Re: Meme: New Element Discovered

Anders Sandberg (
Fri, 7 Feb 1997 19:28:12 +0100 (MET)

On Fri, 7 Feb 1997, Anton Sherwood wrote:

> Do memes have a characteristic time? The "dark headlights
> gang initiation" story went everywhere in a few days, and was
> debunked as quickly. The "PKZIP300 virus" story took about
> a week. The "Good Times mail virus" story took months, if
> memory serves, perhaps because it was propagated only by
> the slow of mind ;). But its recent mutation, "Irina", was
> very short-lived. "Craig Shergold" - don't get me started.

There is definitely a timescale for memetic spread. It seems to relate to
the medium (how many copies that can be made and how quickly), how strong
the bait and hook are (how eagerly you swallow the meme and want to spread
it) and how quickly it can be debunked. This boom-and-bust behavior has
been observed for urban myths and rumors by anthropologists.

Ouch, this ought to have gone into my essay...

Anders Sandberg Towards Ascension!
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y