The Meme Machine

The Meme Machine

What is a meme? First coined by Richard Dawkins in 'The Selfish Gene', a meme is any idea, behavior, or skill that can be transferred from one person to another by imitation: stories, fashions, inventions, recipes, songs, ways of plowing a field or throwing a baseball or making a sculpture.

The meme is also one of the most important--and controversial--concepts to emerge since 'The Origin of the Species' appeared nearly 150 years ago.

In 'The Meme Machine' Susan Blackmore boldly asserts: "Just as the design of our bodies can be understood only in terms of natural selection, so the design of our minds can be understood only in terms of memetic selection."

Indeed, Blackmore shows that once our distant ancestors acquired the crucial ability to imitate, a second kind of natural selection began, a survival of the fittest amongst competing ideas and behaviors. Ideas and behaviors that proved most adaptive - making tools, for example, or using language--survived and flourished, replicating themselves in as many minds as possible.

These memes then passed themselves on from generation to generation by helping to ensure that the genes of those who acquired them also survived and reproduced. Applying this theory to many aspects of human life, Blackmore offers brilliant explanations for why we live in cities, why we talk so much, why we can't stop thinking, why we behave altruistically, how we choose our mates, and much more.

With controversial implications for our religious beliefs, our free will, our very sense of "self," 'The Meme Machine' offers a provocative theory everyone will soon be talking about.

Title:The Meme Machine
Edition Language:English
ISBN:9780192862129
Format Type:

    The Meme Machine Reviews

  • Trevor

    If you want to criticise a book you can’t go too far wrong if you call it ‘reductionist’. As Steven Weinberg points out in his book, Dreams of a Final Theory it is odd that people should think ...

  • Nebuchadnezzar

    There is an old maxim, "The theory that explains everything explains nothing." This sums up the problem with memetics as a "science." Whenever I see a memetic explanation for some phenomenon, it alway...

  • Beaman

    OK, Here's the good, the bad, and the ugly about this book.The good:1. She does a good job of summarizing the body of literature on evolutionary models of the spread of information (i.e. other people'...

  • Chrissy

    Despite its age (which becomes apparent only in a select few chapters that focus on the Internet and neuroscience), and despite that I disagree with a number of the author's contentions, I really enjo...

  • Rebecca McNutt

    Pretentious, dull and pseudo-intellectualism at its worst. The Meme Machine over-analyzes things that frankly I couldn't care less about. However, other readers may still really enjoy this book. ...

  • Bryan Jacobson

    All of our brains for an environment where Memes (basically ideas) reproduce by being copied from person to person. Memes evolve and compete. Some dwindle (go out of fashion) some rapidly spread acros...

  • Kenneth Barfod

    This book is in my top ten books that have influenced my world view. As a biologist i understand that nothing in nature makes sense unless looked upon in the light of evolution. This book along with S...

  • Sandra

    I'm not persuaded, but it was still well argued and fun to read....

  • Jason Mills

    Dawkins briefly introduced the term 'meme' in The Selfish Gene in 1976, principally to show that the process of natural selection was not dependent on a particular underlying 'technology' such as gene...

  • Richard

    The Meme Machine lays out the foundation for a new science... or at least it tries too. And fails.Blackmore is a wonderfully knowledgeable author, and the varied topics she dives in to while illustrat...