Monday, April 17, 2006

How do memes reward us?

'Unlike any other animals, we readily imitate everything and anything – and seem to take pleasure in doing so.'
-- Susan Blackmore, “The Meme Machine,” p. 50.

To improve its chances of spreading to other minds, a meme must give each of us an incentive to demonstrate it for others. There are three basic incentives (with three examples):

Economic: How will I gain if I spread this meme?
(stockbrokering, political lobbying, labor unions)
Social: How will I improve my status with this meme?
(Hummer H2s, local politics, cigar smoking)
Moral: How will I improve the world with this meme?
(veganism, PTA, objectivism)

Notice that a meme can contain more than one incentive. For example, if I join the Rotary Club, it could be to gain economically by creating more business contacts, or to improve my status within my community, to improve the world by taking an active role in any of Rotary's many programs.

The more incentives, the stronger the meme. It's the old pleasure principle at work.


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