December 8, 2021

Meme is a term created in 1976 by Richard Dawkins in his bestseller The Selfish Gene and is for memory the analogue of the gene in genetics, its minimal unit. It is considered as a unit of information that is multiplied from brain to brain or between places where information is stored (such as books). With regard to its functionality, the meme is considered a unit of cultural evolution that can somehow self-propagate. Memes can be ideas or parts of ideas, languages, sounds, designs, abilities, aesthetic and moral values, or anything else that can be easily learned and transmitted as an autonomous unit. The study of evolutionary models of information transfer is known as memetics. When used in a colloquial and non-specialized context, the term meme can only mean the transmission of information from one mind to another. This usage brings the term closer to the "language as a virus" analogy, moving it away from Dawkins' original purpose, which sought to define memes as behavior replicators.


The term meme comes from the Greek μιμἐομαι ("mimema", which has the same root as mimesis, and therefore means "imitation"), through its English form mimeme, by apheresis. As the same Greek etymma gives in Portuguese words like "lemma", "theorem", "morpheme" or "problem", the form "mimema" or its apheresis "mema", as in English, to translate "meme" would be tenable. . However, Dawkins coined the term also because of the similarity with the words "gene" and "memory", and the loan of the English term was consolidated in Portuguese, as can be seen from the use of this form in the translation of Dawkins' book by Rejane Rubino .

Biological Analogies

Example of reproductive isolation in memetic 'speciation'

In traditional population genetics, normal genetic variation, selection, and drift do not lead to the formation of new species without some form of 'reproductive isolation'; that is, to divide a single species into two, the two subpopulations of the original species must somehow be unable to interbreed, which would normally maintain their heterogeneity. However, once separated, natural selection and/or just genetic drift acting on the normal genetic variation of the two subspecies will eventually modify enough characteristics between the two subgroups that they will no longer be able to interbreed, which by definition means they will compose two different species. Examples of reproductive isolation include geographic isolation, where the emergence of a mountain or river separates two subgroups; temporal isolation, where one subgroup becomes totally diurnal in its habits while the other becomes totally nocturnal; or even just "behavioral" isolation as seen in wolves and domestic dogs: they could interbreed, biologically speaking, but usually they just don't. A similar phenomenon can occur with memes; normally, the population of individuals carrying a meme in their consciousness is heterogeneous and sufficiently mixed to keep the meme intact, even though this covers a wide range of variations. But anyway, if the population splits, without enough contact between the two subgroups of meme variations to balance, eventually each group will evolve its own version of that meme, differing sufficiently from the other group to be considered an entity. distinct. An example of this taking place on the internet is the Kellerman meme. A web and/or Usenet search for the word 'Kellerman' will yield a large number of citations, extensively describing the cowardly behavior of a 'Dr. Arthur Kellerman', who, with the voluntary assistance of the Center for Disease Control and the 'powerful public health lobby', fabricated false studies trying to implement

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