Tuesday, 18 June 2013


In the organic realm, there are pseudogenes - which are genes that are no longer expressed. This naturally raises the question of whether there are pseudomemes. The answer is pretty clearly "yes".

One example comes from computer science. There objects in many modern programming language stop being able to affect the execution of the program significantly when all references to them are obliterated. Then they wait to be "garbage collected". These are the computer-equivalent of a deactivated idea.

Memories are probably deactivated inside human brains as well - if their triggers decay. Most memories require repeated reactivation to persist, so the triggers of memories that don't get reactivated are likely to decay - and are eventually replaced. If a meme's triggers decay before the meme itself, it becomes a pseudomeme.

Outside brains, all kinds of memes can go out of circulation without being destroyed. The dusty old books, library basements, and filing cabinets of the world are full of pseudomemes.

The internet generation often seems to have different idea about what the term "pseudomeme" refers to. They seem to think that pseudomemes are "wannabe memes" - usually failed forced memes. They have a reasonable point - but this terminology runs counter to the meme-gene relationship.

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