, touch, taste, or smell because memes can be transmitted only through the senses.

Dawkins noted that in a society with culture a person need not have descendants to remain influential in the actions of individuals thousands of years after their death:

But if you contribute to the world’s culture, if you have a good idea…it may live on, intact, long after your genes have dissolved in the common pool. Socrates may or may not have a gene or two alive in the world today, as G.C. Williams has remarked, but who cares? The meme-complexes of Socrates, Leonardo, Copernicus and Marconi are still going strong.[24]

Although Dawkins invented the term meme, he has not claimed that the idea was entirely novel,[25] and there have been other expressions for similar ideas in the past.[26] In 1904, Richard Semon published Die Mneme (which appeared in English in 1924 as The Mneme). The term mneme was also used in Maurice Maeterlinck’s The Life of the White Ant (1926), with some parallels to Dawkins’s concept.[26]

Memes, analogously to genes, vary in their aptitude to replicate; successful memes remain and spread, whereas unfit ones stall and are forgotten. Thus memes that prove more effective at replicating and surviving are selected in the meme pool.

Memes first need retention. The longer a meme stays in its hosts, the higher its chances of propagation are. When a host uses a meme, the meme’s life is extended.[27] The reuse of the neural space hosting a certain meme’s copy to host different memes is the greatest threat to that meme’s copy.[28]

A meme which increases the longevity of its hosts will generally survive longer. On the contrary, a meme which shortens the longevity of its hosts will tend to disappear faster. However, as hosts are mortal, retention is not sufficient to perpetuate a meme in the long term; memes also need transmission.

Life-forms can transmit information both vertically (from parent to child, via replication of genes) and horizontally (through viruses and other means).Memes can replicate vertically or horizontally within a single biological generation. They may also lie dormant for long periods of time.

Memes reproduce by copying from a nervous system to another one, either by communication or imitation. Imitation often involves the copying of an observed behavior of another individual. Communication may be direct or indirect, where memes transmit from one individual to another through a copy recorded in an inanimate source, such as a book or a musical score. Adam McNamara has suggested that memes can be thereby classified as either internal or external memes (i-memes or e-memes).[8]

Some commentators have likened the transmission of memes to the spread of contagions.[29] Social contagions such as fads, hysteria, copycat crime, and copycat suicide exemplify memes seen as the contagious imitation of ideas. Observers distinguish the contagious imitation of memes from instinctively contagious phenomena such as yawning and laughing, which they consider innate (rather than socially learned) behaviors.[30]

Aaron Lynch described seven general patterns of meme transmission, or “thought contagion”:[31]

Dawkins initially defined meme as a noun that “conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation”.[17] John S. Wilkins retained the notion of meme as a kernel of cultural imitation while emphasizing the meme’s evolutionary aspect, defining the meme as “the least unit of sociocultural information relative to a selection process that has favorable or unfavorable selection bias that exceeds its endogenous tendency to change”.[32] The meme as a unit provides a convenient means of discussing “a piece of thought copied from person to person”, regardless of whether that thought contains others inside it, or forms part of a larger meme. A meme could consist of a single word, or a meme could consist of the entire speech in which that word first occurred. This forms an analogy to the idea of a gene as a single unit of self-replicating information found on the self-replicating chromosome.

While the identification of memes as “units” conveys their nature to replicate as discrete, indivisible entities, it does not imply that thoughts somehow become quantized or that “atomic” ideas exist that cannot be dissected into smaller pieces. A meme has no given size. Susan Blackmore writes that melodies from Beethoven’s symphonies are commonly used to illustrate the difficulty involved in delimiting memes as discrete units. She notes that while the first four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (listen(helpinfo)) form a meme widely replicated as an independent unit, one can regard the entire symphony as a single meme as well.[23]

The inability to pin an idea or cultural feature to quantifiable key units is widely acknowledged as a problem for memetics. It has been argued however that the traces of memetic processing can be quantified utilizing neuroimaging techniques which measure changes in the connectivity profiles between brain regions.”[8] Blackmore meets such criticism by stating that memes compare with genes in this respect: that while a gene has no particular size, nor can we ascribe every phenotypic feature directly to a particular gene, it has value because it encapsulates that key unit of inherited expression subject to evolutionary pressures. To illustrate, she notes evolution selects for the gene for features such as eye color; it does not select for the individual nucleotide in a strand of DNA. Memes play a comparable role in understanding the evolution of imitated behaviors.[23]

The 1981 book Genes, Mind, and Culture: The Coevolutionary Process by Charles J. Lumsden and E. O. Wilson proposed the theory that genes and culture co-evolve, and that the fundamental biological units of culture must correspond to neuronal networks that function as nodes of semantic memory. They coined their own word, “culturgen”, which did not catch on. Coauthor Wilson later acknowledged the term meme as the best label for the fundamental unit of cultural inheritance in his 1998 book Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, which elaborates upon the fundamental role of memes in unifying the natural and social sciences.[33]

Dawkins noted the three conditions that must exist for evolution to occur:[34]

Dawkins emphasizes that the process of evolution naturally occurs whenever these conditions co-exist, and that evolution does not apply only to organic elements such as genes. He regards memes as also having the properties necessary for evolution, and thus sees meme evolution as not simply analogous to genetic evolution, but as a real phenomenon subject to the laws of natural selection. Dawkins noted that as various ideas pass from one generation to the next, they may either enhance or detract from the survival of the people who obtain those ideas, or influence the survival of the ideas themselves. For example, a certain culture may develop unique designs and methods of tool-making that give it a competitive advantage over another culture. Each tool-design thus acts somewhat similarly to a biological gene in that some populations have it and others do not, and the meme’s function directly affects the presence of the design in future generations. In keeping with the thesis that in evolution one can regard organisms simply as suitable “hosts” for reproducing genes, Dawkins argues that one can view people as “hosts” for replicating memes. Consequently, a successful meme may or may not need to provide any benefit to its host.[34]

Unlike genetic evolution, memetic evolution can show both Darwinian and Lamarckian traits. Cultural memes will have the characteristic of Lamarckian inheritance when a host aspires to replicate the given meme through inference rather than by exactly copying it. Take for example the case of the transmission of a simple skill such as hammering a nail, a skill that a learner imitates from watching a demonstration without necessarily imitating every discrete movement modeled by the teacher in the demonstration, stroke for stroke.[35] Susan Blackmore distinguishes the difference between the two modes of inheritance in the evolution of memes, characterizing the Darwinian mode as “copying the instructions” and the Lamarckian as “copying the product.”[23]

Clusters of memes, or memeplexes (also known as meme complexes or as memecomplexes), such as cultural or political doctrines and systems, may also play a part in the acceptance of new memes. Memeplexes comprise groups of memes that replicate together and coadapt.[23] Memes that fit within a successful memeplex may gain acceptance by “piggybacking” on the success of the memeplex.As an example, John D. Gottsch discusses the transmission, mutation and selection of religious memeplexes and the theistic memes contained.[36] Theistic memes discussed include the “prohibition of aberrant sexual practices such as incest, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, castration, and religious prostitution”, which may have increased vertical transmission of the parent religious memeplex. Similar memes are thereby included in the majority of religious memeplexes, and harden over time; they become an “inviolable canon” or set of dogmas, eventually finding their way into secular law. This could also be referred to as the propagation of a taboo.

The discipline of memetics, which dates from the mid-1980s, provides an approach to evolutionary models of cultural information transfer based on the concept of the meme. Memeticists have proposed that just as memes function analogously to genes, memetics functions analogously to genetics. Memetics attempts to apply conventional scientific methods (such as those used in population genetics and epidemiology) to explain existing patterns and transmission of cultural ideas.

Principal criticisms of memetics include the claim that memetics ignores established advances in other fields of cultural study, such as sociology, cultural anthropology, cognitive psychology, and social psychology. Questions remain whether or not the meme concept counts as a validly disprovable scientific theory. This view regards memetics as a theory in its infancy: a protoscience to proponents, or a pseudoscience to some detractors.

An objection to the study of the evolution of memes in genetic terms (although not to the existence of memes) involves a perceived gap in the gene/meme analogy: the cumulative evolution of genes depends on biological selection-pressures neither too great nor too small in relation to mutation-rates. There seems no reason to think that the same balance will exist in the selection pressures on memes.[37]

Luis Benitez-Bribiesca M.D., a critic of memetics, calls the theory a “pseudoscientific dogma” and “a dangerous idea that poses a threat to the serious study of consciousness and cultural evolution”. As a factual criticism, Benitez-Bribiesca points to the lack of a “code script” for memes (analogous to the DNA of genes), and to the excessive instability of the meme mutation mechanism (that of an idea going from one brain to another), which would lead to a low replication accuracy and a high mutation rate, rendering the evolutionary process chaotic.[38]

British political philosopher John Gray has characterized Dawkins’ memetic theory of religion as “nonsense” and “not even a theory… the latest in a succession of ill-judged Darwinian metaphors”, comparable to Intelligent Design in its value as a science.[39]

Another critique comes from semiotic theorists such as Deacon[40] and Kull.[41] This view regards the concept of “meme” as a primitivized concept of “sign”. The meme is thus described in memetics as a sign lacking a triadic nature. Semioticians can regard a meme as a “degenerate” sign, which includes only its ability of being copied. Accordingly, in the broadest sense, the objects of copying are memes, whereas the objects of translation and interpretation are signs.[clarification needed]

Fracchia and Lewontin regard memetics as reductionist and inadequate.[42] Evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr disapproved of Dawkins’ gene-based view and usage of the term “meme”, asserting it to be an “unnecessary synonym” for “concept”, reasoning that concepts are not restricted to an individual or a generation, may persist for long periods of time, and may evolve.[43]

Opinions differ as to how best to apply the concept of memes within a “proper” disciplinary framework. One view sees memes as providing a useful philosophical perspective with which to examine cultural evolution. Proponents of this view (such as Susan Blackmore and Daniel Dennett) argue that considering cultural developments from a meme’s-eye viewas if memes themselves respond to pressure to maximise their own replication and survivalcan lead to useful insights and yield valuable predictions into how culture develops over time. Others such as Bruce Edmonds and Robert Aunger have focused on the need to provide an empirical grounding for memetics to become a useful and respected scientific discipline.[44][45]

A third approach, described by Joseph Poulshock, as “radical memetics” seeks to place memes at the centre of a materialistic theory of mind and of personal identity.[46]

Prominent researchers in evolutionary psychology and anthropology, including Scott Atran, Dan Sperber, Pascal Boyer, John Tooby and others, argue the possibility of incompatibility between modularity of mind and memetics.[citation needed] In their view, minds structure certain communicable aspects of the ideas produced, and these communicable aspects generally trigger or elicit ideas in other minds through inference (to relatively rich structures generated from often low-fidelity input) and not high-fidelity replication or imitation. Atran discusses communication involving religious beliefs as a case in point. In one set of experiments he asked religious people to write down on a piece of paper the meanings of the Ten Commandments. Despite the subjects’ own expectations of consensus, interpretations of the commandments showed wide ranges of variation, with little evidence of consensus. In another experiment, subjects with autism and subjects without autism interpreted ideological and religious sayings (for example, “Let a thousand flowers bloom” or “To everything there is a season”). People with autism showed a significant tendency to closely paraphrase and repeat content from the original statement (for example: “Don’t cut flowers before they bloom”). Controls tended to infer a wider range of cultural meanings with little replicated content (for example: “Go with the flow” or “Everyone should have equal opportunity”). Only the subjects with autismwho lack the degree of inferential capacity normally associated with aspects of theory of mindcame close to functioning as “meme machines”.[47]

In his book The Robot’s Rebellion, Stanovich uses the memes and memeplex concepts to describe a program of cognitive reform that he refers to as a “rebellion”. Specifically, Stanovich argues that the use of memes as a descriptor for cultural units is beneficial because it serves to emphasize transmission and acquisition properties that parallel the study of epidemiology. These properties make salient the sometimes parasitic nature of acquired memes, and as a result individuals should be motivated to reflectively acquire memes using what he calls a “Neurathian bootstrap” process.[48]

Although social scientists such as Max Weber sought to understand and explain religion in terms of a cultural attribute, Richard Dawkins called for a re-analysis of religion in terms of the evolution of self-replicating ideas apart from any resulting biological advantages they might bestow.

As an enthusiastic Darwinian, I have been dissatisfied with explanations that my fellow-enthusiasts have offered for human behaviour. They have tried to look for ‘biological advantages’ in various attributes of human civilization. For instance, tribal religion has been seen as a mechanism for solidifying group identity, valuable for a pack-hunting species whose individuals rely on cooperation to catch large and fast prey. Frequently the evolutionary preconception in terms of which such theories are framed is implicitly group-selectionist, but it is possible to rephrase the theories in terms of orthodox gene selection.

He argued that the role of key replicator in cultural evolution belongs not to genes, but to memes replicating thought from person to person by means of imitation. These replicators respond to selective pressures that may or may not affect biological reproduction or survival.[17]

In her book The Meme Machine, Susan Blackmore regards religions as particularly tenacious memes. Many of the features common to the most widely practiced religions provide built-in advantages in an evolutionary context, she writes. For example, religions that preach of the value of faith over evidence from everyday experience or reason inoculate societies against many of the most basic tools people commonly use to evaluate their ideas. By linking altruism with religious affiliation, religious memes can proliferate more quickly because people perceive that they can reap societal as well as personal rewards. The longevity of religious memes improves with their documentation in revered religious texts.[23]

Aaron Lynch attributed the robustness of religious memes in human culture to the fact that such memes incorporate multiple modes of meme transmission. Religious memes pass down the generations from parent to child and across a single generation through the meme-exchange of proselytism. Most people will hold the religion taught them by their parents throughout their life. Many religions feature adversarial elements, punishing apostasy, for instance, or demonizing infidels. In Thought Contagion Lynch identifies the memes of transmission in Christianity as especially powerful in scope. Believers view the conversion of non-believers both as a religious duty and as an act of altruism. The promise of heaven to believers and threat of hell to non-believers provide a strong incentive for members to retain their belief. Lynch asserts that belief in the Crucifixion of Jesus in Christianity amplifies each of its other replication advantages through the indebtedness believers have to their Savior for sacrifice on the cross. The image of the crucifixion recurs in religious sacraments, and the proliferation of symbols of the cross in homes and churches potently reinforces the wide array of Christian memes.[31]

Although religious memes have proliferated in human cultures, the modern scientific community has been relatively resistant to religious belief. Robertson (2007) [49] reasoned that if evolution is accelerated in conditions of propagative difficulty,[50] then we would expect to encounter variations of religious memes, established in general populations, addressed to scientific communities. Using a memetic approach, Robertson deconstructed two attempts to privilege religiously held spirituality in scientific discourse. Advantages of a memetic approach as compared to more traditional “modernization” and “supply side” theses in understanding the evolution and propagation of religion were explored.

In Cultural Software: A Theory of Ideology, Jack Balkin argued that memetic processes can explain many of the most familiar features of ideological thought. His theory of “cultural software” maintained that memes form narratives, social networks, metaphoric and metonymic models, and a variety of different mental structures. Balkin maintains that the same structures used to generate ideas about free speech or free markets also serve to generate racistic beliefs. To Balkin, whether memes become harmful or maladaptive depends on the environmental context in which they exist rather than in any special source or manner to their origination. Balkin describes racist beliefs as “fantasy” memes that become harmful or unjust “ideologies” when diverse peoples come together, as through trade or competition.[51]

In A Theory of Architecture, Nikos Salingaros speaks of memes as “freely propagating clusters of information” which can be beneficial or harmful. He contrasts memes to patterns and true knowledge, characterizing memes as “greatly simplified versions of patterns” and as “unreasoned matching to some visual or mnemonic prototype”.[52] Taking reference to Dawkins, Salingaros emphasizes that they can be transmitted due to their own communicative properties, that “the simpler they are, the faster they can proliferate”, and that the most successful memes “come with a great psychological appeal”.[53]

Architectural memes, according to Salingaros, can have destructive power. “Images portrayed in architectural magazines representing buildings that could not possibly accommodate everyday uses become fixed in our memory, so we reproduce them unconsciously.”[54] He lists various architectural memes that circulated since the 1920s and which, in his view, have led to contemporary architecture becoming quite decoupled from human needs. They lack connection and meaning, thereby preventing “the creation of true connections necessary to our understanding of the world”. He sees them as no different from antipatterns in software designas solutions that are false but are re-utilized nonetheless.[55]

An “Internet meme” is a concept that spreads rapidly from person to person via the Internet, largely through Internet-based E-mailing, blogs, forums, imageboards like 4chan, social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, instant messaging, social news sites or thread sites like Reddit, and video hosting services like YouTube and Twitch.[56]

In 2013, Richard Dawkins characterized an Internet meme as one deliberately altered by human creativity, distinguished from Dawkins’s original idea involving mutation by random change and a form of Darwinian selection.[57]

One technique of meme mapping represents the evolution and transmission of a meme across time and space.[58] Such a meme map uses a figure-8 diagram (an analemma) to map the gestation (in the lower loop), birth (at the choke point), and development (in the upper loop) of the selected meme. Such meme maps are nonscalar, with time mapped onto the y-axis and space onto the x-axis transect. One can read the temporal progression of the mapped meme from south to north on such a meme map. Paull has published a worked example using the “organics meme” (as in organic agriculture).[58]

Read more here:

Meme – Wikipedia

Memetics | Definition of Memetics by Merriam-Webster

: the study of memes Memetics sees ideas as a kind of virus, sometimes propagating in spite of truth and logic. Its maxim is: Beliefs that survive aren’t necessarily true, rules that survive aren’t necessarily fair and rituals that survive aren’t necessarily necessary. Things that survive do so because they are good at surviving. Los Angeles Times, 20 Mar. 1999

Read more:

Memetics | Definition of Memetics by Merriam-Webster

Disinfect Your Mind: Defend Yourself with Memetics Against …

While authorities in psychology discuss whether memetics is a science, its use by politicians, marketing departments and mass media becomes more and more ubiquitous.

Consider a computer. You can only use a word processor to edit a text. You can only use a merchant’s website to order merchandize. But you can use programming languages like C++ or C# to make a computer do virtually anything you want. Similarly, psychology is not enough anymore for politicians, mass media, and large businesses. Preinstalled programs in human minds, such as widely accepted social norms, habits, and prejudices, are not enough for them to exploit anymore. They want to make you do virtually anything they want you to do.

Do you want to defend yourself?

Mind viruses are not biological viruses like influenza, but pieces of information or ideas that, once they get into our minds, are capable of causing us to replicate them to other peoples minds. They are very much like computer viruses, but instead of spreading from one computer to another, they spread from one human mind to another. They are also similar to the usual biological viruses (flu, cold, hepatitis, AIDS) in the sense that they use us to replicate themselves. And just like biological and computer viruses, they usually hurt the host in the process. This host is you.

Mind viruses force your mind to replicate them, because thats the only purpose of their existence. If it hurts you, the virus does not care, as long as you continue to replicate it.

As such, they compete with each other for the place in human minds, like yours. This competition results in a sort of evolution where only those mind viruses survive that are most efficient in grabbing your attention and forcing you to spread them. In doing so, they have no concern for your well-being. They dont have a reason to be relevant to your life and wellness. In fact, one of their main goals is to impair your judgment, because otherwise, why would you spread them?

The very existence of mind viruses is based on their ability to impair your judgment, which you need for your own survival and success.

And once they take over, they are forcing you to spread them. This means that you spend cycles in your life spreading the virus instead of working on improving your own life or just merely enjoying your own life. In fact,

Enjoying your life is something that mind viruses attack first, because the promise of enjoying your life in the future is one of the most efficient ways to force you into replicating them.

As you can guess, the future reward never comes.

Long story short, mind viruses can:

Impair your judgment; Make you act against your own interests; Prevent your success in life; Prevent you from enjoying your life.

Dont believe it? Read on

Read more:

Disinfect Your Mind: Defend Yourself with Memetics Against …

Understanding Memetics – SCP Foundation

Summary, for those in a hurry:

Memetics deals with information transfer, specifically cultural information in society. The basic idea is to conflate the exchange of information between people with genetic material, to track the mutation of ideas as they are transmitted from one person to the next in the way you could track viral transmissions and mutations. However, a meme also provides benefits to the carrier if they spread it.

Meme : Memetics :: Gene : Genetics

Memetics does NOT refer to telepathy, ESP or any imaginary psychic mental magic. These words are memetic, and if you understand them then they are having a completely ordinary memetic effect on you.

Memetics in regards to SCP objects tends to focus on the impossible rather than the mundane, regarding effects that are transmitted via information. In general, the effects themselves should remain in the realm of information. A memetic SCP would be more likely to be a phrase that makes you think you have wings as opposed to a phrase that makes you actually grow a pair of wings. If you write up magic words that make people grow wings, it should be described as something other than memetic.

Memetic SCPs do not emanate auras or project beams. They are SCPs which involve ideas and symbols which trigger a response in those who understand them.

Memetic is often incorrectly used by new personnel as the official sounding term for “Weird Mind Shit.” However, that is not actually what memetic means. These words are memetic. They are producing a memetic effect in your mind right now, without any magical mind rays lashing out of your computer monitor to grasp your fragile consciousness. Memes are information, more specifically, cultural information.

Outside of the Foundation’s walls the concept of memetics is not taken very seriously; it is a theory that conflates the transfer of cultural information with evolutionary biology.

meme : memetic :: gene : genetic

The idea was that certain memes prosper and others wither the same way certain genes produce stronger offspring that out-compete creatures with different genes. Also, it is easy to compare the spread and mutation of information to the spread of a virus. The reason we use the term memetic in our work is largely due to this, as the truly dangerous memes out there can spread like wildfire due to the fact that the very knowledge of them can count as an infection.

Understanding the true nature of memetic threats is critical to surviving them. You cannot wear a special set of magical goggles made of telekill to protect yourself from a meme. THE GOGGLES DO NOTHING. If you just read those words in your head with a bad Teutonic accent, congratulations on being victim to yet another memetic effect. If you did not know that phrase was an oft-repeated quote from the Simpsons then congratulations; you are now infected with that knowledge and are free to participate in its spread.

A meme perpetuates itself by being beneficial to the carrier to spread to new hosts. You now understand that THE GOGGLES DO NOTHING; you’re in on the joke. However, you might have friends who aren’t, and don’t get it. It benefits you to explain them, because then you both have something new to laugh together about when it gets brought up. This is what makes a meme effective – how much incentive a carrier has to spread it. Unless an anomalous meme’s effect is the compulsive urge for the carrier to infect others, there needs to be incentive to spread it.

An artifact can no more have a memetic aura or project a memetic beam than a creature could have a genetic aura or genetic beam. Even though you could imagine a creature with genes that allow it to produce some kind of aura or beam like a big doofy X-man, remember that the examples we have of such creatures in containment are not getting their super-powered emanations from anything resembling our scientific understanding of genetics and biology. Neither are the memetic artifacts. We contain these things specifically because we cannot understand or explain them yet. At the end of the day we’re still using a clumsy concept to describe things we don’t have a full grasp of.

It is very rare that anything with a dangerous memetic component could be described as hostile to begin with. We do not contain memetic threats because they are out to get us. They are threats because it is dangerous for us to merely perceive them. It is exceptionally rare for dangerous memes to even have anything resembling sapience with the exception of certain known entities which exist entirely within the medium of “cultural information” such as SCP-, SCP-732 and SCP-423.

A dangerous meme is basically a trigger that sets off something inside of you that you may or may have not been aware of. What would your knee jerk reaction be to knowing that your rival is sleeping with your one true love? How would you react if you were to unwittingly catch them in the act? That kind of sudden revelation can make a mild mannered citizen into a killer, so don’t be surprised that there are other strange bits of information out there that can break the human mind in different yet equally drastic ways.

Protecting yourself from memetic threat is very tricky and can be worse than the threat itself. There are reasons that we behave the way we do, there are reasons our emotions soar when we hear just the right combination of sounds in a piece of music. Do you want to stop thinking about the Simpsons or your obnoxious nerdy friends that quote it every time you hear the phrase THE GOGGLES DO NOTHING? That would require forgetting about the Simpsons and your friends.

Do you want to survive hearing or reading the phrase ” ?” Well, sadly we don’t quite know what other information you need to forget or know to prevent [DATA EXPUNGED] but we’re getting better. Lobotomies and pills help, and are one of the few times that the cure is not worse than the disease. The sum total of our human condition; our cultural knowledge and upbringing and memories and identity; this is what makes us susceptible to the occasional memetic compulsion.

So it’s not the basalt monolith or its bizarre carvings that is making you strangle your companions with your own intestines, the problem was within you all along.

Should you ever find yourself under a memetic compulsion and aware of the fact, remember that there are certain mental exercises that you can perform which may save your life or the lives of your companions. Changing the information your mind is being presented with may just change how you react to it, and the more abrupt or absurd the change is the better.

Imagine the fearsome entity is wearing a bright pink nightgown. Draw a mustache on the haunted painting. Pee on the stone altar. Wear the terrible sculpture like a hat.

And if all else fails, bend over and kiss your ass goodbye. I’m not kidding. That could actually help.

– Dr. Johannes Sorts received a special dispensation to use the word “doofy” in this document

But seriously

This was originally intended as a piece of fiction on its own before it got stuck into the information bar with plenty of other plainly out-of-character writing guides. So here’s the important things to take away:

1 – “Memetics” is a specific concept regarding information exchange. It has nothing to do with telepathy or ESP or psychic compulsions.

2 – SCP-148 has no effect on anything memetic. Don’t screw this up or we will give you an incredibly hard time about it.

3 – Psychic compulsions are lame and you should think twice before using them in your new SCP, even if you avoid misusing the term “memetic” when you do it.

4 – Sorts’ Rule for all memetic SCPs is “Memetic effect + crazy to death = failure.”

5 – Wear it like a haaaaat!!

Read the rest here:

Understanding Memetics – SCP Foundation

Dual inheritance theory – Wikipedia

Dual inheritance theory (DIT), also known as geneculture coevolution or biocultural evolution,[1] was developed in the 1960s through early 1980s to explain how human behavior is a product of two different and interacting evolutionary processes: genetic evolution and cultural evolution. Genes and culture continually interact in a feedback loop,[2] changes in genes can lead to changes in culture which can then influence genetic selection, and vice versa. One of the theory’s central claims is that culture evolves partly through a Darwinian selection process, which dual inheritance theorists often describe by analogy to genetic evolution.[3]

‘Culture’, in this context is defined as ‘socially learned behavior’, and ‘social learning’ is defined as copying behaviors observed in others or acquiring behaviors through being taught by others. Most of the modelling done in the field relies on the first dynamic (copying) though it can be extended to teaching. Social learning at its simplest involves blind copying of behaviors from a model (someone observed behaving), though it is also understood to have many potential biases, including success bias (copying from those who are perceived to be better off), status bias (copying from those with higher status), homophily (copying from those most like ourselves), conformist bias (disproportionately picking up behaviors that more people are performing), etc.. Understanding social learning is a system of pattern replication, and understanding that there are different rates of survival for different socially learned cultural variants, this sets up, by definition, an evolutionary structure: cultural evolution.[4]

Because genetic evolution is relatively well understood, most of DIT examines cultural evolution and the interactions between cultural evolution and genetic evolution.

DIT holds that genetic and cultural evolution interacted in the evolution of Homo sapiens. DIT recognizes that the natural selection of genotypes is an important component of the evolution of human behavior and that cultural traits can be constrained by genetic imperatives. However, DIT also recognizes that genetic evolution has endowed the human species with a parallel evolutionary process of cultural evolution. DIT makes three main claims:[5]

The human capacity to store and transmit culture arose from genetically evolved psychological mechanisms. This implies that at some point during the evolution of the human species a type of social learning leading to cumulative cultural evolution was evolutionarily advantageous.

Social learning processes give rise to cultural evolution. Cultural traits are transmitted differently from genetic traits and, therefore, result in different population-level effects on behavioral variation.

Cultural traits alter the social and physical environments under which genetic selection operates. For example, the cultural adoptions of agriculture and dairying have, in humans, caused genetic selection for the traits to digest starch and lactose, respectively.[6][7][8][9][10][11] As another example, it is likely that once culture became adaptive, genetic selection caused a refinement of the cognitive architecture that stores and transmits cultural information. This refinement may have further influenced the way culture is stored and the biases that govern its transmission.

DIT also predicts that, under certain situations, cultural evolution may select for traits that are genetically maladaptive. An example of this is the demographic transition, which describes the fall of birth rates within industrialized societies. Dual inheritance theorists hypothesize that the demographic transition may be a result of a prestige bias, where individuals that forgo reproduction to gain more influence in industrial societies are more likely to be chosen as cultural models.[12][13]

People have defined the word “culture” to describe a large set of different phenomena.[14][15] A definition that sums up what is meant by “culture” in DIT is:

Culture is socially learned information stored in individuals’ brains that is capable of affecting behavior.[16][17]

This view of culture emphasizes population thinking by focusing on the process by which culture is generated and maintained. It also views culture as a dynamic property of individuals, as opposed to a view of culture as a superorganic entity to which individuals must conform.[18] This view’s main advantage is that it connects individual-level processes to population-level outcomes.[19]

Genes affect cultural evolution via psychological predispositions on cultural learning.[20] Genes encode much of the information needed to form the human brain. Genes constrain the brain’s structure and, hence, the ability of the brain to acquire and store culture. Genes may also endow individuals with certain types of transmission bias (described below).

Culture can profoundly influence gene frequencies in a population.

Lactase persistence

One of the best known examples is the prevalence of the genotype for adult lactose absorption in human populations, such as Northern Europeans and some African societies, with a long history of raising cattle for milk. Until around 7,500 years ago,[21] lactase production stopped shortly after weaning,[22] and in societies which did not develop dairying, such as East Asians and Amerindians, this is still true today.[23][24] In areas with lactase persistence, it is believed that by domesticating animals, a source of milk became available while an adult and thus strong selection for lactase persistence could occur,[21][25] in a Scandinavian population the estimated selection coefficient was 0.09-0.19.[25] This implies that the cultural practice of raising cattle first for meat and later for milk led to selection for genetic traits for lactose digestion.[26] Recently, analysis of natural selection on the human genome suggests that civilization has accelerated genetic change in humans over the past 10,000 years.[27]

Food processing

Culture has driven changes to the human digestive systems making many digestive organs, like our teeth or stomach, smaller than expected for primates of a similar size,[28] and has been attributed to one of the reasons why humans have such large brains compared to other great apes.[29][30] This is due to food processing. Early examples of food processing include pounding, marinating and most notably cooking. Pounding meat breaks down the muscle fibres, hence taking away some of the job from the mouth, teeth and jaw.[31][32] Marinating emulates the action of the stomach with high acid levels. Cooking partially breaks down food making it more easily digestible. Food enters the body effectively partly digested, and as such food processing reduces the work that the digestive system has to do. This means that there is selection for smaller digestive organs as the tissue is energetically expensive,[28] those with smaller digestive organs can process their food but at a lower energetic cost than those with larger organs.[33] Cooking is notable because the energy available from food increases when cooked and this also means less time is spent looking for food.[29][34][35]

Humans living on cooked diets spend only a fraction of their day chewing compared to other extant primates living on raw diets. American girls and boys spent on average 8 and 7 percent of their day chewing respectively, compared to chimpanzees who spend more than 6 hours a day chewing.[36] This frees up time which can be used for hunting. A raw diet means hunting is constrained since time spent hunting is time not spent eating and chewing plant material, but cooking reduces the time required to get the day’s energy requirements, allowing for more subsistence activities.[37] Digestibility of cooked carbohydrates is approximately on average 30% higher than digestibility of non cooked carbohydrates.[34][38] This increased energy intake, more free time and savings made on tissue used in the digestive system allowed for the selection of genes for larger brain size.

Despite its benefits, brain tissue requires a large amount of calories, hence a main constraint in selection for larger brains is calorie intake. A greater calorie intake can support greater quantities of brain tissue. This is argued to explain why human brains can be much larger than other apes, since humans are the only ape to engage in food processing.[29] The cooking of food has influenced genes to the extent that, research suggests, humans cannot live without cooking.[39][29] A study on 513 individuals consuming long term raw diets found that as the percentage of their diet which was made up of raw food and/or the length they had been on a diet of raw food increased, their BMI decreased.[39] This is despite access to many non thermal processing, like grinding, pounding or heating to 48 deg. c. (118 deg. F).[39] With approximately 86 billion neurons in the human brain and 6070kg body mass, an exclusively raw diet close to that of what extant primates have would be not viable as, when modelled, it is argued that it would require an infeasible level of more than nine hours of feeding everyday.[29] However, this is contested, with alternative modelling showing enough calories could be obtained within 56 hours per day.[40] Some scientists and anthropologists point to evidence that brain size in the Homo lineage started to increase well before the advent of cooking due to increased consumption of meat[28][40][41] and that basic food processing (slicing) accounts for the size reduction in organs related to chewing.[42] Cornlio et al. argues that improving cooperative abilities and a varying of diet to more meat and seeds improved foraging and hunting efficiency. It is this that allowed for the brain expansion, independent of cooking which they argue came much later, a consequence from the complex cognition that developed.[40] Yet this is still an example of a cultural shift in diet and the resulting genetic evolution. Further criticism comes from the controversy of the archaeological evidence available. Some claim there is a lack of evidence of fire control when brain sizes first started expanding.[40][43] Wrangham argues that anatomical evidence around the time of the origin of Homo erectus (1.8 million years ago), indicates that the control of fire and hence cooking occurred.[34] At this time, the largest reductions in tooth size in the entirety of human evolution occurred, indicating that softer foods became prevalent in the diet. Also at this time was a narrowing of the pelvis indicating a smaller gut and also there is evidence that there was a loss of the ability to climb which Wrangham argues indicates the control of fire, since sleeping on the ground needs fire to ward off predators.[44] The proposed increases in brain size from food processing will have led to a greater mental capacity for further cultural innovation in food processing which will have increased digestive efficiency further providing more energy for further gains in brain size.[45] This positive feedback loop is argued to have led to the rapid brain size increases seen in the Homo lineage.[46][40]

In DIT, the evolution and maintenance of cultures is described by five major mechanisms: natural selection of cultural variants, random variation, cultural drift, guided variation and transmission bias.

Cultural differences among individuals can lead to differential survival of individuals. The patterns of this selective process depend on transmission biases and can result in behavior that is more adaptive to a given environment.

Random variation arises from errors in the learning, display or recall of cultural information, and is roughly analogous to the process of mutation in genetic evolution.

Cultural drift is a process roughly analogous to genetic drift in evolutionary biology.[47][48][49] In cultural drift, the frequency of cultural traits in a population may be subject to random fluctuations due to chance variations in which traits are observed and transmitted (sometimes called “sampling error”).[50] These fluctuations might cause cultural variants to disappear from a population. This effect should be especially strong in small populations.[51] A model by Hahn and Bentley shows that cultural drift gives a reasonably good approximation to changes in the popularity of American baby names.[50] Drift processes have also been suggested to explain changes in archaeological pottery and technology patent applications.[49] Changes in the songs of song birds are also thought to arise from drift processes, where distinct dialects in different groups occur due to errors in songbird singing and acquisition by successive generations.[52] Cultural drift is also observed in an early computer model of cultural evolution.[53]

Cultural traits may be gained in a population through the process of individual learning. Once an individual learns a novel trait, it can be transmitted to other members of the population. The process of guided variation depends on an adaptive standard that determines what cultural variants are learned.

Understanding the different ways that culture traits can be transmitted between individuals has been an important part of DIT research since the 1970s.[54][55] Transmission biases occur when some cultural variants are favored over others during the process of cultural transmission.[56] Boyd and Richerson (1985)[56] defined and analytically modeled a number of possible transmission biases. The list of biases has been refined over the years, especially by Henrich and McElreath.[57]

Content biases result from situations where some aspect of a cultural variant’s content makes them more likely to be adopted.[58] Content biases can result from genetic preferences, preferences determined by existing cultural traits, or a combination of the two. For example, food preferences can result from genetic preferences for sugary or fatty foods and socially-learned eating practices and taboos.[58] Content biases are sometimes called “direct biases.”[56]

Context biases result from individuals using clues about the social structure of their population to determine what cultural variants to adopt. This determination is made without reference to the content of the variant. There are two major categories of context biases: model-based biases, and frequency-dependent biases.

Model-based biases result when an individual is biased to choose a particular “cultural model” to imitate. There are four major categories of model-based biases: prestige bias, skill bias, success bias, and similarity bias.[5][59] A “prestige bias” results when individuals are more likely to imitate cultural models that are seen as having more prestige. A measure of prestige could be the amount of deference shown to a potential cultural model by other individuals. A “skill bias” results when individuals can directly observe different cultural models performing a learned skill and are more likely to imitate cultural models that perform better at the specific skill. A “success bias” results from individuals preferentially imitating cultural models that they determine are most generally successful (as opposed to successful at a specific skill as in the skill bias.) A “similarity bias” results when individuals are more likely to imitate cultural models that are perceived as being similar to the individual based on specific traits.

Frequency-dependent biases result when an individual is biased to choose particular cultural variants based on their perceived frequency in the population. The most explored frequency-dependent bias is the “conformity bias.” Conformity biases result when individuals attempt to copy the mean or the mode cultural variant in the population. Another possible frequency dependent bias is the “rarity bias.” The rarity bias results when individuals preferentially choose cultural variants that are less common in the population. The rarity bias is also sometimes called a “nonconformist” or “anti-conformist” bias.

In DIT, the evolution of culture is dependent on the evolution of social learning. Analytic models show that social learning becomes evolutionarily beneficial when the environment changes with enough frequency that genetic inheritance can not track the changes, but not fast enough that individual learning is more efficient.[60] For environments that have very little variability, social learning is not needed since genes can adapt fast enough to the changes that occur, and innate behaviour is able to deal with the constant environment.[61] In fast changing environments cultural learning would not be useful because what the previous generation knew is now outdated and will provide no benefit in the changed environment, and hence individual learning is more beneficial. It is only in the moderately changing environment where cultural learning becomes useful since each generation shares a mostly similar environment but genes have insufficient time to change to changes in the environment.[62] While other species have social learning, and thus some level of culture, only humans, some birds and chimpanzees are known to have cumulative culture.[63] Boyd and Richerson argue that the evolution of cumulative culture depends on observational learning and is uncommon in other species because it is ineffective when it is rare in a population. They propose that the environmental changes occurring in the Pleistocene may have provided the right environmental conditions.[62] Michael Tomasello argues that cumulative cultural evolution results from a ratchet effect that began when humans developed the cognitive architecture to understand others as mental agents.[64] Furthermore, Tomasello proposed in the 80s that there are some disparities between the observational learning mechanisms found in humans and great apes – which go some way to explain the observable difference between great ape traditions and human types of culture (see Emulation (observational learning)).

Although group selection is commonly thought to be nonexistent or unimportant in genetic evolution,[65][66][67] DIT predicts that, due to the nature of cultural inheritance, it may be an important force in cultural evolution. Group selection occurs in cultural evolution because conformist biases make it difficult for novel cultural traits to spread through a population (see above section on transmission biases). Conformist bias also helps maintain variation between groups. These two properties, rare in genetic transmission, are necessary for group selection to operate.[68] Based on an earlier model by Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman,[69] Boyd and Richerson show that conformist biases are almost inevitable when traits spread through social learning,[70] implying that group selection is common in cultural evolution. Analysis of small groups in New Guinea imply that cultural group selection might be a good explanation for slowly changing aspects of social structure, but not for rapidly changing fads.[71] The ability of cultural evolution to maintain intergroup diversity is what allows for the study of cultural phylogenetics.[72]

The idea that human cultures undergo a similar evolutionary process as genetic evolution goes back at least to Darwin[73] In the 1960s, Donald T. Campbell published some of the first theoretical work that adapted principles of evolutionary theory to the evolution of cultures.[74] In 1976, two developments in cultural evolutionary theory set the stage for DIT. In that year Richard Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene introduced ideas of cultural evolution to a popular audience. Although one of the best-selling science books of all time, because of its lack of mathematical rigor, it had little effect on the development of DIT. Also in 1976, geneticists Marcus Feldman and Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza published the first dynamic models of geneculture coevolution.[75] These models were to form the basis for subsequent work on DIT, heralded by the publication of three seminal books in the 1980s.

The first was Charles Lumsden and E.O. Wilson’s Genes, Mind and Culture.[76] This book outlined a series of mathematical models of how genetic evolution might favor the selection of cultural traits and how cultural traits might, in turn, affect the speed of genetic evolution. While it was the first book published describing how genes and culture might coevolve, it had relatively little effect on the further development of DIT.[77] Some critics felt that their models depended too heavily on genetic mechanisms at the expense of cultural mechanisms.[78] Controversy surrounding Wilson’s sociobiological theories may also have decreased the lasting effect of this book.[77]

The second 1981 book was Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman’s Cultural Transmission and Evolution: A Quantitative Approach.[48] Borrowing heavily from population genetics and epidemiology, this book built a mathematical theory concerning the spread of cultural traits. It describes the evolutionary implications of vertical transmission, passing cultural traits from parents to offspring; oblique transmission, passing cultural traits from any member of an older generation to a younger generation; and horizontal transmission, passing traits between members of the same population.

The next significant DIT publication was Robert Boyd and Peter Richerson’s 1985 Culture and the Evolutionary Process.[56] This book presents the now-standard mathematical models of the evolution of social learning under different environmental conditions, the population effects of social learning, various forces of selection on cultural learning rules, different forms of biased transmission and their population-level effects, and conflicts between cultural and genetic evolution. The book’s conclusion also outlined areas for future research that are still relevant today.[79]

In their 1985 book, Boyd and Richerson outlined an agenda for future DIT research. This agenda, outlined below, called for the development of both theoretical models and empirical research. DIT has since built a rich tradition of theoretical models over the past two decades.[80] However, there has not been a comparable level of empirical work.

In a 2006 interview Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson expressed disappointment at the little attention afforded to DIT:

“…for some reason I haven’t fully fathomed, this most promising frontier of scientific research has attracted very few people and very little effort.”[81]

Kevin Laland and Gillian Brown attribute this lack of attention to DIT’s heavy reliance on formal modeling.

“In many ways the most complex and potentially rewarding of all approaches, [DIT], with its multiple processes and cerebral onslaught of sigmas and deltas, may appear too abstract to all but the most enthusiastic reader. Until such a time as the theoretical hieroglyphics can be translated into a respectable empirical science most observers will remain immune to its message.”[82]

Economist Herbert Gintis disagrees with this critique, citing empirical work as well as more recent work using techniques from behavioral economics.[83] These behavioral economic techniques have been adapted to test predictions of cultural evolutionary models in laboratory settings[84][85][86] as well as studying differences in cooperation in fifteen small-scale societies in the field.[87]

Since one of the goals of DIT is to explain the distribution of human cultural traits, ethnographic and ethnologic techniques may also be useful for testing hypothesis stemming from DIT. Although findings from traditional ethnologic studies have been used to buttress DIT arguments,[88][89] thus far there have been little ethnographic fieldwork designed to explicitly test these hypotheses.[71][87][90]

Herb Gintis has named DIT one of the two major conceptual theories with potential for unifying the behavioral sciences, including economics, biology, anthropology, sociology, psychology and political science. Because it addresses both the genetic and cultural components of human inheritance, Gintis sees DIT models as providing the best explanations for the ultimate cause of human behavior and the best paradigm for integrating those disciplines with evolutionary theory.[91] In a review of competing evolutionary perspectives on human behavior, Laland and Brown see DIT as the best candidate for uniting the other evolutionary perspectives under one theoretical umbrella.[92]

Two major topics of study in both sociology and cultural anthropology are human cultures and cultural variation.However, Dual Inheritance theorists charge that both disciplines too often treat culture as a static superorganic entity that dictates human behavior.[93][94] Cultures are defined by a suite of common traits shared by a large group of people. DIT theorists argue that this doesn’t sufficiently explain variation in cultural traits at the individual level. By contrast, DIT models human culture at the individual level and views culture as the result of a dynamic evolutionary process at the population level.[93][95]

Evolutionary psychologists study the evolved architecture of the human mind. They see it as composed of many different programs that process information, each with assumptions and procedures that were specialized by natural selection to solve a different adaptive problem faced by our hunter-gatherer ancestors (e.g., choosing mates, hunting, avoiding predators, cooperating, using aggression).[96] These evolved programs contain content-rich assumptions about how the world and other people work. As ideas are passed from mind to mind, they are changed by these evolved inference systems (much like messages get changed in a game of telephone). But the changes are not random. Evolved programs add and subtract information, reshaping the ideas in ways that make them more “intuitive”, more memorable, and more attention-grabbing. In other words, “memes” (ideas) are not like genes. Genes are copied faithfully as they are replicated, but ideas are not. Its not just that ideas mutate every once in awhile, like genes do. Ideas are transformed every time they are passed from mind to mind, because the sender’s message is being interpreted by evolved inference systems in the receiver.[97][98] There is no necessary contradiction between evolutionary psychology and DIT, but evolutionary psychologists argue that the psychology implicit in many DIT models is too simple; evolved programs have a rich inferential structure not captured by the idea of a “content bias”. They also argue that some of the phenomena DIT models attribute to cultural evolution are cases of “evoked culture”situations in which different evolved programs are activated in different places, in response to cues in the environment.[99]

Human sociobiologists try to understand how maximizing genetic fitness, in either the modern era or past environments, can explain human behavior. When faced with a trait that seems maladaptive, some sociobiologists try to determine how the trait actually increases genetic fitness (maybe through kin selection or by speculating about early evolutionary environments). Dual inheritance theorists, in contrast, will consider a variety of genetic and cultural processes in addition to natural selection on genes.

Human behavioral ecology (HBE) and DIT have a similar relationship to what ecology and evolutionary biology have in the biological sciences. HBE is more concerned about ecological process and DIT more focused on historical process.[100] One difference is that human behavioral ecologists often assume that culture is a system that produces the most adaptive outcome in a given environment. This implies that similar behavioral traditions should be found in similar environments. However, this is not always the case. A study of African cultures showed that cultural history was a better predictor of cultural traits than local ecological conditions.[101]

Memetics, which comes from the meme idea described in Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene, is similar to DIT in that it treats culture as an evolutionary process that is distinct from genetic transmission. However, there are some philosophical differences between memetics and DIT.[102] One difference is that memetics’ focus is on the selection potential of discrete replicators (memes), where DIT allows for transmission of both non-replicators and non-discrete cultural variants. DIT does not assume that replicators are necessary for cumulative adaptive evolution. DIT also more strongly emphasizes the role of genetic inheritance in shaping the capacity for cultural evolution. But perhaps the biggest difference is a difference in academic lineage. Memetics as a label is more influential in popular culture than in academia. Critics of memetics argue that it is lacking in empirical support or is conceptually ill-founded, and question whether there is hope for the memetic research program succeeding. Proponents point out that many cultural traits are discrete, and that many existing models of cultural inheritance assume discrete cultural units, and hence involve memes.[103]

Serious criticisms have been levelled against DIT.[104][105][106] Use of the term dual inheritance to refer to not just traits that are transmitted by way of a self-assembly code (as in genetic evolution) but also traits that are not transmitted by way of a self-assembly code (as in cultural evolution) is misleading, because this second use does not capture the algorithmic structure that makes an inheritance system require a particular kind of mathematical framework.[107] The population genetics framework was designed to solve the problem of how does evolution occur–i.e., how are fit traits preserved in a lineage–in a system wherein acquired change is discarded at the end of each generation. Darwin noticed that there are two kinds of traits: acquired traits (e.g., a tattoo, or knowledge of the layout of a particular city) which are discarded, while inherited traits (e.g., blood type) are preserved. His ingenious solution was to develop a population level explanation, and show that evolution was due to differential replication of heritable variation in response to selection. We now know that the reason for the distinction between these two kinds of traits is that some traits (inherited traits) are encoded in genes which collectively constitute self-assembly code and are transmitted to offspring, while all other traits (acquired traits) are shed at the end of a generation with the deaths of those who bore them.Thus, the reason that horizontal transmission of ideas is algorithmically dissimilar to vertical transmission (reproduction) in genetic evolution is that it does not provide a means of preserving fit traits in a system wherein those traits would otherwise be lost from the lineage. Proponents of DIT argue that 1) even genetic evolution uses non-vertical transmission through the environmental alteration of the genome during life by acquired circumstance: epigenetics, and 2) genetic evolution is also affected by direct horizontal transmission between separate species of plants and strains of bacteria: horizontal gene transfer. However, these arguments are irrelevant to the issue of whether a Darwinian (or selectionist, or population genetics) mathematical framework is appropriate to the description of cultural evolution, since these aspects of biological evolution are themselves not accommodated by such a framework. The point is that although it is not essential that inherited traits be transmitted by way of genes (necessarily) for a population genetics framework to be applicable, but they need to be transmitted by way of a self-assembly code, or some other such mechanism that may exist out there in the universe that does the same thing: preserving traits that would otherwise be lost from a lineage due to the death of individuals.

The above criticism of DIT arises due to the choice of Darwinian selection as an explanatory framework for culture. Cultural evolution does not possess the algorithmic structure of a process that can be modeled in a Darwinian framework as characterized by John von Neumann[108] and used by John Holland to design the genetic algorithm.[109] Forcing culture into a Darwinian framework gives a distorted picture of the process for several reasons. First, Darwinian selection only works as an explanatory framework when variation is randomly generated.[citation needed] To the extent that transmission biases are operative in culture, they mitigate the effect of Darwinian change, i.e. change in the distribution of variants over generations of exposure to selective pressures.[citation needed] Second, since acquired change can accumulate orders of magnitude faster than inherited change, if it is not getting regularly discarded each generation, it quickly overwhelms the population-level mechanism of change identified by Darwin; it swamps the phylogenetic signal.[citation needed]DIT proponents reply that their theory includes a very important role for decision-making forces.[110] As a point of history, Darwin had a rather sophisticated theory of human cultural evolution that depended on natural selection “to a subordinate degree” compared to “laws, customs, and traditions” supported by public opinion.[111] Critics do not see the relevance of this reply to the point they are making. When critics claim that DIT is too “Darwinian” they are claiming that culture does not have the algorithmic structure of the kind of process that the formalisms of population genetics were developed to capture.

A related problem stems from the reconstructive manner in which ideas are encoded and retrieved from memory, and the fact that ideas are interpreted in terms of existing conceptual structure and creatively adapted to their bearer’s needs, views, and tastes prior to cultural transmission. This means that what biologists call ‘acquired change’ is ubiquitous in culture, and the population genetics framework was specifically developed to describe the evolution of inherited change in a system where acquired change is regularly discarded from the lineage. Proponents argue “But if this criticism was valid then it would be comparatively much easier to argue an unpopular or incorrect concepts than it actually is.” Critics do not know what they mean by this. Proponents also claim, “In addition, nothing about DIT runs counter to the idea that an internally selective process (some would call creativity) also determines the fitness of ideas received and sent. In fact this decision making is a large part of the territory embraced by DIT proponents but is poorly understood due to limitations in neurobiology (for more information see Neural Darwinism).” Critics, however, do not view creativity as an “internally selective process”, and their criticism has nothing to do with whether creativity “determines the fitness of ideas received and sent.” (They also point out that there is a vast psychological literature on decision making; it would only appear to be “poorly understood” to someone whose only source for papers on decision making is the literature on Neural Darwinism.) The point critics are making in regard to creativity is that creativity introduces acquired change which is not handled by a selectionist, or Darwinian, or population genetics (it doesn’t matter what you call it) type of mathematical framework.

Related criticisms of the effort to frame culture in Darwinian terms have been leveled by Richard Lewontin,[112] Niles Eldredge,[113] and Stuart Kauffman.[114]

The rest is here:

Dual inheritance theory – Wikipedia

Memetics | Definition of Memetics by Merriam-Webster

: the study of memes Memetics sees ideas as a kind of virus, sometimes propagating in spite of truth and logic. Its maxim is: Beliefs that survive aren’t necessarily true, rules that survive aren’t necessarily fair and rituals that survive aren’t necessarily necessary. Things that survive do so because they are good at surviving. Los Angeles Times, 20 Mar. 1999

Read more:

Memetics | Definition of Memetics by Merriam-Webster

Understanding Memetics – SCP Foundation

Summary, for those in a hurry:

Memetics deals with information transfer, specifically cultural information in society. The basic idea is to conflate the exchange of information between people with genetic material, to track the mutation of ideas as they are transmitted from one person to the next in the way you could track viral transmissions and mutations. However, a meme also provides benefits to the carrier if they spread it.

Meme : Memetics :: Gene : Genetics

Memetics does NOT refer to telepathy, ESP or any imaginary psychic mental magic. These words are memetic, and if you understand them then they are having a completely ordinary memetic effect on you.

Memetics in regards to SCP objects tends to focus on the impossible rather than the mundane, regarding effects that are transmitted via information. In general, the effects themselves should remain in the realm of information. A memetic SCP would be more likely to be a phrase that makes you think you have wings as opposed to a phrase that makes you actually grow a pair of wings. If you write up magic words that make people grow wings, it should be described as something other than memetic.

Memetic SCPs do not emanate auras or project beams. They are SCPs which involve ideas and symbols which trigger a response in those who understand them.

Memetic is often incorrectly used by new personnel as the official sounding term for “Weird Mind Shit.” However, that is not actually what memetic means. These words are memetic. They are producing a memetic effect in your mind right now, without any magical mind rays lashing out of your computer monitor to grasp your fragile consciousness. Memes are information, more specifically, cultural information.

Outside of the Foundation’s walls the concept of memetics is not taken very seriously; it is a theory that conflates the transfer of cultural information with evolutionary biology.

meme : memetic :: gene : genetic

The idea was that certain memes prosper and others wither the same way certain genes produce stronger offspring that out-compete creatures with different genes. Also, it is easy to compare the spread and mutation of information to the spread of a virus. The reason we use the term memetic in our work is largely due to this, as the truly dangerous memes out there can spread like wildfire due to the fact that the very knowledge of them can count as an infection.

Understanding the true nature of memetic threats is critical to surviving them. You cannot wear a special set of magical goggles made of telekill to protect yourself from a meme. THE GOGGLES DO NOTHING. If you just read those words in your head with a bad Teutonic accent, congratulations on being victim to yet another memetic effect. If you did not know that phrase was an oft-repeated quote from the Simpsons then congratulations; you are now infected with that knowledge and are free to participate in its spread.

A meme perpetuates itself by being beneficial to the carrier to spread to new hosts. You now understand that THE GOGGLES DO NOTHING; you’re in on the joke. However, you might have friends who aren’t, and don’t get it. It benefits you to explain them, because then you both have something new to laugh together about when it gets brought up. This is what makes a meme effective – how much incentive a carrier has to spread it. Unless an anomalous meme’s effect is the compulsive urge for the carrier to infect others, there needs to be incentive to spread it.

An artifact can no more have a memetic aura or project a memetic beam than a creature could have a genetic aura or genetic beam. Even though you could imagine a creature with genes that allow it to produce some kind of aura or beam like a big doofy X-man, remember that the examples we have of such creatures in containment are not getting their super-powered emanations from anything resembling our scientific understanding of genetics and biology. Neither are the memetic artifacts. We contain these things specifically because we cannot understand or explain them yet. At the end of the day we’re still using a clumsy concept to describe things we don’t have a full grasp of.

It is very rare that anything with a dangerous memetic component could be described as hostile to begin with. We do not contain memetic threats because they are out to get us. They are threats because it is dangerous for us to merely perceive them. It is exceptionally rare for dangerous memes to even have anything resembling sapience with the exception of certain known entities which exist entirely within the medium of “cultural information” such as SCP-, SCP-732 and SCP-423.

A dangerous meme is basically a trigger that sets off something inside of you that you may or may have not been aware of. What would your knee jerk reaction be to knowing that your rival is sleeping with your one true love? How would you react if you were to unwittingly catch them in the act? That kind of sudden revelation can make a mild mannered citizen into a killer, so don’t be surprised that there are other strange bits of information out there that can break the human mind in different yet equally drastic ways.

Protecting yourself from memetic threat is very tricky and can be worse than the threat itself. There are reasons that we behave the way we do, there are reasons our emotions soar when we hear just the right combination of sounds in a piece of music. Do you want to stop thinking about the Simpsons or your obnoxious nerdy friends that quote it every time you hear the phrase THE GOGGLES DO NOTHING? That would require forgetting about the Simpsons and your friends.

Do you want to survive hearing or reading the phrase ” ?” Well, sadly we don’t quite know what other information you need to forget or know to prevent [DATA EXPUNGED] but we’re getting better. Lobotomies and pills help, and are one of the few times that the cure is not worse than the disease. The sum total of our human condition; our cultural knowledge and upbringing and memories and identity; this is what makes us susceptible to the occasional memetic compulsion.

So it’s not the basalt monolith or its bizarre carvings that is making you strangle your companions with your own intestines, the problem was within you all along.

Should you ever find yourself under a memetic compulsion and aware of the fact, remember that there are certain mental exercises that you can perform which may save your life or the lives of your companions. Changing the information your mind is being presented with may just change how you react to it, and the more abrupt or absurd the change is the better.

Imagine the fearsome entity is wearing a bright pink nightgown. Draw a mustache on the haunted painting. Pee on the stone altar. Wear the terrible sculpture like a hat.

And if all else fails, bend over and kiss your ass goodbye. I’m not kidding. That could actually help.

– Dr. Johannes Sorts received a special dispensation to use the word “doofy” in this document

But seriously

This was originally intended as a piece of fiction on its own before it got stuck into the information bar with plenty of other plainly out-of-character writing guides. So here’s the important things to take away:

1 – “Memetics” is a specific concept regarding information exchange. It has nothing to do with telepathy or ESP or psychic compulsions.

2 – SCP-148 has no effect on anything memetic. Don’t screw this up or we will give you an incredibly hard time about it.

3 – Psychic compulsions are lame and you should think twice before using them in your new SCP, even if you avoid misusing the term “memetic” when you do it.

4 – Sorts’ Rule for all memetic SCPs is “Memetic effect + crazy to death = failure.”

5 – Wear it like a haaaaat!!

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Understanding Memetics – SCP Foundation

Meme – Wikipedia

This article is about the term “meme” in general. For the usage of the term on the internet (or a fad that spreads quickly), see Internet meme. For other uses, see Meme (disambiguation).

A meme ( MEEM[1][2][3]) is an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a cultureoften with the aim of conveying a particular phenomenon, theme, or meaning represented by the meme.[4] A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices, that can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena with a mimicked theme. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures.[5]

Proponents theorize that memes are a viral phenomenon that may evolve by natural selection in a manner analogous to that of biological evolution. Memes do this through the processes of variation, mutation, competition, and inheritance, each of which influences a meme’s reproductive success. Memes spread through the behavior that they generate in their hosts. Memes that propagate less prolifically may become extinct, while others may survive, spread, and (for better or for worse) mutate. Memes that replicate most effectively enjoy more success, and some may replicate effectively even when they prove to be detrimental to the welfare of their hosts.[6]

A field of study called memetics[7] arose in the 1990s to explore the concepts and transmission of memes in terms of an evolutionary model. Criticism from a variety of fronts has challenged the notion that academic study can examine memes empirically. However, developments in neuroimaging may make empirical study possible.[8] Some commentators in the social sciences question the idea that one can meaningfully categorize culture in terms of discrete units, and are especially critical of the biological nature of the theory’s underpinnings.[9] Others have argued that this use of the term is the result of a misunderstanding of the original proposal.[10]

The word meme is a neologism coined by Richard Dawkins.[11] It originated from Dawkins’ 1976 book The Selfish Gene. Dawkins’s own position is somewhat ambiguous: he welcomed N. K. Humphrey’s suggestion that “memes should be considered as living structures, not just metaphorically”[12] and proposed to regard memes as “physically residing in the brain”.[13] Later, he argued that his original intentions, presumably before his approval of Humphrey’s opinion, had been simpler.[14]

The word meme is a shortening (modeled on gene) of mimeme (from Ancient Greek pronounced[mmma] mmma, “imitated thing”, from mimeisthai, “to imitate”, from mimos, “mime”)[15] coined by British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene (1976)[11][16] as a concept for discussion of evolutionary principles in explaining the spread of ideas and cultural phenomena. Examples of memes given in the book included melodies, catchphrases, fashion, and the technology of building arches.[17] Kenneth Pike coined the related terms emic and etic, generalizing the linguistic idea of phoneme, morpheme, grapheme, lexeme, and tagmeme (as set out by Leonard Bloomfield), characterizing them as insider view and outside view of behaviour and extending the concept into a tagmemic theory of human behaviour (culminating in Language in Relation to a Unified Theory of the Structure of Human Behaviour, 1954).

The word meme originated with Richard Dawkins’ 1976 book The Selfish Gene. Dawkins cites as inspiration the work of geneticist L. L. Cavalli-Sforza, anthropologist F. T. Cloak[18] and ethologist J. M. Cullen.[19] Dawkins wrote that evolution depended not on the particular chemical basis of genetics, but only on the existence of a self-replicating unit of transmissionin the case of biological evolution, the gene. For Dawkins, the meme exemplified another self-replicating unit with potential significance in explaining human behavior and cultural evolution. Although Dawkins invented the term ‘meme’ and developed meme theory, the possibility that ideas were subject to the same pressures of evolution as were biological attributes was discussed in Darwin’s time. T. H. Huxley claimed that ‘The struggle for existence holds as much in the intellectual as in the physical world. A theory is a species of thinking, and its right to exist is coextensive with its power of resisting extinction by its rivals.'[20]

Dawkins used the term to refer to any cultural entity that an observer might consider a replicator. He hypothesized that one could view many cultural entities as replicators, and pointed to melodies, fashions and learned skills as examples. Memes generally replicate through exposure to humans, who have evolved as efficient copiers of information and behavior. Because humans do not always copy memes perfectly, and because they may refine, combine or otherwise modify them with other memes to create new memes, they can change over time. Dawkins likened the process by which memes survive and change through the evolution of culture to the natural selection of genes in biological evolution.[17]

Dawkins defined the meme as a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation and replication, but later definitions would vary. The lack of a consistent, rigorous, and precise understanding of what typically makes up one unit of cultural transmission remains a problem in debates about memetics.[22] In contrast, the concept of genetics gained concrete evidence with the discovery of the biological functions of DNA. Meme transmission requires a physical medium, such as photons, sound waves, touch, taste, or smell because memes can be transmitted only through the senses.

Dawkins noted that in a society with culture a person need not have descendants to remain influential in the actions of individuals thousands of years after their death:

But if you contribute to the world’s culture, if you have a good idea…it may live on, intact, long after your genes have dissolved in the common pool. Socrates may or may not have a gene or two alive in the world today, as G.C. Williams has remarked, but who cares? The meme-complexes of Socrates, Leonardo, Copernicus and Marconi are still going strong.[23]

Although Dawkins invented the term meme, he has not claimed that the idea was entirely novel,[24] and there have been other expressions for similar ideas in the past.[25] In 1904, Richard Semon published Die Mneme (which appeared in English in 1924 as The Mneme). The term mneme was also used in Maurice Maeterlinck’s The Life of the White Ant (1926), with some parallels to Dawkins’s concept.[25]

Memes, analogously to genes, vary in their aptitude to replicate; successful memes remain and spread, whereas unfit ones stall and are forgotten. Thus memes that prove more effective at replicating and surviving are selected in the meme pool.

Memes first need retention. The longer a meme stays in its hosts, the higher its chances of propagation are. When a host uses a meme, the meme’s life is extended.[26] The reuse of the neural space hosting a certain meme’s copy to host different memes is the greatest threat to that meme’s copy.[27]

A meme which increases the longevity of its hosts will generally survive longer. On the contrary, a meme which shortens the longevity of its hosts will tend to disappear faster. However, as hosts are mortal, retention is not sufficient to perpetuate a meme in the long term; memes also need transmission.

Life-forms can transmit information both vertically (from parent to child, via replication of genes) and horizontally (through viruses and other means).Memes can replicate vertically or horizontally within a single biological generation. They may also lie dormant for long periods of time.

Memes reproduce by copying from a nervous system to another one, either by communication or imitation. Imitation often involves the copying of an observed behavior of another individual. Communication may be direct or indirect, where memes transmit from one individual to another through a copy recorded in an inanimate source, such as a book or a musical score. Adam McNamara has suggested that memes can be thereby classified as either internal or external memes (i-memes or e-memes).[8]

Some commentators have likened the transmission of memes to the spread of contagions.[28] Social contagions such as fads, hysteria, copycat crime, and copycat suicide exemplify memes seen as the contagious imitation of ideas. Observers distinguish the contagious imitation of memes from instinctively contagious phenomena such as yawning and laughing, which they consider innate (rather than socially learned) behaviors.[29]

Aaron Lynch described seven general patterns of meme transmission, or “thought contagion”:[30]

Dawkins initially defined meme as a noun that “conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation”.[17] John S. Wilkins retained the notion of meme as a kernel of cultural imitation while emphasizing the meme’s evolutionary aspect, defining the meme as “the least unit of sociocultural information relative to a selection process that has favorable or unfavorable selection bias that exceeds its endogenous tendency to change”.[31] The meme as a unit provides a convenient means of discussing “a piece of thought copied from person to person”, regardless of whether that thought contains others inside it, or forms part of a larger meme. A meme could consist of a single word, or a meme could consist of the entire speech in which that word first occurred. This forms an analogy to the idea of a gene as a single unit of self-replicating information found on the self-replicating chromosome.

While the identification of memes as “units” conveys their nature to replicate as discrete, indivisible entities, it does not imply that thoughts somehow become quantized or that “atomic” ideas exist that cannot be dissected into smaller pieces. A meme has no given size. Susan Blackmore writes that melodies from Beethoven’s symphonies are commonly used to illustrate the difficulty involved in delimiting memes as discrete units. She notes that while the first four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (listen(helpinfo)) form a meme widely replicated as an independent unit, one can regard the entire symphony as a single meme as well.[22]

The inability to pin an idea or cultural feature to quantifiable key units is widely acknowledged as a problem for memetics. It has been argued however that the traces of memetic processing can be quantified utilizing neuroimaging techniques which measure changes in the connectivity profiles between brain regions.”[8] Blackmore meets such criticism by stating that memes compare with genes in this respect: that while a gene has no particular size, nor can we ascribe every phenotypic feature directly to a particular gene, it has value because it encapsulates that key unit of inherited expression subject to evolutionary pressures. To illustrate, she notes evolution selects for the gene for features such as eye color; it does not select for the individual nucleotide in a strand of DNA. Memes play a comparable role in understanding the evolution of imitated behaviors.[22]

The 1981 book Genes, Mind, and Culture: The Coevolutionary Process by Charles J. Lumsden and E. O. Wilson proposed the theory that genes and culture co-evolve, and that the fundamental biological units of culture must correspond to neuronal networks that function as nodes of semantic memory. They coined their own word, “culturgen”, which did not catch on. Coauthor Wilson later acknowledged the term meme as the best label for the fundamental unit of cultural inheritance in his 1998 book Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, which elaborates upon the fundamental role of memes in unifying the natural and social sciences.[32]

Dawkins noted the three conditions that must exist for evolution to occur:[33]

Dawkins emphasizes that the process of evolution naturally occurs whenever these conditions co-exist, and that evolution does not apply only to organic elements such as genes. He regards memes as also having the properties necessary for evolution, and thus sees meme evolution as not simply analogous to genetic evolution, but as a real phenomenon subject to the laws of natural selection. Dawkins noted that as various ideas pass from one generation to the next, they may either enhance or detract from the survival of the people who obtain those ideas, or influence the survival of the ideas themselves. For example, a certain culture may develop unique designs and methods of tool-making that give it a competitive advantage over another culture. Each tool-design thus acts somewhat similarly to a biological gene in that some populations have it and others do not, and the meme’s function directly affects the presence of the design in future generations. In keeping with the thesis that in evolution one can regard organisms simply as suitable “hosts” for reproducing genes, Dawkins argues that one can view people as “hosts” for replicating memes. Consequently, a successful meme may or may not need to provide any benefit to its host.[33]

Unlike genetic evolution, memetic evolution can show both Darwinian and Lamarckian traits. Cultural memes will have the characteristic of Lamarckian inheritance when a host aspires to replicate the given meme through inference rather than by exactly copying it. Take for example the case of the transmission of a simple skill such as hammering a nail, a skill that a learner imitates from watching a demonstration without necessarily imitating every discrete movement modeled by the teacher in the demonstration, stroke for stroke.[34] Susan Blackmore distinguishes the difference between the two modes of inheritance in the evolution of memes, characterizing the Darwinian mode as “copying the instructions” and the Lamarckian as “copying the product.”[22]

Clusters of memes, or memeplexes (also known as meme complexes or as memecomplexes), such as cultural or political doctrines and systems, may also play a part in the acceptance of new memes. Memeplexes comprise groups of memes that replicate together and coadapt.[22] Memes that fit within a successful memeplex may gain acceptance by “piggybacking” on the success of the memeplex.As an example, John D. Gottsch discusses the transmission, mutation and selection of religious memeplexes and the theistic memes contained.[35] Theistic memes discussed include the “prohibition of aberrant sexual practices such as incest, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, castration, and religious prostitution”, which may have increased vertical transmission of the parent religious memeplex. Similar memes are thereby included in the majority of religious memeplexes, and harden over time; they become an “inviolable canon” or set of dogmas, eventually finding their way into secular law. This could also be referred to as the propagation of a taboo.

The discipline of memetics, which dates from the mid-1980s, provides an approach to evolutionary models of cultural information transfer based on the concept of the meme. Memeticists have proposed that just as memes function analogously to genes, memetics functions analogously to genetics. Memetics attempts to apply conventional scientific methods (such as those used in population genetics and epidemiology) to explain existing patterns and transmission of cultural ideas.

Principal criticisms of memetics include the claim that memetics ignores established advances in other fields of cultural study, such as sociology, cultural anthropology, cognitive psychology, and social psychology. Questions remain whether or not the meme concept counts as a validly disprovable scientific theory. This view regards memetics as a theory in its infancy: a protoscience to proponents, or a pseudoscience to some detractors.

An objection to the study of the evolution of memes in genetic terms (although not to the existence of memes) involves a perceived gap in the gene/meme analogy: the cumulative evolution of genes depends on biological selection-pressures neither too great nor too small in relation to mutation-rates. There seems no reason to think that the same balance will exist in the selection pressures on memes.[36]

Luis Benitez-Bribiesca M.D., a critic of memetics, calls the theory a “pseudoscientific dogma” and “a dangerous idea that poses a threat to the serious study of consciousness and cultural evolution”. As a factual criticism, Benitez-Bribiesca points to the lack of a “code script” for memes (analogous to the DNA of genes), and to the excessive instability of the meme mutation mechanism (that of an idea going from one brain to another), which would lead to a low replication accuracy and a high mutation rate, rendering the evolutionary process chaotic.[37]

British political philosopher John Gray has characterized Dawkins’ memetic theory of religion as “nonsense” and “not even a theory… the latest in a succession of ill-judged Darwinian metaphors”, comparable to Intelligent Design in its value as a science.[38]

Another critique comes from semiotic theorists such as Deacon[39] and Kull.[40] This view regards the concept of “meme” as a primitivized concept of “sign”. The meme is thus described in memetics as a sign lacking a triadic nature. Semioticians can regard a meme as a “degenerate” sign, which includes only its ability of being copied. Accordingly, in the broadest sense, the objects of copying are memes, whereas the objects of translation and interpretation are signs.[clarification needed]

Fracchia and Lewontin regard memetics as reductionist and inadequate.[41] Evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr disapproved of Dawkins’ gene-based view and usage of the term “meme”, asserting it to be an “unnecessary synonym” for “concept”, reasoning that concepts are not restricted to an individual or a generation, may persist for long periods of time, and may evolve.[42]

Opinions differ as to how best to apply the concept of memes within a “proper” disciplinary framework. One view sees memes as providing a useful philosophical perspective with which to examine cultural evolution. Proponents of this view (such as Susan Blackmore and Daniel Dennett) argue that considering cultural developments from a meme’s-eye viewas if memes themselves respond to pressure to maximise their own replication and survivalcan lead to useful insights and yield valuable predictions into how culture develops over time. Others such as Bruce Edmonds and Robert Aunger have focused on the need to provide an empirical grounding for memetics to become a useful and respected scientific discipline.[43][44]

A third approach, described by Joseph Poulshock, as “radical memetics” seeks to place memes at the centre of a materialistic theory of mind and of personal identity.[45]

Prominent researchers in evolutionary psychology and anthropology, including Scott Atran, Dan Sperber, Pascal Boyer, John Tooby and others, argue the possibility of incompatibility between modularity of mind and memetics.[citation needed] In their view, minds structure certain communicable aspects of the ideas produced, and these communicable aspects generally trigger or elicit ideas in other minds through inference (to relatively rich structures generated from often low-fidelity input) and not high-fidelity replication or imitation. Atran discusses communication involving religious beliefs as a case in point. In one set of experiments he asked religious people to write down on a piece of paper the meanings of the Ten Commandments. Despite the subjects’ own expectations of consensus, interpretations of the commandments showed wide ranges of variation, with little evidence of consensus. In another experiment, subjects with autism and subjects without autism interpreted ideological and religious sayings (for example, “Let a thousand flowers bloom” or “To everything there is a season”). People with autism showed a significant tendency to closely paraphrase and repeat content from the original statement (for example: “Don’t cut flowers before they bloom”). Controls tended to infer a wider range of cultural meanings with little replicated content (for example: “Go with the flow” or “Everyone should have equal opportunity”). Only the subjects with autismwho lack the degree of inferential capacity normally associated with aspects of theory of mindcame close to functioning as “meme machines”.[46]

In his book The Robot’s Rebellion, Stanovich uses the memes and memeplex concepts to describe a program of cognitive reform that he refers to as a “rebellion”. Specifically, Stanovich argues that the use of memes as a descriptor for cultural units is beneficial because it serves to emphasize transmission and acquisition properties that parallel the study of epidemiology. These properties make salient the sometimes parasitic nature of acquired memes, and as a result individuals should be motivated to reflectively acquire memes using what he calls a “Neurathian bootstrap” process.[47]

Although social scientists such as Max Weber sought to understand and explain religion in terms of a cultural attribute, Richard Dawkins called for a re-analysis of religion in terms of the evolution of self-replicating ideas apart from any resulting biological advantages they might bestow.

As an enthusiastic Darwinian, I have been dissatisfied with explanations that my fellow-enthusiasts have offered for human behaviour. They have tried to look for ‘biological advantages’ in various attributes of human civilization. For instance, tribal religion has been seen as a mechanism for solidifying group identity, valuable for a pack-hunting species whose individuals rely on cooperation to catch large and fast prey. Frequently the evolutionary preconception in terms of which such theories are framed is implicitly group-selectionist, but it is possible to rephrase the theories in terms of orthodox gene selection.

He argued that the role of key replicator in cultural evolution belongs not to genes, but to memes replicating thought from person to person by means of imitation. These replicators respond to selective pressures that may or may not affect biological reproduction or survival.[17]

In her book The Meme Machine, Susan Blackmore regards religions as particularly tenacious memes. Many of the features common to the most widely practiced religions provide built-in advantages in an evolutionary context, she writes. For example, religions that preach of the value of faith over evidence from everyday experience or reason inoculate societies against many of the most basic tools people commonly use to evaluate their ideas. By linking altruism with religious affiliation, religious memes can proliferate more quickly because people perceive that they can reap societal as well as personal rewards. The longevity of religious memes improves with their documentation in revered religious texts.[22]

Aaron Lynch attributed the robustness of religious memes in human culture to the fact that such memes incorporate multiple modes of meme transmission. Religious memes pass down the generations from parent to child and across a single generation through the meme-exchange of proselytism. Most people will hold the religion taught them by their parents throughout their life. Many religions feature adversarial elements, punishing apostasy, for instance, or demonizing infidels. In Thought Contagion Lynch identifies the memes of transmission in Christianity as especially powerful in scope. Believers view the conversion of non-believers both as a religious duty and as an act of altruism. The promise of heaven to believers and threat of hell to non-believers provide a strong incentive for members to retain their belief. Lynch asserts that belief in the Crucifixion of Jesus in Christianity amplifies each of its other replication advantages through the indebtedness believers have to their Savior for sacrifice on the cross. The image of the crucifixion recurs in religious sacraments, and the proliferation of symbols of the cross in homes and churches potently reinforces the wide array of Christian memes.[30]

Although religious memes have proliferated in human cultures, the modern scientific community has been relatively resistant to religious belief. Robertson (2007) [48] reasoned that if evolution is accelerated in conditions of propagative difficulty,[49] then we would expect to encounter variations of religious memes, established in general populations, addressed to scientific communities. Using a memetic approach, Robertson deconstructed two attempts to privilege religiously held spirituality in scientific discourse. Advantages of a memetic approach as compared to more traditional “modernization” and “supply side” theses in understanding the evolution and propagation of religion were explored.

In Cultural Software: A Theory of Ideology, Jack Balkin argued that memetic processes can explain many of the most familiar features of ideological thought. His theory of “cultural software” maintained that memes form narratives, social networks, metaphoric and metonymic models, and a variety of different mental structures. Balkin maintains that the same structures used to generate ideas about free speech or free markets also serve to generate racistic beliefs. To Balkin, whether memes become harmful or maladaptive depends on the environmental context in which they exist rather than in any special source or manner to their origination. Balkin describes racist beliefs as “fantasy” memes that become harmful or unjust “ideologies” when diverse peoples come together, as through trade or competition.[50]

In A Theory of Architecture, Nikos Salingaros speaks of memes as “freely propagating clusters of information” which can be beneficial or harmful. He contrasts memes to patterns and true knowledge, characterizing memes as “greatly simplified versions of patterns” and as “unreasoned matching to some visual or mnemonic prototype”.[51] Taking reference to Dawkins, Salingaros emphasizes that they can be transmitted due to their own communicative properties, that “the simpler they are, the faster they can proliferate”, and that the most successful memes “come with a great psychological appeal”.[52]

Architectural memes, according to Salingaros, can have destructive power. “Images portrayed in architectural magazines representing buildings that could not possibly accommodate everyday uses become fixed in our memory, so we reproduce them unconsciously.”[53] He lists various architectural memes that circulated since the 1920s and which, in his view, have led to contemporary architecture becoming quite decoupled from human needs. They lack connection and meaning, thereby preventing “the creation of true connections necessary to our understanding of the world”. He sees them as no different from antipatterns in software designas solutions that are false but are re-utilized nonetheless.[54]

An “Internet meme” is a concept that spreads rapidly from person to person via the Internet, largely through Internet-based E-mailing, blogs, forums, imageboards like 4chan, social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, instant messaging, social news sites or thread sites like Reddit, and video hosting services like YouTube and Twitch.[55]

In 2013, Richard Dawkins characterized an Internet meme as one deliberately altered by human creativity, distinguished from Dawkins’s original idea involving mutation by random change and a form of Darwinian selection.[56]

One technique of meme mapping represents the evolution and transmission of a meme across time and space.[57] Such a meme map uses a figure-8 diagram (an analemma) to map the gestation (in the lower loop), birth (at the choke point), and development (in the upper loop) of the selected meme. Such meme maps are nonscalar, with time mapped onto the y-axis and space onto the x-axis transect. One can read the temporal progression of the mapped meme from south to north on such a meme map. Paull has published a worked example using the “organics meme” (as in organic agriculture).[57]

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: the study of memes Memetics sees ideas as a kind of virus, sometimes propagating in spite of truth and logic. Its maxim is: Beliefs that survive aren’t necessarily true, rules that survive aren’t necessarily fair and rituals that survive aren’t necessarily necessary. Things that survive do so because they are good at surviving. Los Angeles Times, 20 Mar. 1999

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