Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Meme Etymology

 To make a long story short, I would say that it is basically the idea of 'idea' with an extra connotation. The word meme originates from Greek, meaning 'imitation/mimesis'. It could be said that memetic evolution involves two things: firstly, reproduction; secondly, variation.

What is reproduction? Reproduction starts with the copying of information from one entity to another. With memetic evolution, this usually refers to memes being copied from one person's mind through speech and other means into another person's mind.

What is variation? Variation refers to the change of memes. This could be through mutation (random change) or recombination (non-random). In memetic evolution, this usually means that some slight changes are made to a meme as it gets copied over and over again from one person's mind into another person's.

What is the result of this combination? Reproduction and variation produce a process whereby memes are copied from one mind to another, usually with some slight changes. This accumulation of changes over time produces evolutionary change in the meme population.

So, how does this relate to the meaning of 'meme'? The word is used in a way that connotes all these aspects.

So, to sum up, a 'meme' is an evolved cultural object that consists of information stored in human minds.

The concept of a meme has its origins in Richard Dawkins's 1976 book The Selfish Gene. In that work, Dawkins introduced the term "meme" to refer to any cultural phenomenon or idea that is passed from one generation to another through imitation and replication. He argued that just as genes propagate themselves by leaping from body to body via reproduction, memes propagate themselves by leaping from brain to brain via human culture and communication.

The term "meme" was derived from the Greek word mimema, which means 'that which is imitated'. In this sense, a meme can be any recurring thought or idea that spreads throughout human culture. Examples of memes include fads, catchphrases, and ideas such as God.

Although the term is most frequently associated with Dawkins, it was actually coined by his friend and colleague at Oxford University, Dr. Richard Brodie. In a letter to Dawkins dated February 1st, 1976 (Dawkins 2010), Brodie wrote "I had just finished reading The Selfish Gene when I got your letter…When you get a chance or are happy to consider names for these new genes of culture (or whatever they are) please let me know and I will try and come up with some good ones.

Brodie's original suggestion for the name of these new cultural entities was 'imems', which, in his words, "is exactly on all fours with genes, and I hope you like it" (Ibid.). Dawkins responded to Brodie by saying that he had no objections to Brodie's proposed term as long as he did not have to use it himself.

In The Selfish Gene, Dawkins argued that the main difference between memes and genes was that while genes merely replicate themselves by creating multiple copies of themselves within a single body, memes also use humans to spread their reach. For example, a popular song can be replicated many times over on records or radio broadcasts but it requires human beings to actually go out and buy these records or listen to the songs on radios in order for this replication process to take place.

Dawkins used the term "viruses of the mind" in his book to refer to these infectious thought-forms, which use people as their hosts and vehicles for replication. Like actual viruses, memes are capable of making copies of themselves, either by being spoken aloud or simply by being communicated from one human brain to another via cultural means.

Meme is the singular of 'memes', a word invented by Richard Dawkins in his book, The Selfish Gene. It has since expanded to be used as a general term for any type of idea that can spread from person to person within a culture.

The word meme is derived from the Greek word mimema, which means 'something imitated' or 'something copied'.

In the book, Dawkins argues that we as humans are all genes in a sense.

We act in ways that will make us more likely to reproduce, and the same is true for those who produce memes. They are attempting to create a copy of themselves.

Memes are replicators, and they can be passed from person to person. A good example is the idea of 'sharing'. Sharing something online or in real life is a way that individuals make themselves more likely to be copied.

Things that are copied often take on a life of their own. Paths in evolution may be created by copying one thing into another, and other forces like natural selection influence whether the copy will be successful.

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