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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Meme Machine, By Susan Blackmore

I read the book in the title last week, and it was excellent. It gives a thorough grounding for memetics as a science, and proposes some very compelling hypotheses about the effects of memetic evolotion in human experience. Most strikingly, she argues that the inexplicably large brain that homo sapiens posess is explainable by (and only by) meme-gene co-evolution. That is to say: the presence of memes influenced genetic evolution by selecting for mutations that increased meme carrying and transmitting capacity like language, spatial, and artistic abilities.

Excellent book though it is, I'm a bit wary of her conclusions. She comes of quite pessemistic, viewing memes as agents that control humans while also being at our foundations. Her normative stance is zen-like; we should seek to not be at the effect these memeplexes and just be.

It's not a bad stance by any means, but I don't think its the necessary conclusion. If oneself is primarily composed of an aquired memeplex, is there anything wrong with centering one's identity in that memeplex? Blackmore seems to say that this course is a recepie for conflict and unhappiness, since the memeplex has "its own" survival and wellbeing set at a much higher level of importance than its carrier's. I recognize the potential validity of the argument, but I think that adventerous spirits can play an exciting touch-and-go game with their memeplexes, where both benefit and live on the edge of control.

Heres a link to an article where she discusses the issues breifly: http://www.susanblackmore.co.uk/journalism/NSmeme%201999.htm

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