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One theory is that culture develops in the same way similar to living things. Genes move from one organism to another as a unit of genetic information and of biological evolution. A meme moves from person to person and changes and develops as many people use it.
Biologist and evolutionary theorist Richard Dawkins made the word meme in 1976. He said that tunes, catch-phrases, beliefs, clothing fashions, ways of making pots, and the technology of building arches were all examples of memes.
Examples of memes
- Technology: cars, paper-clips, etc. The progress of technology is clearly like the progress of genetics, because it also has to spread and go through mutations or changes to progress. For example, many paper-clip designs have been made. Some last longer than others, and some look better than others. In the end the ones that are copied are a memetic success.
- Jokes spread and change the more they are told.
- Nursery rhymes: passed on from parent to child over many generations (thus keeping old words such as "tuffet" and "chamber" popular when they are not used today).
- Epic poems: once important memes for preserving oral history; writing has largely superseded their oral transmission.
- Conspiracy theories
- Religions: complex memes, including folk religious beliefs, such as The Prayer of Jabez.
- Popular concepts: these include Freedom, Justice, Ownership, Open Source, Egoism, or Altruism
- Group-based biases: everything from anti-semitism and racism to cargo cults.
- Longstanding political memes such as "mob rule", national identity, Yes Minister and "republic, not a democracy".
- Programming paradigms: from structured programming and object-oriented programming to extreme programming.
- Internet phenomena: Internet slang. "Internet memes" propagate quickly among users using email, websites, blogs, discussion boards and other Internet communications as a medium.
- Moore's Law: this meme has a particularly interesting form of self-replication. The conviction that "semiconductor complexity doubles every 18 months" became considerably more than a predictive observation; it became a performance-target for an entire industry once that industry extensively started to believe in the "law". Manufacturers now strive to make the next generation of semiconductor technology re-create the growth in performance of the previous generation, and so maintain belief in Moore's Law. Additionally, the evolution of this meme provides details of interest. The original law described growth in terms of the number of transistors on a chip, but people - more and more—have (wrongly) understood it as describing an increase in terms of performance. This could exemplify how a meme can mutate slowly under the pressure of its environment (partial technical understanding and simplification for use in the mainstream media).
- Metameme: The concept of memes itself is a meme.
- Anecdotes: Short jokes or other stories.
- Phrases; an expression, like "Whasssssup!" or "Where's the beef?" or the Internet meme "all your base are belong to us!"
- Viral marketing: A type of marketing based on memes and using "word of mouth" to advertise (see the recent example of Snakes on a Plane).
- Aunger, Robert: The Electric Meme: A New Theory of How We Think. Free Press, 2002, hardcover ISBN 0-7432-0150-7
- Aunger, Robert: Darwinizing culture: the status of memetics as a science. Oxford University Press, 2000, New-York ISBN 0-19-263244-2
- Blackmore, Susan: The Meme Machine. Oxford University Press, 1999, hardcover ISBN 0-19-850365-2, trade paperback ISBN 0-9658817-8-4, May 2000, ISBN 0-19-286212-X
- Fog, Agner: Cultural Selection. Dordrecht: Kluwer 1999. ISBN 0-7923-5579-2.
- Henson, H. Keith: "Sex, Drugs, and Cults. An evolutionary psychology perspective on why and how cult memes get a drug-like hold on people, and what might be done to mitigate the effects", The Human Nature Review 2002 Volume 2: 343-355 
- Henson, H. Keith: "Evolutionary Psychology, Memes and the Origin of War."
- Lanier, Jaron: "The Ideology of Cybernetic Totalist Intellectuals", an essay which criticises "meme totalists" who assert memes over bodies.
- "Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission" Journal of Memetics
- Principia Cybernetica holds a lexicon of memetics concepts, comprising a list of different types of memes.
- A list of memetics publications on the web
- The Meme Machine, Interview of Susan Blackmore by Denis Failly
- Journal of Memetics
- The text of Dawkins' Selfish Gene, chapter 11, "Memes: the new replicators", in which Dawkins coined the word "meme"
- The Mocking Memes: A Basis for Automated Intelligence, a 2006 book on a memetic theory of mind.
- Cultural Software: A Theory of Ideology by Jack Balkin which uses memes to explain the growth and spread of ideology.
- Why did the chicken cross the road? The story of a meme
- A short piece by Mike Godwin on memes in Wired Magazine.
- The Invasion of the Memes ─ memes as a useful metaphor, nothing more.
- What is a Meme? by Brent Silby ─ an introductory article pitched at a general audience.
- A discussion of memes by Deepak Chopra
- "Life cycles of successful genes", 2003, Robert Hoffmann
- Memes.org ─ Just relaunched as a forum for discussion about memes and memetics.
- Dawkins's speech on the 30th anniversary of the publication of The Selfish Gene, Dawkins 2006
- PDF,Whitty 2005
- The Evolution of Technology by Brent Silby ─ memetics used to explain human creativity.
- "Evolution and Memes: The human brain as a selective imitation device": article by Susan Blackmore.
- Dan Dennett discusses Memes: Video from Ted Talks - February 2002.