MONTEREY, California — In the 1970s, Richard Dawkins coined the term “meme” in his book The Selfish Gene to refer to aspects of human culture and how they evolve in a way that’s analogous to how genes evolve. Since then, the study of memes has become an evolving meme itself.
A meme is an idea or thing that is passed from person to person and is either adopted for its usefulness or other purpose — in some cases becoming a wildly popular idea that can’t be stopped — or abandoned to die a quick and ignoble death. A meme can be a song or snippet of a song, a dance, an urban legend, an expression or behavior, a product brand or even a religion.
British scholar Susan Blackmore, who delivered a presentation on memes at the TED conference Thursday morning, says that human beings are being overrun by memes that want to use us for their own advancement. Wired.com spoke with her at TED.