Now that, I suggest, is the view that comes out of taking memetics seriously. So, memetics: memetics is founded on the principle of Universal Darwinism. Darwin had this amazing idea. Do you think there could? Audience: No.
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Now that, I suggest, is the view that comes out of taking memetics seriously. So, memetics: memetics is founded on the principle of Universal Darwinism. Darwin had this amazing idea. Do you think there could? Audience: No. Laughter Susan Blackmore: Someone says no, very loudly, from over there.
Well, I say yes, and if there is, I give the prize to Darwin. Because the idea was so simple, and yet it explains all design in the universe. I would say not just biological design, but all of the design that we think of as human design.
What did Darwin say? I know you know the idea, natural selection, but let me just paraphrase "The Origin of Species," , in a few sentences.
And pages later. And another pages later. And if the very few that survive pass onto their offspring whatever it was that helped them survive, then those offspring must be better adapted to the circumstances in which all this happened than their parents were.
You see the idea? If, if, if, then. The principle is you just need those three things — variation, selection and heredity. And as Dan Dennett puts it, if you have those, then you must get evolution. Or design out of chaos, without the aid of mind. What do you think my favorite word is? Audience: Chaos.
SB: Chaos? Audience: Without. SB: No, not without. Laughter You try them all in order: Mmm? Audience: Must. SB: Must, at must. Must, must. This is what makes it so amazing. Must is my favorite word there.
Well, the principle here applies to anything that is copied with variation and selection. He talked mostly about animals and plants, but also about languages evolving and becoming extinct. But the principle of Universal Darwinism is that any information that is varied and selected will produce design. It selfishly copies. Not meaning it kind of sits around inside cells going, "I want to get copied.
And he wanted to get away from everybody thinking all the time about genes, and so he said, "Is there another replicator out there on the planet? Look around you — here will do, in this room. All around us, still clumsily drifting about in its primeval soup of culture, is another replicator. Information that we copy from person to person, by imitation, by language, by talking, by telling stories, by wearing clothes, by doing things. This is information copied with variation and selection.
This is design process going on. He wanted a name for the new replicator. So, he took the Greek word "mimeme," which means that which is imitated. And abbreviated it to meme, just because it sounds good and made a good meme, an effective spreading meme. The whole science of memetics is much maligned, much misunderstood, much feared. But a lot of these problems can be avoided by remembering the definition. A meme is not equivalent to an idea. Stick with the definition.
I wonder whether you invented that idea for yourself, or copied it from someone else? You probably went out and bought them. There are plenty more in the shops. The way to think about memes, though, is to think, why do they spread? You go to your nice, posh, international hotel somewhere, and you come in and you put down your clothes and you go to the bathroom, and what do you see? Audience: Bathroom soap. SB: Pardon? Audience: Soap. SB: Soap, yeah. What else do you see? Audience: Inaudible SB: Mmm mmm.
Audience: Sink, toilet! Laughter What is this one doing? Laughter This has spread all over the world. But I took this photograph in a toilet at the back of a tent in the eco-camp in the jungle in Assam. Laughter Who folded that thing up there, and why? Laughter Some people get carried away. Laughter Other people are just lazy and make mistakes. Some hotels exploit the opportunity to put even more memes with a little sticker. Laughter What is this all about?
And you know, actually, all it tells you is that another person has potentially spread germs from place to place. Laughter So, think of it this way. Imagine a world full of brains and far more memes than can possibly find homes.
The memes are all trying to get copied — trying, in inverted commas — i. Now, why is this important? Why is this useful, or what does it tell us? It gives us a completely new view of human origins and what it means to be human, all conventional theories of cultural evolution, of the origin of humans, and what makes us so different from other species. All other theories explaining the big brain, and language, and tool use and all these things that make us unique, are based upon genes.
Language must have been useful for the genes. Tool use must have enhanced our survival, mating and so on. It always comes back, as Richard Dawkins complained all that long time ago, it always comes back to genes. From the moment that our ancestors, perhaps two and a half million years ago or so, began imitating, there was a new copying process.
Copying with variation and selection. A new replicator was let loose, and it could never be — right from the start — it could never be that human beings who let loose this new creature, could just copy the useful, beautiful, true things, and not copy the other things. While their brains were having an advantage from being able to copy — lighting fires, keeping fires going, new techniques of hunting, these kinds of things — inevitably they were also copying putting feathers in their hair, or wearing strange clothes, or painting their faces, or whatever.
So, you get an arms race between the genes which are trying to get the humans to have small economical brains and not waste their time copying all this stuff, and the memes themselves, like the sounds that people made and copied — in other words, what turned out to be language — competing to get the brains to get bigger and bigger.
So, the big brain, on this theory, is driven by the memes. This is why, in "The Meme Machine," I called it memetic drive. As the memes evolve, as they inevitably must, they drive a bigger brain that is better at copying the memes that are doing the driving. And like most parasites, it can begin dangerous, but then it coevolves and adapts, and we end up with a symbiotic relationship with this new parasite. So, this is a view of what humans are. We alone are gene machines and meme machines as well.
The memes took a gene machine and turned it into a meme machine. We have a new kind of memes now. I have always, until now, called them all memes, but I do honestly think now we need a new word for technological memes. Because the processes are getting different. We began, perhaps 5, years ago, with writing. We put the storage of memes out there on a clay tablet, but in order to get true temes and true teme machines, you need to get the variation, the selection and the copying, all done outside of humans.
So actually, now the temes are forcing our brains to become more like teme machines. Our children are growing up very quickly learning to read, learning to use machinery. Now, what about what else is going on out there in the universe?
Blackmore attempts to constitute memetics as a science by discussing its empirical and analytic potential, as well as some important problems with memetics. The first half of the book tries to create greater clarity about the definition of the meme as she sees it. The last half of the book consists of a number of possible memetic explanations for such different problems as the origin of language , the origin of the human brain, sexual phenomena , the internet and the notion of the self. These explanations, in her view, give simpler and clearer explanations than trying to create genetic explanations in these fields. The idea of memes, and the word itself, were originally speculated by Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene although similar, or analogous, concepts had been in currency for a while before its publishing. Richard Dawkins wrote a foreword to The Meme Machine.
Máquinas de memes (entrevista a Susan Blackmore)
LA MAQUINA DE LOS MEMES