Friday, May 4, lunch keynote (12:30-13:15)

Speaker: Susan Blackmore

The Meme's Eye Web


The new science of memetics is a highly infectious meme that is spreading through culture as quickly as did tamagotchis and the love bug. But is it really science? Sue Blackmore, author of the bestselling The Meme Machine, thinks it is - and that we cannot hope to understand what is happening in the information age without it.

Memes are ideas, habits, skills, theories, songs, or stories that spread from person to person by imitation. Like genes, they are replicators that are copied with variation and selection - giving rise to a new evolutionary process. Some memes spread because they are true or beautiful or useful to us, such as scientific theories, great literature and effective political systems. Others are more like viruses and spread selfishly regardless of their effect on us; including chain letters and e-mail viruses. Richard Dawkins, who invented the term 'meme', calls religions "viruses of the mind".

Blackmore argues that memes - the second replicators - have shaped human nature. By driving the evolution of the machinery that copies them, memes created the enormous human brain with its specialised capacity for language. More recently they drove the invention of writing, printing, mass communications and broadcasting, and now they have constructed the internet. From the meme¡¦s eye point of view the World Wide Web is a vast playground for their own selfish propagation.