Meme Outline

Concept of Units of Concepts

Introduced by Richard Dawlkins in “The Selfish Gene”

Parallels the gene as a self replicating element competing for survival

“an imitable unit transmitted from one mind to another. (relates to the Greek word mimema for "something imitated".)”


  • Melody, (effective) slogan, skill imitation
  • “Remember the Alamo”
  • Theme from “Bridge over the River Kwai”
  • Spinning a combination lock a few times

Self replicating?

  • Replicator – a de facto observation
  • Gene's that yield fatal infant diseases have trouble replicating – ones that facilitate reproduction can have great success
  • “Gossip”, and “hot news” are examples of memes that often succeed (for a while)
  • Meme's convince us to propagate them

Insight from Wikipedia

  • Memeplexes comprise groups of memes that replicate together and co-adapt.
  • Memetics – an approach to evolutionary models of cultural information transfer based on the concept of the meme.

Some Examples affect us

  • Live Free or Die, “No broad based taxes”
  • Free Speech, Right to bear arms
  • Lots of money is used to find the right ones
  • Hope for America
  • Death Panels
  • Climate Change
  • (see Frontline “The Persuaders” Nov 9, 2004)

Sample Killer Meme

  • Neanderthals aren't like us, they are inferior
  • Dumb animals – not really human
  • Or maybe they own/control all of the resources
  • (hunting grounds, banks, good farm land )
  • Any thing they have we should have
  • And they should die

There are many more recent variations

Daniel Dennet's Downside

  • Infectious Ideas “to die for”: Religious, political, Freedom, ..
  • Biological impact:
  • Subordination of personal replication for the propagation of ideas
  • Dangerous Abuse – Toxic Ideas
  • How to inoculate populations?

Diane Benscoter

  1. The “Moonie viral Meme”
  2. 5 Years in the Moonie cult
  3. Extracted & deprogrammed
  4. 5 years as a de-programmer
  5. Arrested for kidnapping
  6. Views cult as a viral memeplex

Susan Blackmore's TMemes

  • Technology replicating/evolving
  • Using humans as a path forward,
  • But potentially in the future, without us
  • Some of this leads towards the “Singularity”