Memetics in Japan

Trip to Japan – June 15-26 2005

I was invited to Japan initially to take part in Meme Expo, but while I was there I gave several lectures, and met a remarkable number of people who are interested in memes and memetics. I previously had no idea that there were so many meme-enthusiasts there. I lectured at the universities in Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, Sapporo and at JAIST, usually on “The evolution of meme machines“.

In Hokkaido (the northern island) I visited the Meme Meme Laboratory at the University of Sapporo, led by Professor Yuzuru Tanaka, and gave a lecture on “The evolution of meme machines”.

As described in Tanaka’s book, their research aims to develop meme media architectures which will allow people to reedit and redistribute intellectual resources through the Internet by direct manipulation – including not just information, but tools and services as well.

Students at the Meme Media Laboratory


If this were achieved, it would be a remarkable leap for memetic evolution because it would allow the recombination of programs and tools, and parts of programs and tools. I have previously argued (in The Meme Machine) that an evolving system based on copying and recombining products (organisms, artefacts, texts or any kind of product) is inferior to one based on copying and recombining the instructions for making such products. Biological systems are, of course, based on copying
genetic information which is instructions for making proteins. Tanaka’s work would, I think, be a step in this direction. I look forward to discussing these implications further.

A two day memes event was organised by Tsunehiko Suzuki as part of the world fair Expo 2005 in Aichi.

The memes event included exhibitions, discussions and lectures, and a symposium with the theme of “memes and sustainability”. This took place in the beautiful Noh Theatre in Nagoya and was transmitted live by satellite to the Expo site in Aichi. The other participants were Osamu Sakura, Yoichiro Kawaguchi, Yuzuru Tanaka and Makoto Kawada.

We discussed the role of memetics in science and social policy, in business and finance, and we heard from artists and musicians who use the idea of memes in their work.



The two day event ended with a summing up session in this  temporary wooden building which, like the rest of the Expo site, will be completely removed at the end ofthe exhibition.