We all know the meme meme. Even if you are not familiar with memetics, you have probably been infected by it. I find that to be part of its elegance, as memetics is a system subject to its own rules, not above them. Therefore, just as the meme meme itself has longevity, frequency, and fecundity, it also mutates and plays piggyback to other memes.Â Since memeÂ and memeticsÂ are successful memes–part of the same memeplex–abuse of them as memetic devices should be expected.
Here are a few ways in which I’ve found them to be abused*:
- Expanding memetics into standard models of learning and memory. Classical conditioning (drooling when you hear a bell) and operand conditioning (acting based on reward and punishment) have nothing to do with imitation/memetics.
- Taking analogies with genes too far. The concept of memomes comes to mind.
- Taking analogies with viruses too far. You can’t infect me with a meme by speaking magic words or injecting me with a serum (though each could soften my memetic defenses).
- Hijacking memetics to support hare-brained, new age, cosmic theories willy-nilly.
However, instead of finding this disagreement and distortion of memetics as evidence against it,Â I find it satisfying, if tautological. Any successful meme will accumulate freeloaders; the meme meme is no exception.
Is the meme meme dying? Can it survive its own selection? If it dies, does memetics go with it?
If these questions are of concern to you, there is something you can do to help! Yes, the meme meme has conjured within me the following message: mind your meme meme.
* Even–no, especially–if you disagree, my point is made.