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May 02, 2004

the Meme Machine

the Meme Machine by Susan BlackmoreI'm going to have more to say about this later, but for now let me recommend The Meme Machine by Susan Blackmore.  This is an important book.  Any book recommended by Richard Dawkins is going to be good, but in addition to being interesting and entertaining, this book paves new ground in a very productive direction.  Armed with this new hammer, all sorts of things start looking like nails.  I've recently found myself explaining the behavior of people, business strategy, even my own emotions in terms of memetics.

One might even suggest - and I hereby do so - that blogging is essentially driven by memes' desire for reproduction.  After the evolution of the human brain, the Internet has been the best thing ever to happen for memes...

Very apropos, razib discussed a gene for controlling brain size.  Part of Blackmore's argument is that evolution of our big brains was driven by memetic selection, essentially driving genetic selection (in much the same way that peacock's have evolved huge ungainly tails).

Some overt memetic sexual selection: the NYTimes reports on Different Sizes for Different Regions.  Why evolve attractive physical characteristics when you can simply modify yourself?  People are reshaping themselves, poking holes and branding themselves, even changing their gender, all for what?  Genetic fulfillment?  No.  Memetic fulfillment.

This is the best answer, by the way, to the question of why homosexuality doesn't simply die out, since most gay people don't have children.  It isn't selected for genetically, it is selected memetically.  And from that standpoint, it is a very competitive replicator.

These days, memes rule.

And the fallout is just beginning.  FuturePundit wonders Aging Or Sex Ratio Bigger Demographic Problem For China?  In the near future, China will become much older, and much more male.  These are both memetic effects which will have far-reaching societal consequences.  Remember, China has five times the population of the U.S. 

The post excerpts a book by Valerie Hudson: "In 2020 it may seem to China that it would be worth it to have a very bloody battle in which a lot of their young men could die in some glorious cause."  Entirely plausible, and therefore quite scary.

There are equally profound demographic changes taking place in India, which by 2020 will be more populous than China.

If this seems like weird disconnected stuff, please stay tuned.  I plan to discuss memetics in more detail...

Posted by ole at 01:18 AM