Re: How Memes Work

Anders Sandberg (
Sun, 3 Aug 1997 14:47:30 +0200 (MET DST)

On Sun, 3 Aug 1997, JD wrote:

> Too bad Extropians never seem to question Dawkins' extreme
> reductionism. I have ding donged on this for years, but not lately. So
> I will make my assertions again. I present the following as a conscious
> hypothesis....too bad Dawkins is not self-aware enough to know his
> reductionism is a hypothesis....actually he may be unconsciously
> carrying a meme of the currently dominant scientific establishment.

Wasn't it he who first pointed out that memetics was a meme too?

> However, only the rich and powerful segments of a society can make
> a new meme operational through a whole culture (hypothesis alert!
> Begin testing it!).

Counterexample: Kilroy was here. Was started by some soldiers, and
was so efficient that it spread across most of the western culture.

There are plenty of memes not invented by the rich and powerful which
spread well, but the rich and powerful can of course support memes
more effectively (broadcasting is very useful).

> Contrary to popular Extropian thought, then, the meme's
> "attraction" for the host is less important than the physical
> resources available for propagating the new meme.

No. Let's make a BOTE mathematical model for memetic spread in a very
large population (assumed infinite in this case). Let x(t) be the
number of people infected with the meme at time t. They infect other
people at a constant rate k. There is also some agency which spreads
the meme deliberately, infecting new hosts at a rate l. Assume that
infections last for life. Then we get the differential equation:

x'(t)= kx(t)+l

This has the solution x(t)=c exp(kt) + (l/k). Note that the first
term, corresponding to the exponential spread of the meme
person-to-person will overrun the second corresponding to outside
insertion quite quickly.

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