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The Meme Machine
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The Meme Machine [Format Kindle]

Susan Blackmore , Richard Dawkins
5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)

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Descriptions du produit

Revue de presse

Anyone who hopes or fears that memetics will become a science of culture will find this surefooted exploration of the prospects a major eye-opener. (Daniel Dennett)

Any theory deserves to be given its best shot, and that is what Susan Blackmore has given the theory of the meme I am delighted to recommend her book. (Richard Dawkins)

Présentation de l'éditeur

Humans are extraordinary creatures, with the unique ability among animals to imitate and so copy from one another ideas, habits, skills, behaviours, inventions, songs, and stories. These are all memes, a term first coined by Richard Dawkins in 1976 in his book The Selfish Gene. Memes, like genes, are replicators, and this enthralling book is an investigation of whether this link between genes and memes can lead to important discoveries about the nature of the inner self.
Confronting the deepest questions about our inner selves, with all our emotions, memories, beliefs, and decisions, Susan Blackmore makes a compelling case for the theory that the inner self is merely an illusion created by the memes for the sake of replication.

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Commentaires client les plus utiles
5.0 étoiles sur 5 exposé général de la mèmétique 20 novembre 2010
Par Guy Walch
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
La portée générale potentielle est exposée avec beaucoup de clarté, en particulier la complémentarité avec la génétique dans le cadre de l'évolution par la sélection naturelle. La nécessité d'un second réplicateur est solidement étayée.
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 3.8 étoiles sur 5  112 commentaires
122 internautes sur 129 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The Meme Machine 1 août 2000
Par Panini - Publié sur
Susan Blackmore's bold and fascinating book "The Meme Machine" pushes the new theory of memetics farther than anyone else has, including its originator Richard Dawkins. The reader should already be well-acquainted with the concepts of memes and Universal Darwinism before tackling this book. Those who are not would do well to first read Dawkins' The Selfish Gene (and even better to also read Daniel Dennett's Darwin's Dangerous Idea).
Dawkins himself wrote the Foreword to this book, giving it his enthusiastic endorsement, and providing some enlightening remarks about the origin of the meme concept. He concedes however, that his original intentions were quite a bit more modest, and that Blackmore has carried the concept further than he had envisioned.
The central thesis of this book is that imitation is what makes humans truly different from other animals, and what drives almost all aspects of human culture. A meme then, is a unit of imitation. Anything that can be passed from one person to another through imitation -- such as a song, a poem, a cookie recipe, fashion, the idea of building a bridge or making pottery -- is an example of a meme. From the meme's point of view, Blackmore claims, we humans are simply "meme machines", copying memes from one brain to another.
This book is highly speculative. That doesn't mean it's wrong. It just means the claims have not been proven scientifically. To Blackmore's credit she does clearly highlight the areas of speculation. She also points out the testable predictions made by her theory, and describes possible experiments that could be performed to validate or falsify them.
One such prediction is that specific neural mechanisms would be found in the brain that support imitation -- the key requirement for replication of memes. The recent discovery of mirror neurons seems to satisfy this prediction and provide a powerful validation of the theory.
This book is ambitious. It purports to be nothing less than a comprehensive scientific theory which answers such major scientific questions as the "big brain" problem, and the evolutionary origins of language, altruism, and religion -- all currently unresolved problems. Blackmore's presentation of these issues to be persuasive and insightful, though in some instances she has overstated her case. For example, while memes may have been a significant causal factor in the origin of language, it is not necessary to adopt a purely non-functional explanation for language.
The most controversial part of the book is likely to the last two chapters, where Blackmore discusses the concept of the "self", the real you which holds beliefs, desires, and intentions. Like Dennett, Blackmore believes the idea of a "self" is an illusion but unlike Dennett she does not see it as benign and a practical necessity. In her view, the illusion of the self (what she calls the "ultimate memeplex") obscures and distorts consciousness, and advocates adopting a Zen-like view to actively repel the self illusion.
After having read the book you may feel, that Blackmore has gone too far; that she has pulled some sleight-of-hand and come up with an outlandish conclusion. However, upon further reflection, the thoughtful reader will be forced to admit that Blackmore has made a forceful case and told at least a plausible, if not utterly convincing story.<P....
57 internautes sur 65 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 It's All About Imitation 15 mars 1999
Par Liane Gabora ( ) - Publié sur
It is exciting that Oxford has come out with a book on memetics, and Blackmore does a nice job of fleshing out the basics. The Meme Machine follows through on Dawkins' (1976) fascinating suggestion that culture, like biology, evolves through the processes of variation, selection, and replication. It explores how viewing culture as a hereditary system can shed light on many aspects of the human experience, such as why we gossip, believe in alien abduction, and get enthusiastic about sex. (Though the chapter titled 'An orgasm saved my life' never gets around to explaining how an orgasm saved someone's life.)
Her central thesis is that what makes humans unique is their ability to imitate, and she takes the 'imitation is where it's at' thesis very seriously. The idea is: once humans became able to imitate, ideas could be transmitted, and cultural evolution took off. Unfortunately, there are deep problems with this proposal. First, the claim that animals don't imitate is highly controversial, and current consensus seems to sway in the opposite direction. (An article by Byrne & Russon in Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 21, 1998, and accompanying commentary, provide an insightful review.) Second, Blackmore correctly notes that the archeological record reveals a sudden INCREASE in tool variety. However, if imitation were the bottleneck, then prior to the origin of culture there would have been variation everywhere, and the onset of imitation would have funneled this variation in the most useful directions, i.e. variety would have DECREASED. The evidence is, in fact, consistent with the thesis that creativity, rather than imitation, was the bottleneck to culture.
The 'imitation drives culture' hypothesis leads Blackmore to restrict the definition of a meme to something that can be transmitted from one human to another by imitation. So, for example, if a child learns to peal a banana by watching her mother, a meme has replicated. But if the child learns this skill from a cartoon character on tv, no replication has taken place. By the end of the book (particularly in the chapter on the internet) she eases up on this a bit. Human-made artifacts now seem to play a role in her vision, though elements of the natural world still don't. Thus if a child gets the idea for how to peal a banana by watching the petals of a flower unfold, her flower-inspired 'how to peal a banana' meme is NOT transmittable. In the blink of an eye, Blackmore discards the possibility that any experience can be food for thought and thus food for culture, on the grounds that it is "extremely confusing" (p. 45). The worldview impled by the Shroedinger equation is extremely confusing too, but its batting average as a predictor of experimental outcomes is unsurpassed. 'Confusing' is not synonymous with 'wrong'.
Blackmore also claims that "perceptions and emotions are not memes because they are ours alone and we may never pass them on" (p. 15). It follows that the feeling evoked by a painting of a stormy night at sea has no relationship to what the artist was feeling at the time... that a teacher's attitude of compassion has no impact on the cultural dynamics of the classroom. Thus it is not clear how Blackmore's narrow definition of meme clears up the confusion.
Readers should be aware that, despite the Oxford label, the book the book does not reflect the current level of sophistocation in the field. It presents many ideas without referencing where they were first introduced, or mentioning influencial work in the area (e.g. memetic altruism, memetic explanations of the origin of culture, memes & language, memes & the internet, etc.). Blackmore does not delve deep into evolutionary theory, on the grounds that borrowing concepts from biology could lead cultural theorists astray. To my mind, this is like ignoring what we already know about snow skis when developing the first prototype for waterskis. In fact there is some disparity between the 'science rules' attitude and the lack of theory or data. If the title leads you to expect material on computer models, cognitive science, complexity, information theory, etc. you will be disappointed. There isn't much on the workings of the memetic machinery. But if you like examples of manipulative memes, you will find it interesting. And the potential significance of memetics should not be underestimated. It is not inconceivable that the next century will usher forth more books on cultural evolution than this century has on biological evolution.
40 internautes sur 46 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Piques the interest for a future science 9 décembre 1999
Par Jake Sapiens - Publié sur
This book is a little too ambitious. Although Blackmore does not succeed in making the case for a science of memetics, she does a fantastic job trying to. With things like "Campbell's rule" and copying of instructions vs. copying of the product, she makes some good conceptual headway. She provides some good behaviorist insight on true imitation as a potential basis for memetic theory. The speculative field of memetics has yet to pull all the threads together, though Blackmore does a very good job setting the stage. I think the field as a whole could use a lot more immersion in cognitive science beyond the interesting forays of Daniel Dennett("Darwin's Dangerous Idea" highly recommended). I think the cognitive roles of language while not overlooked, could use more attention. In this vein I recommend to those interested to read "Philosophy in the Flesh" by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, after you finish "The Meme Machine."
The Meme Machine reads very well. It doesn't leave me seeing how memetics will get from here (speculative) to there (real science), but it leaves me thinking that there must be a way. Blackmore backs up her own ideas with some good scientific background, but doesn't lay any real empirical foundations for a science of memetics. I think until we have a better idea of the neurological organization underpinning our conceptual thinking that foundation will not appear. For some possible headway on that, again I suggest you read "Philosophy in the Flesh" after you read "The Meme Machine." I think perhaps both of these books may be converging on some similar problems from different perspectives.
I think Blackmore sets some goals that are entirely too ambitious, and fails to achieve them. Instead of laying a foundation, she merely piques our interest. Don't let that stop you from enjoying "The Meme Machine." It is very interesting. Read this book. You will be glad that you did.
24 internautes sur 28 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Femme du meme 2 janvier 2000
Par Ronald P. van Ammers - Publié sur
Philosophy should leave everything as it is -- Wittgenstein
Susan Blackwell's tour de force, 'Meme Machine', leaves everything as it is. There are no tricks of words, there's no technical jargon, everything's in plain ENglish. As it turns out, her account hangs together quite well.
For humans, besides DNA, there is a 2nd replicating entity, the meme. A meme is a communicable brain program or unit of human behavior and is, in fact, communicated (replicated) via the uniquely human faculty for imitation.
Selfish genes replicate in a chemical environment, selfish memes replicate in a neural environment (today's computer viruses replicate in electronic environments). When we consider evolution we're as justified in metaphorically ascribing intentions to memes as to genes*.
Leaving her progenitors, Dawkins and Dennett, in the dust, Blackwell argues that meme evolution and gene evolution interact and this is responsible for several Baldwin** effects, among which big brains, homosexualism, and the language instinct.
She makes the startling claim that true altruism is possible, that under the influence of memes people can behave selfsacrificially. Somewhat less controversially, she concludes that consciousness, freewill, god, etc are illusions that benefit the propagation of genes and memes.
She ends with some fashionable suggestions on how to make life bearable once the monstrous truth of her theory has sunk in: If you meditate and empty your mind you can come to live in peace with the idea that YOU dont exist, that youre only some genes and memes replicating.
Then there's the picture of Susan Blackmore on the back flap. Attractive, smart looking, 40ish punkette. Hair painted flaming red!
* There's nothing new in Blackmore's use of the intention metaphor in connection with genes and memes, everybody does it. Still, the metaphor may sometimes not apply and leave us to conclude what we shouldnt.
** The Baldwin effect is a way genetic evolution can be made to seem as if by Lamarckian forces, ie, inheritance of acquired characteristics.
24 internautes sur 29 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A great introduction to the field 27 mars 2002
Par John August - Publié sur
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
Susan Blackmore's THE MEME MACHINE is a terrific and very accessible introduction to the nascent field of memetics. She tackles a complicated subject with remarkable precision and clarity, and avoids the insidious trap of creating new jargon to suit her needs. After reading a lot of books on linguists, brain science, and other peripheral fields, this was exactly the book I was looking for.
The term "memetics" sounds a lot like "genetics," and the similarity is not accidental. Working off ideas championed by Richard Dawkins in THE SELFISH GENE, memetics looks at the way ideas can spread and replicate in ways much like -- but not exactly like -- biological evolution. Dawkins urged readers to take a "gene's-eye view," where evolution is driven by genes competing to be copied. This theory will be familiar to anyone who has read Dawkins, or his contemporaries like Pinker or Gould. Blackmore skillfully summarizes the basic ideas, and Dawkins himself writes an introduction.
Just as genetics focuses on the gene, memetics centers around the "meme," which can be thought of as a unit of information. Examples of memes can include stone tool-making, language, the song "Happy Birthday," democracy, or last year's out-of-nowhere "all your base are belong to us." What matters is not the content of the meme per se, but how effectively the meme can get itself copied. Just like a gene can only survive by putting itself into a new generation, a meme can only prosper by squeezing itself in new brains. In that way, memes are like mental viruses, but without necessarily negative effects.
The exact means by which memes spread from brain to brain can vary: speech, writing, art, etc. The common thread is imitation, a uniquely human skill Blackmore and others argue can explain why humans have progressed so far beyond what could be expected through biological evolution alone. In fact, Blackmore asserts that memes can help answer one of the nagging questions in human development: how did our brains get to be so big? Her answer is that bigger brains can store more memes, which in turn allowed bigger-brained humans to outcompete their smaller-brained kin.
After setting up the basic theories of memetics, and addressing recurring criticisms, Blackmore investigates some of the common touchstones of sociobiology: sex, altruism, religion and consciousness. In every instance, her meme's-eye view provides a lot of insight, and her sense of humor makes the whole process more enjoyable.
Like a professor cramming too much into the final class of the semester, Blackmore stretches too far in the last chapter, aiming for closure and a sense of what-it-all-means that isn't really supported by the rest of the book. But by that point we're already mad about her, and ready to sign up for any other class she teaches.
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