Sunday, 8 December 2013

Self-confessed memetic hijacking victims

Memetics suggests that we might observe individuals so infested with memes that the interests of their genes are overridden. I refer to this as memetic hijacking. Susan Blackmore proposed we call such creatures "meme fountains" - which sounds remarkably positive to me. I've previously use the term "meme shedding" for the way in which such creatures leave a trail of memes wherever they go.

One of the most famous examples of memetic hijacking involves chaste priests who devote their energy to prosletysing. They tend to produce copies of their memes, not copies of their genes.

Theory suggests that memes might adapt in ways that divert host reproductive success towards meme replication - as is seen in the organic realm - where some parasites sterilize their hosts - in order to make use of their reproductive resources.

Of course many necrotrophic memes also reduce the fertility of their hosts by shortening their lifespan. Suicide bombers - who are sterilized by their memes in a most dramatic fashion - are an obvious example of this.

Not many memetic hijacking victims are "self-confessed". However we do see a few. Richard Dawkins recently volunteered that:

as for me, I'd rather spread memes than genes anyway.

He had previously said:

I'm unlikely to be among those who turn out to be ancestral to all. But I'd rather spread memes than genes anyway.

Richard does have a daughter, though. Similarly, Steven Pinker famously wrote in How the Mind Works:

I am happy to be voluntarily childless, ignoring the solemn imperative to spread my genes. And if my genes don't like it, they can go jump in the lake.

There are probably many other self-confessed memetic hijacking victims out there. I'll try to add them to this page as I track them down.

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