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What are Memes A meme is an idea which can be passed from person to person the basic unit of cultural transmission Memes are often analogized to genes as self replicating information patterns or to viruses organic or computer which prosper by infecting new hosts in this case human minds with copies of themselves The term was invented by Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene What are some examples of memes Things like Rollerblading Forrest Gump the WWWeb skinny half-decaf double lattes at Starbucks flat tax20th century things like the New York Yankees World Wars Gershwin cyberspace and classic things like the bible folk dancesY2K recipes respect for elders nodding to say yes French Beethovens Fifth symphony Dawkins believed that ideas habits behavioral norms etc undergo the same evolutionary struggle and adaptation that the genes in Darwins Galapagos beasts underwent A meme therefore is a unit of cultural transmission struggling to keep a place in an ever changing world How do memes work Think of your mind as an environment A new idea arrives make your own bread with a breadmaker Your neighbors mind environment may love Wonderbread and be very hostile to breadmaking However he may fervently believe that OJ is innocent You on the other hand may have a mind environment where breadmaking thrives along with OJ was guilty So we see that a meme is nothing more than a pattern of information one that happens to have evolved a form which induces people to repeat that pattern Typical memes include individual slogans ideas catch-phrases melodies icons inventions and fashions It may sound a bit sinister this idea that people are hosts for mind-altering strings of symbols but in fact this is what human culture is all about As a species we have co-evolved with our memes Imagine a group of early Homo Sapiens in the Late Pleistocene epoch Theyve recently arrived with the latest
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