Memetic Lexicon

PRINCIPIA CYBERNETICA WEB – © –
URL= http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/MEMLEX.html

Author: Glenn Grant
Date : 1990
Parent Node(s):

* Memetics

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Memetic Lexicon

Auto-toxic
Dangerous to itself. Highly auto-toxic memes are usually self-limiting
because they promote the destruction of their hosts (such as the Jim
Jones meme; any military indoctrination meme-complex; any “martyrdom”
meme). (GMG) (See exo-toxic.)

bait
The part of a meme-complex that promises to benefit the host (usually
in return for replicating the complex). The bait usually justifies, but
does not explicitly urge, the replication of a meme-complex. (Donald
Going, quoted by Hofstadter.) Also called the reward co-meme. (In many
religions, “Salvation” is the bait, or promised reward; “Spread the
Word” is the hook. Other common bait co-memes are “Eternal Bliss”,
“Security”, “Prosperity”, “Freedom”.) (See hook; threat; infection
strategy.)

belief-space
Since a person can only be infected with and transmit a finite number
of memes, there is a limit to their belief space (Henson). Memes evolve
in competition for niches in the belief-space of individuals and
societies.

censorship
Any attempt to hinder the spread of a meme by eliminating its vectors.
Hence, censorship is analogous to attempts to halt diseases by spraying
insecticides. Censorship can never fully kill off an offensive meme,
and may actually help to promote the meme’s most virulent strain, while
killing off milder forms.

co-meme
A meme which has symbiotically co-evolved with other memes, to form a
mutually-assisting meme-complex. Also called a symmeme. (GMG)

cult
A sociotype of an auto-toxic meme-complex, composed of membots and/or
memeoids. (GMG) Characteristics of cults include: self-isolation of the
infected group (or at least new recruits); brainwashing by repetitive
exposure (inducing dependent mental states); genetic functions
discouraged (through celibacy, sterilization, devalued family) in favor
of replication (proselytizing); and leader-worship (“personality
cult”). (Henson.)

dormant
Currently without human hosts. The ancient Egyptian hieroglyph system
and the Gnostic Gospels are examples of “dead” schemes which lay
dormant for millennia in hidden or untranslatable texts, waiting to
re-activate themselves by infecting modern archeologists. Some obsolete
memes never become entirely dormant, such as Phlogiston theory, which
simply mutated from a “belief” into a “quaint historical footnote.”

earworm
“A tune or melody which infects a population rapidly.” (Rheingold); a
hit song. (Such as: “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”.) (f. German,
ohrwurm=earworm.)

exo-toxic
Dangerous to others. Highly exo-toxic memes promote the destruction of
persons other than their hosts, particularly those who are carriers of
rival memes. (Such as: Nazism, the Inquisition, Pol Pot.) (See
meme-allergy.) (GMG)

hook
The part of a meme-complex that urges replication. The hook is often
most effective when it is not an explicit statement, but a logical
consequence of the memeUs content. (Hofstadter) (See bait, threat.)

host
A person who has been successfully infected by a meme. See infection,
membot, memeoid.

ideosphere
The realm of memetic evolution, as the biosphere is the realm of
biological evolution. The entire memetic ecology. (Hofstadter.) The
health of an ideosphere can be measured by its memetic diversity.

immuno-depressant
Anything that tends to reduce a personUs memetic immunity. Common
immuno-depressants are: travel, disorientation, physical and emotional
exhaustion, insecurity, emotional shock, loss of home or loved ones,
future shock, culture shock, isolation stress, unfamiliar social
situations, certain drugs, loneliness, alienation, paranoia, repeated
exposure, respect for Authority, escapism, and hypnosis (suspension of
critical judgment). Recruiters for cults often target airports and bus
terminals because travelers are likely to be subject to a number of
these immuno-depressants. (GMG) (See cult.)

immuno-meme
See vaccime. (GMG)

infection
1. Successful encoding of a meme in the memory of a human being. A
memetic infection can be either active or inactive. It is inactive if
the host does not feel inclined to transmit the meme to other people.
An active infection causes the host to want to infect others.
Fanatically active hosts are often membots or memeoids. A person who is
exposed to a meme but who does not remember it (consciously or
otherwise) is not infected. (A host can indeed be unconsciously
infected, and even transmit a meme without conscious awareness of the
fact. Many societal norms are transmitted this way.) (GMG)

2. Some memeticists have used `infection’ as a synonym for `belief’
(i.e. only believers are infected, non-believers are not). However,
this usage ignores the fact that people often transmit memes they do
not “believe in.” Songs, jokes, and fantasies are memes which do not
rely on “belief” as an infection strategy.

infection strategy
Any memetic strategy which encourages infection of a host. Jokes
encourage infection by being humorous, tunes by evoking various
emotions, slogans and catch-phrases by being terse and continuously
repeated. Common infection strategies are “Villain vs. victim”, “Fear
of Death”, and “Sense of Community”. In a meme-complex, the bait
co-meme is often central to the infection strategy. (See replication
strategy; mimicry.) (GMG)

membot
A person whose entire life has become subordinated to the propagation
of a meme, robotically and at any opportunity. (Such as many Jehovah’s
Witnesses, Krishnas, and Scientologists.) Due to internal competition,
the most vocal and extreme membots tend to rise to top of their
sociotypeUs hierarchy. A self-destructive membot is a memeoid. (GMG)

meme
(pron. `meem’) A contagious information pattern that replicates by
parasitically infecting human minds and altering their behavior,
causing them to propagate the pattern. (Term coined by Dawkins, by
analogy with “gene”.) Individual slogans, catch-phrases, melodies,
icons, inventions, and fashions are typical memes. An idea or
information pattern is not a meme until it causes someone to replicate
it, to repeat it to someone else. All transmitted knowledge is memetic.
(Wheelis, quoted in Hofstadter.) (See meme-complex).

meme-allergy
A form of intolerance; a condition which causes a person to react in an
unusually extreme manner when exposed to a specific semiotic stimulus,
or `meme-allergen.’ Exo-toxic meme-complexes typically confer dangerous
meme-allergies on their hosts. Often, the actual meme-allergens need
not be present, but merely perceived to be present, to trigger a
reaction. Common meme-allergies include homophobia, paranoid
anti-Communism, and porno phobia. Common forms of meme-allergic
reaction are censorship, vandalism, belligerent verbal abuse, and
physical violence. (GMG)

meme-complex
A set of mutually-assisting memes which have co-evolved a symbiotic
relationship. Religious and political dogmas, social movements,
artistic styles, traditions and customs, chain letters, paradigms,
languages, etc. are meme-complexes. Also called an m-plex, or scheme
(Hofstadter). Types of co-memes commonly found in a scheme are called
the: bait; hook; threat; and vaccime. A successful scheme commonly has
certain attributes: wide scope (a paradigm that explains much);
opportunity for the carriers to participate and contribute; conviction
of its self-evident truth (carries Authority); offers order and a sense
of place, helping to stave off the dread of meaninglessness. (Wheelis,
quoted by Hofstadter.)

memeoid, or memoid
A person “whose behavior is so strongly influenced by a

[meme] that their own survival becomes inconsequential in their own
minds.” (Henson) (Such as: Kamikazes, Shiite terrorists, Jim Jones
followers, any military personnel). hosts and membots are not
necessarily memeoids. (See auto-toxic; exo-toxic.)

meme pool
The full diversity of memes accessible to a culture or individual.
Learning languages and traveling are methods of expanding one’s meme
pool.

memetic
Related to memes.

memetic drift
Accumulated mis-replications; (the rate of) memetic mutation or
evolution. Written texts tend to slow the memetic drift of dogmas
(Henson).

memetic engineer
One who consciously devises memes, through meme-splicing and memetic
synthesis, with the intent of altering the behavior of others. Writers
of manifestos and of commercials are typical memetic engineers. (GMG)

memeticist
1. One who studies memetics. 2. A memetic engineer. (GMG)

memetics
The study of memes and their social effects.

memotype
1. The actual information-content of a meme, as distinct from its
sociotype.

2. A class of similar memes. (GMG)

meta-meme
Any meme about memes (such as: “tolerance”, “metaphor”).

Meta-meme, the
The concept of memes, considered as a meme itself.

Millennial meme, the
Any of several currently-epidemic memes which predict catastrophic
events for the year 2000, including the battle of Armageddon, the
Rapture, the thousand-year reign of Jesus, etc. The “Imminent New Age”
meme is simply a pan-denominational version of this. (Also called the
`Endmeme.’)

mimicry
An infection strategy in which a meme attempts to imitate the semiotics
of another successful meme. Such as: pseudo-science (Creationism,
UFOlogy); pseudo-rebelliousness (Heavy Metal); subversion by forgery
(Situationist detournement). (GMG)

replication strategy
Any memetic strategy used by a meme to encourage its host to repeat the
meme to other people. The hook co-meme of a meme-complex. (GMG)

retromeme
A meme which attempts to splice itself into an existing meme-complex
(example: Marxist-Leninists trying to co-opt other sociotypes). (GMG)

scheme
A meme-complex. (Hofstadter.)

sociotype
1. The social expression of a memotype, as the body of an organism is
the physical expression (phenotype) of the gene (genotype). Hence, the
Protestant Church is one sociotype of the Bible’s memotype. 2. A class
of similar social organisations. (GMG)

threat
The part of a meme-complex that encourages adherence and discourages
mis-replication. (“Damnation to Hell” is the threat co-meme in many
religious schemes.) (See: bait, hook, vaccime.) (Hofstadter)

Tolerance
A meta-meme which confers resistance to a wide variety of memes (and
their sociotypes), without conferring meme-allergies. In its purest
form, Tolerance allows its host to be repeatedly exposed to rival
memes, even intolerant rivals, without active infection or
meme-allergic reaction. Tolerance is a central co-meme in a wide
variety of schemes, particularly “liberalism”, and “democracy”. Without
it, a scheme will often become exo-toxic and confer meme-allergies on
its hosts. Since schemes compete for finite belief-space, tolerance is
not necessarily a virtue, but it has co-evolved in the ideosphere in
much the same way as co-operation has evolved in biological ecosystems.
(Henson.)

vaccime
(pron. vak-seem) Any meta-meme which confers resistance or immunity to
one or more memes, allowing that person to be exposed without acquiring
an active infection. Also called an `immuno-meme.’ Common
immune-conferring memes are “Faith”, “Loyalty”, “Skepticism”, and
“tolerance”. (See: meme-allergy.) (GMG.)

Every scheme includes a vaccime to protect against rival memes. For
instance:
o Conservatism: automatically resist all new memes.
o Orthodoxy: automatically reject all new memes.
o Science: test new memes for theoretical consistency and(where
applicable) empirical repeatability; continually re-assess old
memes; accept schemes only conditionally, pending future
re:-assessment.
o Radicalism: embrace one new scheme, reject all others.
o Nihilism: reject all schemes, new and old.
o New Age: accept all esthetically-appealing memes, new and old,
regardless of empirical (or even internal) consistency; reject
others. (Note that this one doesn’t provide much protection.)
o Japanese: adapt (parts of) new schemes to the old ones.
vector
A medium, method, or vehicle for the transmission of memes. Almost any
communication medium can be a memetic vector. (GMG)

Villain vs. Victim
An infection strategy common to many meme-complexes, placing the
potential host in the role of Victim and playing on their insecurity,
as in: “the bourgeoisie is oppressing the proletariat” (Hofstadter).
Often dangerously toxic to host and society in general. Also known as
the “Us-and-Them” strategy.

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Share-Right (S), 1990, by Glenn Grant, PO Box 36 Station H, Montreal,
Quebec, H3C 2K5. (You may reproduce this material, only if your recipients
may also reproduce it, you do not change it, and you include this notice
[see: threat]. If you publish it, send me a copy, okay?)

URL= http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/MEMLEX.html