In truth, ideas and principles are independent of men; the application of them and their illustration is man's duty and merit. The time will come when the author of a view shall be set aside, and the view only taken cognizance of. This will be the millennium of Science.
What kinds of memes are there? I've divided memes into three classes: distinctions, knives used to slice up reality; strategies, beliefs about which causes will produce which effects; and associations, attitudes about everything in life. Each class of meme works to program you in a different way.
The universe is full of stuff. However, anything we say about that stuff is purely a concept-a set of memes-invented by human beings. All concepts are composed of memes. For instance, the United States are only states because we have invented 50 distinctions-memes-carving out that territory. Alabama isn't a reality; it's just there because we say so, because we are programmed with a meme for Alabama. If we didn't have an Alabama meme, that land would just be more dirt.
Likewise, the earth is simply a distinction-a meme-we invented because it was convenient to put edges around the place we live in order to distinguish it from the rest of the universe. To the universe, it's all just stuff. You may say, "But there really are edges! There's where the dirt ends and the atmosphere begins, or where the atmosphere gives way to outer space!" Really? Dirt, atmosphere, outer space-they're all memes. If you think dirt is really dirt, not a meme we invented for our convenience, then all you'll ever have is dirt. If you see that it's a meme, not the Truth, you open up the possibility of other memes to talk about the same thing: elements, crystals, subatomic particles. Remember that viewed through an electron microscope, it's all mostly empty space!
Another kind of meme is a strategy, a kind of floating rule of thumb that tells you what to do when you come across an applicable situation in order to achieve some desired result. For example, if you drive, you have a set of distinction-memes having to do with driving: traffic lights, speed limits, lane markers, and so on.
A third kind of meme is an association, which links two or more memes in your mind. For instance, if I smell creosoteand I only know it's creosote because I have a distinction-meme for creosote-I associate it with the Boston waterfront from my childhood, where my dad would take me on special occasions. I like that smell. It reminds me of happy times. If advertisers knew I liked it and if other people liked it just as much, we'd soon see creosote-smelling ads for vacation spots to take advantage of that association.
Said in another way, I have a certain attitude about creosote. I have attitudes about my work, about all the people in my life, about television, about memes-about everything. These attitudes are memes that associate other memes with one another so that when we are present to one, we become present to the other.
Ira Glass: For money, afterall, long ago, we used to use gold, and if you wanted to buy something, you had to carry around these heavy, shiny pieces of metal. Then we decided, no, let's just leave the gold in a bank. Instead of the gold, we're going to carry around these pieces of paper, and the paper on them says, "Yes, there's gold. You can take this paper money to a bank, you can swap it for gold." Maybe you've seen old dollars that say on them "Promise to pay the bearer so many dollars in gold." You could swap it.
Then we decided, it was the year 1933, we decided you can't trade in dollar bills for gold anymore in this country. Dollar bills are just gonna represent the idea of money. That's it. They're not gold, they're just money. And when I talked about this with Jacob, he said, it get's more abstract:
Jacob Goldstein: Because now, if you think of most of the money that you have or most of the money that I have, it's never currency, right? I get paid, that is just a direct deposit from NPR, from my employer to my checking account. I never--It's not like they give me a few hundred dollar bills every week. And then, you know, I pay my bills online, so now, currency even now is like old fashioned. You know, you don't have to touch money, you don't have to see it. It's just information.
[...] The money doesn't really exist. Not only is there no gold, there aren't even bills for most of the money that exists. Most of the money that exists is just the idea, it's just the bank saying "Yes, there is this much money in your account."
[Cloak] defined the i-culture as the instructions in people's heads, and the m-culture as the features of people's behaviour, their technology and social organization. he explicitly likened his i-culture to the genotype and m-culture to the phenotype... in The Extended Phenotype [Dawkins] says 'Unfortunately, unlike Cloak... I was insufficiently clear about the distinction between the meme itself, as replicator, on the one hand, and its "phenotypic effects" or "meme products" on the other' (Dawkins 1982, p. 109). He then went on to describe the meme as the structure physically realised in the brain.
Dennet (1995) also talks about memes and their phenotypic effects, but in a different way. The meme is internal (though not confined to brains) while the design it shows the world, 'the way it affects things in its environment' (p. 349), is its phenotype. In an almost complete reversal, Benzon (1996) likens pots, knives, and written words (Cloak's m-culture) to the gene, and ideas, desires and emotion (i-culture) to the phenotype. Gabora (1997) likens the genotype to the mental representation of a meme, and the phenotype to its implementation. Delius (1989), having defined memes as being in the brain, refers to behaviour as memes' phenotypic expression, while remaining ambiguous about the role of the clothes fashions he discusses. Grant (1990) defines the 'memotype' as the actual information content of a meme, and distinguishes this from its 'sociotype' or social expression. He explicitly bases his memotype/socio- type distinction on the phenotype/genotype distinction.
Let us suppose that women who have many chidren are far too busy to have much social life, and spend most of their time with their partners and family. The few other people they do see are likely to be other mothers with young children who already share at least some of their child-rearing memes. The more children they have the mor eyears they will spend this way. They will, therefore, have little time for spreading their own memes, including the ones concerned with family values and the pleasures of having lots of children.
On the other hand, women who have onlyh one or two children, or none at all, are far more likely to have jobs outside the home, to have an exciting social life, to use e-mail, to write books and papers and articles, to become politicians or broadcasters, or do any number of other things that will spread their memes, including the memes for birth control and the pleasures of a small family. These are the women whose pictures appear in the media, whose succss inspires others, and who provide role models for other women to copy.
There is a battle going on here -- a battle between memes and genes to take controle over the machinery of replication -- in this case a woman's body and mind. Any one person has only so much time and energy in their lifetime. They can divide it as they choose but they cannot have lots of children and devote maximal time and effort to spreading memes. This particular battle is played out largely in the lives of women and is becoming ever more important as women take a more prominent role in modern meme-driven society. My argument is simply this -- the women who devote more time to memes and less to genes are the more visible ones, and therefore the ones most likely to be copied. In the process, they are effectively encouraging more women to desert gene-spreading in favour of meme-spreading
Where do new memes come from? They come about through variation and combination of old ones - either inside one person's mind, or when memes are passed from person to person. So, for example, the poodle story is concocted out of language that people already know and ideas they already have, put together in new ways. They then remember it and pass it on, and variations occur in the process. And the same is true of inventions, songs, works of art, and scientific theories. The human mind is a rich source of variation. In our thinking we mix up ideas and turn them over to produce new combinations. In our dreams we mix them up even more, with bizarre - and occasionally creative - consequences. Human creativity is a process of variation and recombination.
In thinking about thinking we should remember that not all thoughts are memes. In principle, our immediate perceptions and emotions are not memes because they are ours alone, and we may never pass them on. We may imagine a beautiful scene from memory, or fantasize about sex or food, without using ideas that have been copied from someone else. We may even, in principle, think up a completely new way of doing something without using any memes from anyone else. However, in practice, because we use memes so much, most of our thinking is coloured by them in one way or another. Memes have become the tools with which we think.