Measuring Memes

Chanced upon Mimetic theory. Read a bunch of links and thought will give a quick summary.

What is it? Rene Girard. Can we measure Memes?

Made me wonder whether we really are ‘original’ or mashups of people we look upto? Guess that is what like minded people circles are all about. This seems to explain the current tension in the world especially in India. There is a clash of clans happening with the government.

These snippets are the reasons why I am going to do a PhD in Neuro Cognitive science in 2017 after my startup(s) I am working on. It’s about cultural evolution!

Notes from my reading :

Memetics is a theory of mental content based on an analogy with Darwinian evolution, originating from the popularization of Richard Dawkins‘ 1976 book The Selfish Gene.[1] Proponents describe memetics as an approach to evolutionary models of cultural information transfer.

Rene Girard’s Mimetic Theory is based on the principle that human beings are mimetic creatures.  We imitate what we see in others. In fact, our desires are not actually our own, but desires we have copied from others.  The more we imitate each other, the more alike we become.  Increasingly, we vie for the same desires and we become rivals. The more human beings imitate each other, the more individuals become alike.  Distinctions between individuals are blurred as they mirror each other.  The boundaries between individuals which keep order, begin to disintegrate. Increased rivalry creates increased violence and the blurred boundaries threaten to destabilize the social fabric.

Connectivity Analysis of fMRI Data

Fascinating studies examining differing cognitive processes between cultures already demonstrate how language and culture may shape cognition as a whole (for review see Han and Northoff, 2008). For example, absolute and relative judgments, (either ignoring or taking into account context) in even a simple visual experiment showed strong effects of culturalization (Heddon et al., 2008). Such studies do not allow us to measure memes but provide a valuable resource for future experimental design.

A meme is not the same as a stimulus because the former describes the latter as part of a larger system. If a subject sees an abstract symbol with no meaning, it is a stimulus but not a meme. It is only a meme when the subject has learnt what the symbol signifies and how to communicate that concept to someone else efficiently and accurately2. By utilizing such terms we can specify whether one is dealing with changing/evolving communicable stimuli (memes) or with static immutable percepts (stimuli). By separating the two concepts then one can begin to study differences between them, perhaps including the opportunity to disprove memes as useful at all. I predict that stimuli have extremely stable fMRI profiles even after being involved in considerable stimulus–stimulus associations with no pressure to communicate meaning. In contrast I predict i-memes will show far greater variability in fMRI profiles after an equal number of changes to their meaning (stimulus–stimulus associations plus need to communicate a symbolic meaning). Finally, let us assume for a moment that Blackmore is correct. Memes constitute the world we live in, natural and otherwise. The advertisements saturating our daily lives serve as “memelets,” highly engineered and designed to maximize replication of the “brand” meme. Each word we utter is a successful meme, replicating as a useful part of our language. Entire sets of beliefs (memeplexes), i.e., political beliefs/behaviors such as democracy or Islamophobia (Iqbal, 2010), are proposed as large interrelated sets of memes that combine together to propagate more efficiently (Blackmore, 1999). It cannot be stated whether this is true or not without focusing on the pertinent question of what is a meme? Can it be measured? The importance of these questions is huge, far beyond that of an academic interest in how language came to be. The answers impact on current issues of high tension, social alienation in western societies, global ideological conflicts, media hegemony, and cultural homogenization in a media dominated globalized world. Cognitive neuroscience should focus on questions of how language and society is evolving “now” as well as how it genetically came into play in the first place. Utilizing modern communication devices such as mobile phone applications, social networking sites, closer work with social and evolutionary scientists, one can envisage longitudinal (ranging from hours to weeks) neuroimaging experiments measuring changes in connectivity between brain regions as a component process to cultural evolution.


Published by: vinu

My life - BREESY! :-) :D Beautiful Random Enjoyable Eventful Simple Yellow Places I have lived (chronological): (country) (- state) (-- city) India - (Orissa) -- Cuttack (2yrs) -- Bhubaneshwar (3yrs) - (Maharastra) -- Bombay/Mumbai (8 + 1 yrs) - (TamilNadu) -- Madras/Chennai (6 yrs) - (Pondicherry) (1 yr) United States - (California) -- Berkeley (3 yrs) Education : IIT Madras 02, UC Berkeley 05 Work Experience: Mechanical Engineer at FORD Motor Company, India; Management Trainee at Datamatics Technologies Ltd.; Wireless Programmer at TeleCommunication Systems Inc. Passions (currently as of Dec 2005): Family, Media (visual / audio), Mobile Systems, Internet, Design Interests: Music, Movies, Photography, Enjoying nature, Playing Violin, Graphics, Business / Entrepreneurship / Managments, Spirituality, Design, Technology, Mobile / Wireless

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