I recently had the pleasure of reading Dr. Susan Blackmore’s book The Meme Machine. I was prompted to dust off this book form my shelf by an October chance viewing of the Richard Dawkins presentation and subsequent audience debate at Randoph-Macon College as shown on CSPAN.
Dawkins was one of the early Internet Highway era thinkers lionized by Wired Magazine for his academic comcepts of memes. As he descibed it, memes are concepts, ideas, and ogther abstractins that live in people’s brains. Blackmore elaborates and builda a case for a science and engineering study of memes.
Briefly, her thesis is that memes are a 2nd type of replicator in our world, after DNA. Following Dawkin’s concept of “The Selfish Gene” that seeks to propogate itself (and other genes that it “gets along well with”) by the familiar methods of sexual reproduction and occasional mutation, Blackmore posits that once human brains evolved the ability to mimic each other, memes were unleashed on the world.
Since any given brain has only limited capacity to mimic – time, motor skills, or just awarenss of things to mimic place limits on what an individual can do, so choices must be made. Blackmorfe asks, which memes will get mimicked, and why?