Memetics 101

Genetics is the study of the first identified replicator, the DNA molecule and component genes.

Memetics is the study of the second identified replicator, the memeplex and component memes.

As genetics has multiple applications (genetic sequencing, chemical paleo-anthropology, genetic screening & therapy), so does memetics.

Memes are bits of information transmitted from mind to mind.

...or...(&)  -- {the jury is still out on this}

Memes are bits of information stored within minds.

Some groups of memes (memeplexes) are structured to encourage brains to copy them more than others.  They integrate with biological drives and human emotions, ensuring viability.  These memes are the foundations of human cultures which spread through populations and over generations.

When people talk about memetics, they tend to begin with human culture and language.  Memes have (until now) been viewed as unique to the human species, originating from our massive brains & aiding survival of a fur-less and defenseless creature.

The phenomena of human cultures, as far as we can tell, are unique in the biosphere.  However, the beginnings of memes (protomemes) are quite common. Chemical signals network bacteria, hyphae and the social insects.

Visual displays and postures communicate fitness, attract mates and deter predators in vertebrates and cephalopods.  Vocalizations relating to threats, food and care of the young are observed in rats, whales, and wild turkeys.

These chemical, visual and auditory signals are ways for individuals to send information over distances, rewarding the participants and their communities with survival advantage (and often pleasure as well).

These forms of networking provide the scaffold for cultural memes to develop.

Humans have been playing with cultural engineering since prehistory when we painted the caves of Lascaux, buried our dead in beads and told stories about the stars.  For countless generations we relied on our own minds and those of others to store the data and skills necessary for survival.  We encoded the most vital parts of our survival strategy in ritual and taboo, so that the very old and the very young could retain information and spread it to others, ensuring true transmission even with the unreliable hardware that is the human mind.

We did this without being wholly conscious of it.

Ritual and taboo were memory aids, improving the storage and transmission of extragenetic information.  Our clothing, our tools and our rock art functioned as memory aids.  They stored data which could be deciphered with careful attention and study even without personal knowledge and experience.  However the greatest information was preserved when items were able to interface with information already stored within an individual mind.

This was the beginning of extrasomatic data storage.

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