Introduction to Memetics


Richard Dawkins came up with the notion of a meme back in 1976. A meme is defined as, “that which is imitated,” and it includes any cultural notion or unit of replication. Dawkins’ great notion was that evolution does not apply to genetics only. There are three simple components of evolution: heredity or inheritance, variation, and selection. Memetic theory looks at the transmission of memes (cultural concepts that spread) and how they evolve. Rather ironically, the term ‘meme’ did not catch on for thirty years or so.

Here is a brief overview of how the 3 elements of evolution apply to genetics, and we can subsequently see how this may turn out to be applicable to other types of replicators. A gene is a unit of replication. It is passed on via generations of humans. That is the heredity issue in the evolution of genes. Subsequent is variation, in this case it could be random genetic mutations, or sexual recombination for the duration of meiosis. These are processes by which genes get slight variations. The final aspect required for evolution to occur is selection there are actually two such mechanisms inside genetics. Natural selection, of course, is when particular traits are favoured by their phenotypic relations in the environment. In other words, simply because there are variations, the traits that result in greater prices of survival will be passed on. The major concept here is that when you have heredity, variation, and choice, you must have evolution taking location. The aforementioned is a simplistic way of stating evolution in terms of genetics.

And then there are memes. Memes, you will notice, also have heredity — they are passed along into the minds of humans. They are sometimes varied (there is a continuum among memes that are self-correcting and memes that quickly modify). Some of them are varied when they are transmitted (like a rumour that rapidly alterations). Lastly, there is the selection of memes. Humans do not allow just any old memes to be spread only the best tips, the most useful, the most desirable memes are accepted. Thus even though a meme is merely data that exists in some physical medium, it acquires evolution in a equivalent style to the genetic code of our bodies.

Memetics is a field of study that is gaining a lot of scientific focus now. This is really only the surface of memetic theory. Memeticists look at all the variables involved in the transmission and evolution of memes, its relationship with genes as a replicator, and quantitatively defining a meme for use in mathematical models. Memetic theory has large implications in explaining anatomical improvement, what it indicates to be human, and why certain cultures exist. Evolution is one particular of the greatest suggestions ever conceived, in that it explains the quite cause we exist as we do.