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This nOde last updated May 7th, 2003 and is permanently morphing...
(11 K'an (Corn) / 12 Uo - 24/260 -

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"An idea is something you have;
an ideology is something that has you."

 --Morris Berman

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"internal linkI don't entertain, I enter the brain..."
internal linkDJ Spooky - _Degree internal linkZero_ MP3atomjacked inventory cache off of _Riddim Warfare_ CDatomjacked inventory cache on Outpost/Asphodel (1998)

DJ Spooky enters the brain

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Coined by zoologist internal linkRichard Dawkins in his controversial book

The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins

internal link_The Selfish Gene    (1975)atomjacked inventory cache , the 'meme' is the study of ideas which replicate and transmit themselves via the human mind the way a virus does in a biological host.Important early scientific studies were conducted by Daniel C. Dennett and Douglas Hofstadter in the 1980s, before a climate of viral metaphors (Ebola, AIDS) and a rapidly growing hedonistic cyberculture helped popularize the memetics field in the1990s.

Memetic engineering developed from diverse influences, includinginternal linkcutting edge physics of consciousness and memetics research, internal linkchaosHail Eris!  theory, semiotics, internal linkculture jamming, military internal linkinformation warfare, and the viral texts of iconoclasts internal linkWilliam S. Burroughs, J.G. Ballard, and internal linkGenesis P-Orridge.

New Radiant Storm King - Rival Time on Positive (1993)

The memetic engineer is able to isolate, study, and subtly manipulate the underlying values systems, symbolic balance and primal atavisms that unconsciously influence the individual psyche and collective identity. A highly educated but susceptible intelligentsia, worldwide travel, and information vectors like the internal linkInternet and cable television means that hysterical epidemics and disinformationcampaigns will become more common. This warfare will be conducted using aesthetics, symbols, and doctrines as camouflage that will ultimately influence our cultural meme pool. These contemporary 'life conditions' are explored in books like internal linkCarl Sagan's _The Demon Haunted World_, & John Brockman's _The Third Culture_. Fictional descriptions of memetic engineering include internal linkIsaac Asimov's seminal internal link_Foundation_ seriesatomjacked inventory cacheinternal linkG.I. Gurdjieff's _Beelzebub's Tales To His Grandson_, internal linkNeal Stephenson's internal link_Snow Crash_atomjacked inventory cache, and Robert W. Chambers' unearthly _The King In Yellow_ tome.

Foundation by Isaac Asimov G.I. Gurdjieff Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

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Meme:  an information pattern, held in an individual's internal linkmemory, which is capable of being copied to another individual's memory. 
Memetics:  the theoretical and empirical science that studies the replication, spread and internal linkevolution of memes
Cultural evolution, including the evolution of knowledge, can be modelled through the same basic principles of variation and selection that underly biological evolution. This implies a shift from genes as units of biological internal linkinformation to a new type of units of cultural information: memes.
Information in formation

A meme is a cognitive or behavioral pattern that can be transmitted from one individual to another one. Since the individual who transmitted the meme will continue to carry it, the transmission can be interpreted as a replication: a copy of the meme is made in the memory of another individual, making him or her into a carrier of the meme. This internal linkprocess of self-reproduction, leading to spreading over a growing group of individuals, defines the meme as a replicator, similar in that respect to the gene (Dawkins, 1976; Moritz, 1991).

Dawkins listed the following three characteristics for any successful replicator:

the more faithful the copy, the more will remain of the initial pattern after several rounds of copying. If a painting is reproduced by making photocopies from photocopies, the underlying pattern will quickly become unrecognizable.
the faster the rate of copying, the more the replicator will spread. An industrial printing press can churn out many more copies of a text than an office copying machine.
the longer any instance of the replicating pattern survives, the more copies can be made of it. A drawing made by etching lines in the sand is likely to be erased before anybody could have photographed or otherwise reproduced it.
In these general characteristics, memes are similar to genes and to other replicators, such as computer viruses or internal linkcrystals. The genetic metaphor for cultural transmission is limited, though. Genes can only be transmitted from parent to child ("vertical transmission"). Memes can be transmitted between any two individuals ("horizontal transmission" or "multiple parenting"). In that sense they are more similar to parasites or infections (cf. Cullen, 1998).

For genes to be transmitted, you need a generation. Memes only take minutes to replicate, and thus have potentially much higher fecundity. On the other hand, the copying-fidelity of memes is in general much lower. If a story is spread by being told from person to person, the final version will be very different from the original one. It is this variability or internal linkfuzziness that perhaps distinguishes cultural patterns most strikingly from internal linkDNA structures: every individual's version of an idea or belief will be in some respect different from the others'. That makes it difficult to analyze or delimit memes. This does not imply that meme evolution cannot be accurately modeled, though. After all, genetics was a well-established science long before the precise DNA structure of genes was discovered.
DNA the Network

Examples of memes in the animal world are most bird songs, and certain techniques for hunting or using tools that are passed from parents or the social group to the youngsters (Bonner, internal link1980). In human society, almost any cultural entity can be seen as a meme: religions, internal linklanguage, fashions, songs, techniques, scientific theories and concepts, conventions, traditions, etc. The defining characteristic of memes as informational patterns, is that they can be replicated in unlimited amounts by communication between individuals, independently of any replication at the level of the genes.

Of course, the capacity of the nervous system for learning is the result of evolutionary internal linkprocesses at the genetic level. Yet I will here not go into detail about why that capacity has been selected. The increased fitness resulting from a internal linknervous system that is flexible enough to adapt its behavior to many new situations, seems obvious enough. If a useful type of behavior can be learned directly from another individual by communication or imitation, that seems like a most welcome shortcut for having to discover it by personal trial-and-error. More arguments for why the capacity for meme replication has evolved genetically can be found in most texts about the recently founded domain of memetics (Moritz, 1991).

Memetics can be defined as an approach trying to model the evolution of memes. Memes undergo processes of variation (mutation, recombination) of their internal structure. Different variants will compete for the limited internal linkmemoryspace available in different individuals. The most fit variants will win this competition, and spread most extensively. Different criteria for the fitness of a meme, relative to other memes, can be formulated.

Variation, replication and selection on the basis of meme fitness determine a complex dynamics. This dynamics will be influenced by the medium through which memes are communicated, and the copying-fidelity, fecundity and longevity it allows. Perhaps the most powerful medium for meme transmission is the computer internal linknetwork, and this implies some specific characteristics for memes on the internal linknet.

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As is the case with genes, it is not necessary to know the exact coding or even the exact size or boundaries of a meme in order to discuss its fitness, and thus to make predictions about its further spreading, survival or extinction within the population of competing memes. Such predictions can be empirically tested. For example, a memetic hypothesis might state that simpler memes will spread more quickly. This can be tested by observing the spread (perhaps in a controlled environment) of two memes that are similar in all respects, except that the one is simpler. Theories can also be induced from empirical observation of meme behavior "in the wild". Given the differences in variation and selection mechanisms, it is also possible to make predictions about the competition between memes and genes.

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Since the psychophysical approach demonstrates that binary bits comprise memes that are 'alive', and exhibit RNA-type characteristics (just as some books that have been reproduced in internal linklibraries across the world for millennia constitute a kind of dormant 'virus' that latter-day readers can activate), then the most powerful form of "extra-corporeal 'internal linkDNA'" will be the metalanguage that facilitates a universal 'translation'.  Put differently, although the Web can be regarded as a "literal global brain" from the standpoint of the individual's linear-logical left cerebral hemisphere [LH] 'out there' (in that it comprises a myriad binary bits that each of us can access in a cause-and-effect fashion in cyberspace), on the other hand in terms of right cereberal hemisphere [RH] (internal linkfractal) self-time the Web is *experienced* as his or her global psyche internal linksoma 'in here'. Moreover, since the ego has its origins in the soma (with all substitute-objects for the mother being felt to contain her smell-touch plus suppressed RH sensorimotor (fractal) self-time as originally instantiated within the homunculus that is the pre-object relations genital), this means that the global internal linksoma that we all ostensibly "share" via the Web can also be traced to the same source.

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internal linkcensorship

Any attempt to hinder the spread of a meme by eliminating its vectors. Hence, censorship is analogous to attempts to halt diseases by spraying insecticides. Censorship can never fully kill off an offensive meme, and may actually help to promote the meme's most virulent strain, while killing off milder forms.

- Memetic Lexicon

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Memetics is vital to the understanding of cults, ideologies, and marketing campaigns of all kinds, and it can help to provide immunity from dangerous information-contagions. You should be aware, for instance, that you just been exposed to the Meta-meme, the meme about memes...

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In memetics, ideas are viewed as almost independent creatures in a internal linksymbiotic relationship with human minds and cultures.  A meme is a (cognitive) information-structure able to replicate using human hosts and to influence their behavior to promote replication. 


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Host = A host must be able to possess at least the potential capacity to elaborate on the meme and to perform those cognitive tasks connected to the meme that we normally refer to as "understanding". This means that only humans can be hosts (animals can perhaps become hosts for simpler memes, but we will not discuss this here), at least until the development of internal linkartificial intelligences reaches further.

Vector = A vector is anything that transports the meme between hosts without the capacity to reflect on the meme. Examples are a wall, a voice, an email-program, or a picture. Can a human be a vector? Yes she can, if she lacks the cognitive capacity (or interest) to elaborate on a specific meme. Then she is just a non-reflective carrier of the meme, much the same as a book.  Note though that the human vector is still a potential host - or inactive host (Grant, 1990) - for the meme, should she suddenly choose to analyze the meme (in its widest sense) or achieve the contextual understanding which would make this possible.

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Something that a host actively thinks about is less likely to be forgotten, and also more likely to influence behavior. Thus memes that encourage thinking or fantasizing about themselves or related concepts have increased chances of survival. Rituals and ceremony are often powerful reminders of the meme.

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If a meme is to be spread by a host for a long internal linktime, the host must remember the meme. If a host is infected and later forgets the meme and/or stops acting out the new behavior before the host has spread the meme on, the host has not done the meme any more good than if the host had not been infected in the first place. Thus successful memes encourage permanent or long-lasting changes in the host.  Note that it is not necessary for the hosts to remember the meme itself, just change their behaviors in a way that will promote the spread of the (reconstructed) meme.

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External storage

Since human internal linkmemory tends to be rather internal linkuncertain, external memory aids can also aid memes greatly not just as vectors, but as memory internal linkfeedback.

If a host is infected by a scientific meme-complex he will be encouraged to read books relating to the meme complex. The host becomes likely to learn more and more about the theories rather than forgetting parts of them, and should he forget something relevant he can look it up again, the books can serve as memory feedback internal linkloops and also act as vectors for other parts of the meme-complex causing further infection.

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Infection Phase

After successful decoding the meme becomes part of the host's mental structures, and this is called infection. A person who does not remember a meme at all is not infected. A person that does remember a meme but who's behavior is not affected has thus become a human vector. A person whose behaviour is affected by a meme has been actively infected and can potentially transmit it to other hosts.

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meme /meem/ n.

The New Hacker's Dictionary by Eric S. Raymond

[coined by analogy with 'gene', by Richard Dawkins] An idea considered as a replicator, esp. with the connotation that memes parasitize people into propagating them much as viruses do. Used esp. in the phrase 'meme complex' denoting a group of mutually supporting memes that form an organized belief system, such as a religion. This lexicon is an (epidemiological) vector of the 'hacker subculture' meme complex; each entry might be considered a meme. However, `meme' is often misused to mean `meme complex'. Use of the term connotes acceptance of the idea that in humans (and presumably other tool- and internal linklanguage-using sophonts) cultural internal linkevolution by selection of adaptive ideas has superseded biological evolution by selection of hereditary traits. Hackers find this idea congenial for tolerably obvious reasons.

meme plague n.

The spread of a successful but pernicious meme, esp. one that parasitizes the victims into giving their all to propagate it. Astrology, BASIC, and the other guy's religion are often considered to be examples. This usage is given point by the historical fact that 'joiner' ideologies like Naziism or various forms of millennarian Christianity have exhibited plague-like cycles of exponential growth followed by collapses to small reservoir populations.

memetics /me-met'iks/ n.

[from meme] The study of memes. As of early 1999, this is still an extremely informal and speculative endeavor, though the first steps towards at least statistical rigor have been made by H. Keith Henson and others. Memetics is a popular topic for speculation among hackers, who like to see themselves as the architects of the new information ecologies in which memes live and replicate.

- _The New internal linkHacker's Dictionary_atomjacked inventory cache by internal linkEric S. Raymond

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Benge - Meme Tunes CD on Expanding (2002)

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In a way, the theory of internal linkevolution, which was born in the 1850s, was the beginning of the turning of the tide because even though the first 100 years of evolutionary theory was fantastically concerned to eliminate teleology, eliminate purpose, nevertheless nobody ever understood that except the hardcore evolutionists. To everyone else, evolution meant ascent to higher form. I once heard someone say "if it doesn't have to do with genes, it ain't evolution." Well, that's a tremendously limited view of what evolution is. The inorganic world is evolving, the organic world is evolving and there the currency is genes but also the social and intellectual world of human beings is evolving and there the currency is not genes but memes so that idea carries with it the implication of ascent to higher form and correctly broadened and understood becomes permission to optimism and to the kind of hope that these folks were trying to articulate.

internal linkTerence McKenna lecture on internal linkAlchemy

Terence McKenna...the force will be with you, always... Alchemy

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If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the internal linkmoment it is divulged, it internal linkforces itself into the possession of everyone, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine;  as he who lights his taper at mine, receives internal linklight without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density at any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property."

  -- internal linkThomas Jefferson, U.S. President, Deist

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Music and sound are tremendously powerful internal linkforces for organizing affect; their power to structure subjectivity, in the here and now and over internal linktime, makes them an incredibly productive internal linklanguage, one capable of overcoming the linear grids implied by text. This isn't just true of electronic music: all popular music functions, particularly for young people, as a way to construct and define a whole worldview, a whole position, a whole set of ways of organizing the world. It is no accident that you find the logic of internal linkyouth subculture most strongly articulated around music. And in the world we're moving into, a world full of cultural viruses, memes, decentered subjects and unfolding para-spaces, these issues will only become more important.

- Erik Davis - _Acoustic Cyberspace_ lecture

There is no creation ex nihilo. We always work from pre-existing material, both literal substances (wood, a language, the internal linkresonance of strings and reeds) and the existing cultural organization of those materials within history, tradition, and contemporary internal linknetworks of influence. So as we survey the expanding and converging landscape of electronic, internal linkvirtual, and immersive production, we might ask ourselves: what material is being worked here? Is it simply new organizations of internal linkphotons, sound internal linkwaves, and haptic cues? Or does the "holistic" internal linkfusion of different media and the construction of more immersive technologies actually suggest another, perhaps more fundamental material?

- Erik Davis - _Experience Design And The Design Of Experience_

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"a man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on." - John F. Kennedy

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internal linkUsenet: alt.memetics

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external linkAlula Dimension
external linkMeme E-Zine

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