Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Second Replicator

 Memetic Theory is an intuitive leap.  It looks at the world through the lens of evolution, aware there must be a rational, material cause for the diversity of human cultures.

We see cultures regulating, even openly contradicting basic biological drives.  Either our understanding of human biology is significantly flawed, or there is an unrecognized intervening factor.

We know the power of an unconscious replicator through observing genes.  An unconscious replicator has an uncanny ability to adapt to environmental changes and create fractal diversification without the need of a conscious will directing it. 

A second replicator which transmits and alters human culture is at least plausible.  It is testable...unlike metaphysical conclusions which encourage belief without examination. 

We see the inherent ability of humans to imitate.  Culture is transmitted through imitation.  We also know true imitation is a rare trait in the animal kingdom.  These facts were  not always known; they had to be tested and proven. 

Our unaided senses are limited in acquiring and analyzing information.  Physical tools and measurement techniques must be created.  New paradigms for interpreting data must develop.  The scientific community can then vet the data and its interpretations, gradually acclimating to the new paradigm or dismissing it. 

Memetic Theory is a new idea.  It is a very unsettling idea.  But we must test it.  It is built on the scaffolding of our previous scientific discoveries.  No matter how unsettling a theory is, we cannot dismiss it out of hand.  We are obligated to test and disprove it.

Many people have devoted countless hours to defining terms for the study of memetics.  This is vital work, but we can't get bogged down in definitions.  (Coining terms without a framework to test the theory leaves us vulnerable to the criticism that memetics is just metaphysics.) 

Others, applying the theory of memetics to their specialized fields have developed detailed reinterpretations of data, reframing their discipline though memetics.  (Have a look at Hoyle Leigh's fascinating book Genes, Memes, Culture, and Mental Illness: Toward an Integrative Model.)

Still others have worked to apply the theory of memetics to specific goals, such as social justice hacking (hacktivism), data mining and advertising.  Their work provides fascinating case studies of applied memetics.

But all of these "put the cart before the horse". 
We need to develop methods to test Meme Theory.


Continue to What is a Memeplex?

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