The evolution of meme machines

Exeter Complexity Network

2 June 2004


We humans are meme machines. So are printing presses, telephones, photocopiers, computers and web servers. Memes are habits, skills, technologies and stories, that are copied from person to person by imitation. Like genes, memes are replicators. That is, they are information that is copied with variation and selection. They therefore give rise to a new evolutionary process. As with other evolutionary processes, memetic evolution happens for the benefit of the replicators themselves, and not for our benefit.

I shall outline the basic theory of memetics and discuss how it provides a new vision human evolution, with novel explanations for the traditional mysteries of the enormous human brain and the uniquely human capacity for language. These are all products of the co-evolution between memes and the machinery that copies them.