TD05 – The Second Replicator

If we hop from genetics to business and marketing we can see how one person, Sally, who buys a new service can then (by Word Of Mouth – WOM), replicate that behaviour in another, Liz,  so that Liz imitates Sally to buy that service.

bigstock-woman-telling-secrets-pop-art-25371263How exactly does Sally replicate Liz through word-of-mouth?

This is done through memetics, not genetics. Memetics is all about the only other replicator ever discovered by science, the meme.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a gene as a unit of heredity that determines a particular characteristic of an individual. OED defines a meme as an element of culture that is passed on by non-genetic means, especially by imitation.

To that definition should also be added the meaning of the verb:

meme v to infect with a meme (the President was memed by a conspiracy theory and then he memed the world with a tweet).

Meme’s are ideas that self-replicate.

They’re programmed in such a way that they propagate themselves. In today’s wired world memes do spread faster than ever: they can even go viral!

Memes use mobile phones, blogs, twitter, emails via wires and satellites to spread and spread and the internet is meme heaven, 24/7.

Becoming memed is just an email away or a smartphone away or the TV news ‘Live at Five’.

And, of course, there’s social media.

In Thought Contagion, a book about memes by Aaron Lynch, he compares how an idea’s success is determined, in economics, by how much wealth is amassed by the people who take up the idea. And, in memetics, an idea’s success is measured by how many people are attracted by the idea, how much population it accumulates, how many brains become memed.

To become memetic thinkers we have to be able to do some mental gymnastics. Instead of thinking how we get ideas, we have to think about how ideas acquire us.

We have to be agile enough to think of our ideas as selfish memes being selected to get themselves copied. We have to be able to think of our own brains as ‘mobile homes for memes’, ways for memes to find a home and get around. The better we are at seeing things from the ‘meme’s eye view’, the better we are as memetic thinkers.

Thought Experiment: Imagine a world of, say, 6 billion brains and, say, 6 trillion memes – far more than can ever find a home. Which memes will find a haven? Which ones will fail?

There is cracking selection pressure and room for only a few winners from the vast crowd of starters. Only a tiny percentage of memes find a brain to stay in. I can’t help thinking it’s a bit like Bethlehem at Christmas.

Just think of the trillions of spermatozoa that never made it into an egg. Or, of all the thousands of lotto millionaires that ever lived, what about the billions of lotto punters that never won a million. You can’t have selection without rejection. Like musical chairs, some memes always miss out.

Memetic thinkers ask, “Which memes are more likely to find a place to survive long enough to get passed on?”

There are always a limited number of brains to provide sanctuary for memes and, at the same time, there are always an unlimited number of memes looking for refuge. Again the question for memetic thinkers is, “Which memes are more likely to secure brainpower and get passed on?”

Here’s a question.

There are two rival memes: one is important and the other is memorable. Which meme will win?

The kind of thinking needed for this kind of question is called memetic thinking.

For those in management, marketing, media or politics, memetic thinking is now even more critical than logical thinking.

DFQ  (Feedback Question):

There are two rival memes: one is important and the other is memorable. Which meme will win?


227 thoughts on “TD05 – The Second Replicator

  1. The important meme may have more barriers to its uptake because of the value rating of what is important. The memorable meme has some kind of hook with which to infect the greatest number of brains. It will have the means of surviving in the collective psyche – Think “Gangnam Style” the hook of the chorus. Gangnam Style was the first video to reach 1 billion views and is now close to 2.9 billion views. However it no longer holds the record for most viewed and has been overtaken by “See you again” by Wiz Khalifa arguably a song not as instantly memorable but more important in context. The memorable meme will win over the important meme unless there are elements of both.

  2. Knowledge , cultural nuances have been passed from one generation to other via word of mouth and the meme finding comfortable home in the brain is more resilient and survives longer and therefore memorable meme wins.

  3. The potential winner between an important and a memorable meme is a matter of opinion.

    That’s the exact base on which memes are successful: opinions.

    Your mind, the recipient, is full of opinions based on books, your parents, movies, songs, history, etc. It is that mix that allows for a meme to expand or die. The more we share a common past, the more a certain type of meme will succeed while others will not.

    In today’s world, a memorable meme will win over an important one in the short term while the important will win over the long term. For the former, timing and speed are of the essence, till death does it apart. For the latter, time itself is the prime decider since it is important. It will spread slowly, stay and expand at the same speed till it reaches an absorption level that changes the host, the community, and society.

  4. Most people today are extremely busy or, so they think. They don’t have a lot of time to sit down and methodically think and analyze a situation and come up with logical solutions or explanations to their problems. They want to get to the answer quickly and easily. They don’t want to expend a lot of valuable time and brain power coming up with solid solutions based on key facts. They want to save their brain power for more important stuff like which show to watch after work tonight or where to which jacket goes well with their favorite pants tonight. Most people live a hectic and chaotic lives. They must get up early in the morning drive long distances, spend hours at work dealing with customers, bosses and coworkers. Then on their way home they must fight the traffic again and be home to help with the house chores and kids school assignments. Then they must get something to eat and go to bed to repeat the same thing over again in the morning. They don’t have a lot of bandwidth be able to dig for the most key facts.
    They do want to know that the valuable information for sure. However, they want that information handed to them in a nice neatly packaged and memorable bundle. They want to get their work done and get on with their lives. They want to be able to see that what they are doing is having a benefit for them. They don’t want to spend a lot of time remembering and analyzing information. People want to get to the bottom line quickly and easily. They don’t want to spend a lot of time looking for the answer to their problem.
    I believe the more memorable meme can get passed around more easily from mind to mind and enjoy greater longevity. The important meme maybe remembered by a few experts however most people will not bother to dig up this information or it may get forget all together.

  5. The memorable one will usually win because it will last longer in the recipient’s brain and the recipient will be more likely to share it with others and so it is better at replicating itself.

    The qualification is that other cultural factors can effect its replication such as the important meme being part of a school curriculum.

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