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The Memetic Lexicon
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.)
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.)
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
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.
A meme which has symbiotically co-evolved with other memes, to
form a mutually-assisting meme-complex. Also called a symmeme. (GMG)
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.)
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."
"A tune or melody which infects a population rapidly."
(Rheingold); a hit song. (Such as: "Don't Worry, Be Happy".) (f. German,
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
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.)
A person who has been successfully infected by a meme. See infection,
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.
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.)
See vaccime. (GMG)
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
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.
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;
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)
(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
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.
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
The full diversity of memes accessible to a culture or
individual. Learning languages and traveling are methods of expanding one's
Related to memes.
Accumulated mis-replications; (the rate of) memetic mutation
or evolution. Written texts tend to slow the memetic drift of dogmas
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.
1. One who studies memetics. 2. A memetic engineer. (GMG)
The study of memes and their social effects.
1. The actual information-content of a meme, as distinct from its
2. A class of similar memes. (GMG)
Any meme about memes (such as: "tolerance", "metaphor").
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
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)
Any memetic strategy used by a meme to encourage its
host to repeat the meme to other people. The hook co-meme of a
A meme which attempts to splice itself into an existing
meme-complex (example: Marxist-Leninists trying to co-opt other
A meme-complex. (Hofstadter.)
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)
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)
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.)
(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
- Conservatism: automatically resist all new memes.
Orthodoxy: automatically reject all new memes.
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.
Radicalism: embrace one new scheme, reject all others.
Nihilism: reject all schemes, new and old.
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.)
Japanese: adapt (parts of) new schemes to the old ones.
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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