“A new kind of replicator has recently emerged on this very planet. It is staring us in the face. It is still in its infancy, still drifting clumsily about in its primeval soup, but already it is achieving evolutionary change at a rate that leaves the old gene panting far behind.”—Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene

At the end of his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, geneticist Richard Dawkins proposed the idea of the meme, which he described as “a unit of cultural transmission” analogous to the gene. The meme idea was so powerful that it quickly became a meme itself as it spread from mind to mind with the peculiar inevitability that seems to characterize all memes. (Indeed, the philosopher Daniel Dennett has described the meme as “an information-packet with attitude.”) For our purposes here, the meme meme has spawned a rather impressive lexicon of terms, many of which come from the field of memetics, the study of memes. (I’m indebted to memeticist Tim Tyler and the good folks at the website Know Your Meme for many of these terms.)

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