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. It would depend on how the memes were to affect an individual.

    an important meme can easily be memorable but can also be forgotten once a task is completed or goal achieved.

    a memorable meme could be memorable to you but not so much to someone else as it would not necessarily mean the same thing to 2 different people or be as important.

  2. The Meme that will survive the longest is the one that gets used/replicated the most. This keeps the circuitry in the brain active ensuring the pathways and response times used when using this process are maintained. Once a process or piece of knowledge is not regularly used the synaptic relays that are the biological imprint of that idea will degrade and eventually make way for new pathways in your brain that more applicable for you and your environment.

  3. Memorable – no matter how important something is, it won’t sit with a person if it is not memorable. Although sometimes they can go hand in hand i.e. something is memorable because it’s important.

  4. Memorable
    Every time I go on holidays and stay in a hotel or resort I get a different room number. That number is important for many things while I’m away but I couldn’t tell you what it was now.
    I could tell you all out the memorable moments of my holiday though.

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