Friday, April 07, 2006

What is a meme?

Just as the gene is the building block of the human body, the meme is the building block of the human mind. It makes human thought possible by connecting our ideas with the physical world.

A gene is a set of instruction for building proteins. Likewise, a meme is a set of instructions for taking a specific action. Without an action, the meme dies. It must find a physical form to survive and to thrive.

Like a gene, a meme is a replicator. It meets all three criteria:

  • Variation: When the meme is passed on, the copying is seldom perfect.
  • Selection: Some memes are accepted by a mind while others are ignored or discarded.
  • Retention: Something of the original meme remains despite the lack of fidelity in the replication process.

Beyond these factors, memes and genes have little in common.

Copyright 2006 by W.O. Cawley Jr.

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