Memetic Lexicon
          ( The study of, and exploration into, memetic interplay within a given culture )


ATHEISM:(vl) The doctrine that there is no God. Atheists believe that there is insufficient evidence for God and/or that the concept of God is incoherent so its existence is logically impossible.

AUTO-TOXIC: Dangerous to itself. Highly auto-toxic memes are usually self-limiting because they promote the destruction of their hosts (such as the Jim Jones meme; any military indoctrination meme-complex; any "martyrdom" meme). (GMG) (See exo-toxic.)

BAIT: The part of a meme-complex that promises to benefit the host (usually in return for replicating the complex). The bait usually justifies, but does not explicitly urge, the replication of a meme-complex. (Donald Going, quoted by Hofstadter.) Also called the reward co-meme. (In many religions, "Salvation" is the bait, or promised reward; "Spread the Word" is the hook. Other common bait co-memes are "Eternal Bliss", "Security", "Prosperity", "Freedom".) (See hook; threat; infection strategy.)

BEHAVIOUR:(vl) Information in the form of a temporal pattern.

BELIEF:(vl) To believe a statement or proposition P is to act as if P is held to be true. It is not necessary that the belief be conscious nor certain. For example it is accurate to say that a spider believes it is imperative to ensure the safety of her eggs even though "safety" as a concept is too abstract for her tiny brain.

BELIEF-SPACE: Since a person can only be infected with and transmit a finite number of memes, there is a limit to their belief space (Henson). Memes evolve in competition for niches in the belief-space of individuals and societies.

CAUSALITY:(vl) The relation between an event (cause) and its meaning (effect).

CENSORSHIP: Any attempt to hinder the spread of a meme by eliminating its vectors. Hence, censorship is analogous to attempts to halt diseases by spraying insecticides. Censorship can never fully kill off an offensive meme, and may actually help to promote the meme's most virulent strain, while killing off milder forms.

CO-MEME: A meme which has symbiotically co-evolved with other memes, to form a mutually-assisting meme-complex. Also called a symmeme. (GMG)

COMPLEXITY:(vl) A region in phase space between order and chaos. Complex systems are characterized by unpredictable behaviour.

CONTEXT:(vl) The causal environment which determines the actual effect of an action or event.

CONTROL:(vl) To control a system is to be able to predict and influence its future state.

CONTROL SYSTEM:(vl) A system which can predict and influence another.

COSMOLOGY:(vl) The study of the origin and nature of the universe.

CULT: A sociotype of an auto-toxic meme-complex, composed of membots and/or memeoids. (GMG) Characteristics of cults include: self- isolation of the infected group (or at least new recruits); brainwashing by repetitive exposure (inducing dependent mental states); genetic functions discouraged (through celibacy, sterilization, devalued family) in favor of replication (proselytizing); and leader- worship ("personality cult"). (Henson.)

DORMANT: Currently without human hosts. The ancient Egyptian hieroglyph system and the Gnostic Gospels are examples of "dead" schemes which lay dormant for millennia in hidden or untranslatable texts, waiting to re-activate themselves by infecting modern archeologists. Some obsolete memes never become entirely dormant, such as Phlogiston theory, which simply mutated from a "belief" into a "quaint historical footnote."

EARWORM: "A tune or melody which infects a population rapidly." (Rheingold); a hit song. (Such as: "Don't Worry, Be Happy".) (f. German, ohrwurm=earworm.)

EPIPHENOMENALISM:(vl) The doctrine that mental processes are caused by brain processes.

EPIPHENOMENON:(vl) A secondary phenomenon caused by another.

EPISTEMIOLOGY:(vl) The study of infectious knowledge. [from epistem(ology + epid)emiology] See memetics. (neologism due to Duane Hewitt.)

EXO-TOXIC: Dangerous to others. Highly exo-toxic memes promote the destruction of persons other than their hosts, particularly those who are carriers of rival memes. (Such as: Nazism, the Inquisition, Pol Pot.) (See meme-allergy.) (GMG)

GOD:(vl) An entity possessing omniscience, omnipotence and perfect morality.

HISTAMEME: See vaccime. (Morgan)

HOOK: The part of a meme-complex that urges replication. The hook is often most effective when it is not an explicit statement, but a logical consequence of the meme's content. (Hofstadter) (See bait, threat.)

HOST: A person who has been successfully infected by a meme. See infection, membot, memeoid.

IDEOSPHERE: The realm of memetic evolution, as the biosphere is the realm of biological evolution. The entire memetic ecology. (Hofstadter.) The health of an ideosphere can be measured by its memetic diversity.

IMMUNO-DEPRESSANT: Anything that tends to reduce a personUs memetic immunity. Common immuno-depressants are: travel, disorientation, physical and emotional exhaustion, insecurity, emotional shock, loss of home or loved ones, future shock, culture shock, isolation stress, unfamiliar social situations, certain drugs, loneliness, alienation, paranoia, repeated exposure, respect for Authority, escapism, and hypnosis (suspension of critical judgment). Recruiters for cults often target airports and bus terminals because travelers are likely to be subject to a number of these immuno-depressants. (GMG) (See cult.)

IMMUNO-MEME: See vaccime. (GMG)

INFECTION: 1. Successful encoding of a meme in the memory of a human being. A memetic infection can be either active or inactive. It is inactive if the host does not feel inclined to transmit the meme to other people. An active infection causes the host to want to infect others. Fanatically active hosts are often membots or memeoids. A person who is exposed to a meme but who does not remember it (consciously or otherwise) is not infected. (A host can indeed be unconsciously infected, and even transmit a meme without conscious awareness of the fact. Many societal norms are transmitted this way.) (GMG) 2. Some memeticists have used 'infection' as a synonym for 'belief' (i.e. only believers are infected, non-believers are not). However, this usage ignores the fact that people often transmit memes they do not "believe in." Songs, jokes, and fantasies are memes which do not rely on "belief" as an infection strategy.

INFECTION STRATEGY: Any memetic strategy which encourages infection of a host. Jokes encourage infection by being humorous, tunes by evoking various emotions, slogans and catch-phrases by being terse and continuously repeated. Common infection strategies are "Villain vs. victim", "Fear of Death", and "Sense of Community". In a meme-complex, the bait co-meme is often central to the infection strategy. (See replication strategy; mimicry.) (GMG)

LIFE:(vl) A region on the spectrum of complexity beginning somewhere around viruses and extending to intelligence and beyond.

MACHINE:(vl) A system designed for a purpose.

MEANING:(vl) 1. Actual or objective effect. Meaning is dependent on context; the same thing can have different meanings in different contexts because the context determines the effect. The meaning of an event is the effect it has on future events. The meaning of a spoken or written word is the effect it has on its audience. 2. Intended effect. The intended effect of a written word or speech act is usually to induce a specific cognitive state in the mind of the audience.

MEMBOT: A person whose entire life has become subordinated to the propagation of a meme, robotically and at any opportunity. (Such as many Jehovah's Witnesses, Krishnas, and Scientologists.) Due to internal competition, the most vocal and extreme membots tend to rise to top of their sociotype's hierarchy. A self-destructive membot is a memeoid. (GMG)

MEME: (pron. `meem') A contagious information pattern that replicates by symbiotically infecting human minds and altering their behavior, causing them to propagate the pattern. (Term coined by Dawkins, by analogy with "gene".) Individual slogans, catch-phrases, melodies, icons, inventions, and fashions are typical memes. An idea or information pattern is not a meme until it causes someone to replicate it, to repeat it to someone else. All transmitted knowledge is memetic. (Wheelis, quoted in Hofstadter.) (See meme-complex).

MEME-ALLERGY: A form of intolerance; a condition which causes a person to react in an unusually extreme manner when exposed to a specific semiotic stimulus, or `meme-allergen.' Exo-toxic meme-complexes typically confer dangerous meme-allergies on their hosts. Often, the actual meme-allergens need not be present, but merely perceived to be present, to trigger a reaction. Common meme-allergies include homophobia, paranoid anti-Communism, and porno phobia. Common forms of meme-allergic reaction are censorship, vandalism, belligerent verbal abuse, and physical violence. (GMG)

MEME-COMPLEX: A set of mutually-assisting memes which have co-evolved a symbiotic relationship. Religious and political dogmas, social movements, artistic styles, traditions and customs, chain letters, paradigms, languages, etc. are meme-complexes. Also called an m-plex, or scheme (Hofstadter). Types of co-memes commonly found in a scheme are called the: bait; hook; threat; and vaccime. A successful scheme commonly has certain attributes: wide scope (a paradigm that explains much); opportunity for the carriers to participate and contribute; conviction of its self-evident truth (carries Authority); offers order and a sense of place, helping to stave off the dread of meaninglessness. (Wheelis, quoted by Hofstadter.)

MEMEOID, or MEMOID: A person "whose behavior is so strongly influenced by a [meme] that their own survival becomes inconsequential in their own minds." (Henson) (Such as: Kamikazes, Shiite terrorists, Jim Jones followers, any military personnel). hosts and membots are not necessarily memeoids. (See auto-toxic; exo-toxic.)

MEMEPLEX: See meme-complex.

MEME POOL: The full diversity of memes accessible to a culture or individual. Learning languages and traveling are methods of expanding one's meme pool.

MEMETIC: Related to memes.

MEMETIC DRIFT: Accumulated mis-replications; (the rate of) memetic mutation or evolution. Written texts tend to slow the memetic drift of dogmas (Henson).

MEMETIC ENGINEER: One who consciously devises memes, through meme-splicing and memetic synthesis, with the intent of altering the behavior of others. Writers of manifestos and of commercials are typical memetic engineers. (GMG)

MEMETICIST: 1. One who studies memetics. 2. A memetic engineer. (GMG)

MEMETICS: The study of memes and their social effects.

MEMOTYPE: 1. The actual information-content of a meme, as distinct from its sociotype. 2. A class of similar memes. (GMG)

META-MEME: Any meme about memes (such as: "tolerance", "metaphor").

META-MEME, the: The concept of memes, considered as a meme itself.

METAPHYSICS:(vl) A division of philosophy that includes ontology and cosmology. Virus metaphysics adds semantics to the list.

MILLENNIAL MEME, the: Any of several epidemic memes which predicted catastrophic events for the year 2000, including the battle of Armageddon, the Rapture, the thousand-year reign of Jesus, etc. The "Imminent New Age" meme is simply a pan-denominational version of this. (Also called the `Endmeme.')

MIMICRY: An infection strategy in which a meme attempts to imitate the semiotics of another successful meme. Such as: pseudo-science (Creationism, UFOlogy); pseudo-rebelliousness (Heavy Metal); subversion by forgery (Situationist detournement). (GMG)

MYSTICISM:(vl) A theory postulating the possibility of direct and intuitive acquisition of ineffable knowledge or power .

NON-ZERO SUM GAME:(vl) A game in which it is possible for all the players to win or lose. e.g. the Prisoners' Dilemma, war, and life.

ONTOLOGY:(vl) The study of the nature of being or the kinds of existence

PANCRITICAL RATIONALISM (PCR):(vl) A nonjustificationist epistemology in which every statement is subject to criticism. See Bartley.

PHILOSOPHY:(vl) A discipline comprising logic, aesthetics, ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology.

RELIGION:(vl) Any meme-complex that competes with a traditional religion, e.g. Roman Catholicism. Two meme-complexes compete to the extent that it is impossible to consistently both to be true.

REPLICATION STRATEGY: Any memetic strategy used by a meme to encourage its host to repeat the meme to other people. The hook co-meme of a meme-complex. (GMG)

RETROMEME: A meme which attempts to splice itself into an existing meme-complex (example: Marxist-Leninists trying to co-opt other sociotypes). (GMG)


SCHEME: A meme-complex. (Hofstadter.)

SEMANTICS:(vl) 1. The branch of semiotics dealing with the study of meaning. 2. In Virus, the branch of metaphysics dealing with the study of effect.

SOCIOTYPE: 1. The social expression of a memotype, as the body of an organism is the physical expression (phenotype) of the gene (genotype). Hence, the Protestant Church is one sociotype of the Bible's memotype. 2. A class of similar social organisations. (GMG)

STRUCTURE:(vl) Information in the form of a physical pattern.

SYMMEME: See co-meme.

SYSTEM:(vl) A collection of causally related objects. All systems (except perhaps the universe) are part of a supersystem. All systems (except perhaps quarks) are composed of subsystems. The behaviour of a system is an epiphenomenon of the collective behaviours of its component subsystems. Systems are essentially patterns.

THREAT: The part of a meme-complex that encourages adherence and discourages mis-replication. ("Damnation to Hell" is the threat co-meme in many religious schemes.) (See: bait, hook, vaccime.) (Hofstadter)

TOLERANCE: A meta-meme which confers resistance to a wide variety of memes (and their sociotypes), without conferring meme- allergies. In its purest form, Tolerance allows its host to be repeatedly exposed to rival memes, even intolerant rivals, without active infection or meme-allergic reaction. Tolerance is a central co-meme in a wide variety of schemes, particularly "liberalism", and "democracy". Without it, a scheme will often become exo-toxic and confer meme-allergies on its hosts. Since schemes compete for finite belief-space, tolerance is not necessarily a virtue, but it has co-evolved in the ideosphere in much the same way as co-operation has evolved in biological ecosystems. (Henson.)

TRUE:(vl) Accurate with respect to objective reality. Since accuracy is not a discrete attribute, truth is necessarily a fuzzy concept.

TRUE MEANING:(vl) The sum total of all effects from the event to the end of time.

UNDERSTAND:(vl) To understand a system is to possess a conceptual model that can be used to accurately predict the behaviour of the system. A deep understanding entails understanding the components of the system.

UTISM: UTism is short for 'us-versus-them-ism.' Dogmatic adherence to a belief system can create an 'us vs. them' mentality in the believer. The 'us' group consists of people who share our beliefs, and the 'them' group consists of those who hold conflicting beliefs. (KMO)

VACCIME: (pron. vak-seem) Any meta-meme which confers resistance or immunity to one or more memes, allowing that person to be exposed without acquiring an active infection. Also called an `immuno-meme.' Common immune-conferring memes are "Faith", "Loyalty", "Skepticism", and "tolerance". (See: meme-allergy.) (GMG.) Every scheme includes a vaccime to protect against rival memes. For instance:

Conservatism: automatically resist all new memes.

Orthodoxy: automatically reject all new memes.

Science: test new memes for theoretical consistency and(where applicable) empirical repeatability; continually re-assess old memes; accept schemes only conditionally, pending future re:-assessment.

Radicalism: embrace one new scheme, reject all others.

Nihilism: reject all schemes, new and old.

New Age: accept all esthetically-appealing memes, new and old, regardless of empirical (or even internal) consistency; reject others. (Note that this one doesn't provide much protection.)

Japanese: adapt (parts of) new schemes to the old ones.

VECTOR: A medium, method, or vehicle for the transmission of memes. Almost any communication medium can be a memetic vector. (GMG)

VILLAIN VS. VICTIM: An infection strategy common to many meme-complexes, placing the potential host in the role of Victim and playing on their insecurity, as in: "the bourgeoisie is oppressing the proletariat" (Hofstadter). Often dangerously toxic to host and society in general. Also known as the "Us-and-Them" strategy. (See UTism.)

VIRIAN:(vl) Of or relating to the Church of Virus.

VIRION:(vl) 1. The infectious unit of a virus. 2. (capitalized) A carrier of the Virus meme-complex. (neologism due to Duane Hewitt.)

ZERO SUM GAME:(vl) A game in which there is a loser for every winner. e.g. chess, football, Monopoly.


Share-Right (S), 1990,
by Glenn Grant,
PO Box 36 Station H,
Montreal, Quebec, H3C 2K5.
Altered and expanded by David McFadzean 1995-1999

Original note from G. Grant: You may reproduce this material, only if your recipients may also reproduce it, you do not change it, and you include this notice. If you publish it, send me a copy, okay?