Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Meme receptors

I've been thinking about memes a bit lately (that is, after all, what lead to the name of this blog). Over Christmas, I talked to a lot of people who are regular church-goers. Some of their discussions lead me to the idea of meme receptors. I haven't read about this (although I'm sure that someone has written about it), but in my version, our brains have wiring in them that allow them to be receptive to certain types of memes. For example, I think it makes perfect sense that we evolved to follow a charismatic leader -- the ones following the leader are grouped together, and therefore less likely to become lunch for a saber toothed tiger. Most of the world's religions feature a spiritual leader of some kind. And most cults have one, too. This observation shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who has thought much about this.

Here's the interesting part. What if some people have meme receptors that others don't? This could be either a nature or nurture thing, I don't think it matters. Could this explain the kind of feeling a software developer gets when they see a particularly elegant solution to a problem? What about detective meme receptors? Maybe Sherlock Holmes wasn't that brilliant, he just had good receptors. This could in fact help to answer Robert Pirsig's Quality question in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance -- maybe the recognition of quality (his definition, anyway) fit like a hand in glove with a particular meme receptor.

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