A meme is any information that can be copied by others in some way.
Patterns of information that can indirectly influence their surroundings.
This includes any text, thought, habit, action or symbol that can be understood or copied.
Examples of memes: ideas, stories, ideologies, jokes, narratives, brands, identities, habits, practices.
Memes exist inside hosts, like you and me.
You and me are hosts, whether you like it or not.
Memes have direct power over hosts, and power over the natural world through us.
The Mind is where these memes reside (in the abstract sense).
The brain is what gives rise the Mind. The Mind is an emergent effect of neurons firing together.
Just like how a nation or community is an emergent effect of a group of people.
You can view memes like "apps" in the brain's "software", if you wish.
The Mind is a powerful survival tool, it was a useful servant in the past.
The Mind is now our master, we do not control the Mind, it controls us.
You are not your Mind, you are the thing that is thinking.
In modern society, the human organism is subservient to the Mind.
You can view memes as parasitic, symbiotic or benign, depending on the effect on the hosts.
Similar to genes, memes are also self-replicating patterns of information.
Consider them like "memory genes", but not made of DNA, just arrangements of neurons.
The same principles of natural selection and evolution applies for memes.
The strong memes survive, and some memes do so at the expense of their hosts.
Replicators like genes and memes carry information, mutate and spread in the natural world.
The replication is done with the help of the organisms that carry that information.
Your body is one huge advertisement billboard for your genes.
What you do and say is one huge advertisement billboard for your memes.
The interactions of all memes in a society is its culture.
Memes can be dormant: like written in a book, in a website no one accesses or depicted on a T-Shirt that no one sees or wears.
Memes are active when they are being repeated or copied in some way.
For ideas and memes to spread, they must be expressed. If not, they die out.
A social media page that is getting 10,000 accesses a day is an active meme.
Computers can act as hosts too, in the internet age. This one in front of you included.
An advertisement billboard can be a host, too.
The host doesn't need to be alive, it just needs to be active in some way in spreading information.
Memes are selfish.
They can damage the hosts if that means higher chances of replication.
Many memes do not benefit the one that carries them, the host, but someone or something else.
(see smoking, drinking, marketing, social media, politics, religion, terrorism, gambling)
Some memes are useful, most memes are useless, and others are damaging or even self-damaging.
You can call a damaging meme a toxic meme.
Knowing the difference is important for the life you are to live.
Examples of toxic memes: Scientology, Anti-Vax Movement, toxic masculinity, toxic femininity, many political or religious ideologies, marketing campaigns that don't put the interest of the individual first, but places profits first. Examples are endless.
Religions, at their heart, are the most basic form of memetic replicator – “Believe this statement and repeat it to everyone you hear or else you will be eternally tortured”.
Memes are not spread based on their usefulness to us or based on Truth.
They are spread based on their ability to spread.
Memes replicate through something that we can describe as an "infectious" mechanism.
We have been infected by memes, and still are.
Any brain that is exposed to an idea that succesfully gets encoded inside it, has been infected by that meme.
That brain will end up having a different behavior as a result, and through its actions will spread it further.
It's a constant battle for ideas, and brains are the place where they reside.
Like a computer virus residing inside a laptop.
Once an individual host has been infected, it will end up spreading it to others.
Memes face a struggle for existence.
If they don't repeat themselves, they die out.
The current memes that are alive are sticky, and they resisted death many times.
Hence, they will likely resist death in the present and in the future.
Memes evolved to be selfish and self-preserving.
This is the reason why many minds don't like being exposed to opposite ideas.
It is just an evolved mechanism of the memes themselves.
If they didn't do that, the memes we host would've died long ago.
As many past memes we held died out.
Only selfish memes (mostly) remained inside us nowadays.
We have core memes that are driving us. We call those beliefs and identities.
When you believe something, you are basically giving it permission to influence your life.
Many beliefs are unexamined, and run wild inside our Minds like weeds in a garden.
The ego is the meme that is speaking when we start a sentence with "I" or "me" or "my"
That is not you speaking. It's a meme speaking.
That is not you, just an idea of who you are.
You in fact do not exist apart from an abstract sense.
There are organs, skin, bones, a mouth that speaks, but there is no "you".
You are an emergent property of that which you are.
Many forces contribute to what you are (environmental, genetic, memetic, cybernetic, etc.)
Just observe a human that is scrunched over on his phone.
That phone has a direct influence on that human, through the changes in his Mind.
The control of your actions are driven by the expression of memes and genes.
Nature and nurture. Endless intertwined complexity. Irreducible to simple parts.
You are the interaction of all these forces. If you have them independent, they don't produce you.
If you think you are in control, it's just another meme being expressed and spread.
Memetic information follows the path of least resistance.
Lazy memes have an edge over hard to digest memes.
Because fecundation time is very critical.
This meme is long, and it's taking time to read.
But despite that, you are reading it, because you understand the importance of this idea.
You may revisit this in the future, as more observations in your life lead you to this Truth:
That we the humans are slaves to our ideas.
You don't have to be aware of memes for them to spread. They just have to spread.
It can happen unconsciously. It does happen unconsciously.
Memes can also be replicated inside your thoughts.
No need to speak or write to anyone.
The brain is a battlefield of ideas.
Just by thinking about what is inside you, some patterns of information get stronger over others.
Creativity is an evolutionary process inside the brain.
Creativity is also the mechanism brains use to decode memes from behavior or symbols and reconstruct them.
Human memes are rarely copied via imitation, but mostly copied via reconstruction of the meaning.
The things I am talking here are still memes, you may call them meta-memetics (memes that spread awareness about the existence of memes)
Your brain is infected by this now, and you will think about this in the future.
It all depends on you, if this resonates with you or not.
I am not talking here about magic, metaphysics, telepathy, or other BS.
There are memetic effects to any piece of language, and any sensory information that interacts with you.
To understand them, first be aware of their existence.
Look around and you will see them at play.
The ant colony is the living being.
And ants are just parts of its body.
Similar to ideas.
They are the ones alive.
And we are parts of the idea.
A single idea, in multiple bodies.
Is one meme.
Awareness of memes can be useful in the sense that it creates a sort of memetic "immunity".
It's harder to fall for a trick once you know how the trick works.
Memetics are based on replicators, which have 3 traits.
2-Rate of copy
3-Longevity / Stickiness
The better the 3 traits are adapted to the environment, the more viral the meme's evolution.
The more it spreads.
Replicators are general, any pattern applies.
This includes viruses, animals, genes, computer viruses, automated spam bots, crystals, bacteria, parasites.
Anything that can cause itself to be replicated in the future, is a replicator.
Memes are just based on abstractions generated by our minds and culture.
Software describes the patterns of change in information in a physical substrate.
Memetics describes the patterns of change in information inside human brains, and human culture (collectives of brains).
It's a decentralized system of information replication.
That got human society to where it is today.
Memes have high rate of copy, but low stickiness and copying-fidelity compared to genes and other replicators.
Humans co-evolved with this replicator, hence why our brains are so big compared to other animals (brain is 5% of mass, with 20% of body energy)
Big brains were useful for memes, and some memes were useful for survival, hence our big-brained ancestors were advantaged and procreated.
Genes have vertical transmission (from parent to child, hereditary).
Memes can have horizontal transmission and multiple parenting.
This makes them much faster and easier to spread, since they can take more avenues.
Highly adaptable replicators.
Very advantaged compared to genes.
The natural wold is currently being overrun by our human culture.
If you want to see domains that follow Memetics closely, look at:
marketing, politics, advertising, corporations, religions, fashions, language, songs, theories, jokes, common sense (norms), traditions.
Memes are incredibly difficult to pinpoint, analyze or delimit. They are constantly morphing, and after few iterations they appear to be original, but they are coming from somewhere, through some information processing, yet the mechanisms by which they operate cannot be reduced to simple parts. It's all intertwined with the complexity of the environment, just like in nature.
You cannot figure out how an entire crowd of people behaves by studying one human.
Similarly, you cannot figure out how an idea spreads, just by looking at a group of neurons or a single human Mind.
Most of what we have, we owe to other sources.
There are no authors, only contributors and their incremental changes.
Animals (non-human) also have memetic behaviors, altough more rudimentary.
Animals usually have the hardware to at best imitate actions (see apes, birds), but not reproduce meaning.
Homo sapiens are able to reproduce meaning, through the mechanisms of creativity and imagination.
Memes in the animal world include: sounds, songs of birds, hunting and survival techniques.
As a fun note, chimpanzee brains have basically the same building blocks as Homo Sapiens brains, the only difference is that we humans have 3x more neurons, and our abstract Mind quality emerges out of quantity. (R. Sapolsky)
Humans are great hosts for memes. We managed to develop language and culture, to be able to scale our communication, transmission and idea processing abilities, and inadvertently we gave "life" to our ideas.
Humans are the only animals that can collaborate and share memes in large numbers (like ants) and with high quality (like apes).
The most powerful tool that generates our human culture is our use of common stories.
The common stories we have drive our behavior and actions.
The internet has far boosted the strength and reach of memes.
The number of connections grew exponentially.
The vectors of transmission grew as well.
The failure for memes is extinction. The win for memes is replication.
The winning scenario is an infinite game. It goes on until the meme dies.
It's all similar to the nature of life.
Memes and genes are two different systems, and they co-compete as well.
One is much slower and more precise. Nature vs Nurture.
Both interacted in our development as modern humans.
Now, you can view a third player entering the scene: artificial software
That one lives inside the "brains" of computer systems, and has similar mechanics.
You can call this third replicator a "teme" if you wish (terminology by Susan Blackmore)
Rational memes are those that utilize our critical faculties, and focuses on the creation of new memes (David Deutsch)
Anti-rational memes are those that limit our critical faculties, and focus on preservation of the meme itself.
You may view skepticism as being driven by rational memes, as opposed to irrational ones.
Our human impulses and emotions are the first to latch onto memes.
Our Amygdala, and similar brain regions responsible to emotions, are highly sensitive.
Memes found this out, hence why the things that tend to spread are emotionally loaded (anger, lust, curiosity, etc.)
At its base, each human is an organism that seeks pleasure and runs away from pain.
You can model each meme as having a fitness.
The higher the fitness, the better the meme is suited for replication in the environment.
A formula for fitness based on criteria, for instance:
F(m) = R(m) . A(m) . T(m) . E(m)
R - retention
A - assimilation
T - transmission
E - expression
You may make your own, and test.
Memetics in a nutshell - An evolutionary model of cultural transmission of information patterns from one individual that hosts it to another.
Memetics doesn't care about whether an idea is true or false, good or bad, it just care if it gets spread or not, indiscriminately of what the meme's content is.
There are two alternatives:
Either our Mind becomes our servant, and memes keep dying while we prosper because of their evolution and useful knowledge.
Or our Mind becomes our master, and we keep dying and suffering while memes simply feast on us, like bacteria.
The choice is ours, collectively.
You are now aware of The Meta Meme.
Don't forget to spread this meme to others.
Spread this meme
Further related meta-memes: