Memes, Minds, and Consciousness

VSPA Congress, 12 November 1999, Amsterdam


Memes are behaviours, habits, skills, songs or stories, that are passed from person to person by imitation. Like genes, memes are copied with variation and selection. This means they are replicators and take part in an evolutionary process – in this case the evolution of mind and culture. In the past, the co-evolution of genes and memes has given rise to the enormous human brain and our unique capacity for language and culture. In today’s world memes have constructed new ways to get themselves copied, from writing and the printing press to computers and the Internet. Along the way they have shaped human consciousness. I will argue that ordinary human consciousness, with its false sense of a perceiving self and free will, is an illusion created by the memes for the memes.)