Sunday, 29 July 2018

Meme rich, meme poor

Some people have a larger load of memes than others. While different memes affect their hosts in different ways, the fact that many memes have common interests means that there's a set of phenotypic changes that broadly correlates with the extent of the host's meme load. Some of the correlates of having lots of memes include: living in rich countries, being rich, being older, living in a city and having "media consumption" devices. Meme-rich countries prominently include South-Korea and Japan, while Nigeria and Somalia would be meme-poor.

Researchers have explored the meme-rich/meme-poor axis. Small island communities are poor at maintaining a large meme pool and represent natural experiments. Those stranded on deserted islands are more extreme natural experiments. Another case of meme poverty involves individuals who have been raised by dogs. Researchers have looked at what happens when islands become detached from the mainland as land bridges erode. There are also the cases of sensory disabilities - such as blindness and deafness - and learning disabilities - such as difficulties in storing, maintaining or retreiving long-term memories. The meme-rich have been studied too. Indeed, we have more data about them than anyone else because they tend to leave a rich trail of data wherever they go. Many experimental subjects are W.E.I.R.D. (in the sense of Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic).

There's probably circular causality involved in many of the correlates of high meme load, but some look as though they are mostly consequences of having lots of memes. Memes tend to make their owners into articulate teachers and preachers. They tend to increase their host lifespan and decrease their fertility. Domestic product increases and malnutrition decreases. There's progress up the Human Development Index and the Industrialization Intensity Index. Having more memes makes most things better - though it also tends to result in coronary heart disease, obesity, hypertension, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and osteoporosis - the "diseases of civilization".

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