A Meme:
Original or Unoriginal?

 

Each person has different characteristics that are shaped by different
instances or learnings. The idea of a meme being taken for its literal sense is
what makes Susan Blackmore’s “Strange Creatures” a more intriguing read as not
only can the reader connect with the text but, is also able to gain a
first-person perspective on what the reader wants to convey through her
writing. In the piece Blackmore’s idea of what is a meme? And what can be
categorized as a meme? Are the main questions at display, but behind all of
those basic questions lies the principal question, “What makes us different?”
(Blackmore 33). The answer to that question is simple, we humans “imitate”,
hence for my preceding sentence the word “meme” when put into perspective is
none other than a challenge one takes up to showcase either a skill or
demonstrate a higher image of themselves! Hence, in this paper I argue that
extensive communication methods (memes) is the first step that helps give shape
to thoughts and understandings but, creativity is the unique mechanism that
helps make the transition successful.

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 “Selfishness” is often a key
factor found in humans that results in major out lashes and harsh outcomes, but
what’s being missed is that we humans are just merely the ‘carriers’, more like
the hosts who are key in cracking the next part of the process. Similarly, when
people follow a certain stimulus they are not merely enacting the same thing
blindly, a certain level of retention has occurred within this time frame that
allows one to use this very stimulus as a bed rock or as a spark that could
light the fire. In this case, the fire is the knowledge/emotion gained out of
that very stimulus. For example, a very famous meme that has been going around
the internet has seen famous soccer stars execute a rather entertaining way of
controlling a soccer ball after one kicks it of the wall. This very meme was
inspired by a child who displayed his own simple skill that caught the eye of
already established men within the playing field. The routine gained popularity
so quickly due to the alterations included by professionals that a pass – time
activity overnight turned into a major challenge that saw major sporting
athletes take on the challenge for no reward at all, after it was brought to
light either by their friends or foes. The central idea that I would like to
focus on from the major up rise of this meme would be that how a pastime became
into a challenge and how this challenge brought about different variations
within people who took up the challenge even though there were no monetary
factors involved. Showcasing skill or just letting out certain emotions, such
as happiness or relatedness was top priority. Mind you, this particular meme
became so successful because of its demonstration of a certain skill and the
use of famous athletes that, audiences engaged more with this routine
themselves because of its simplicity along with its complexity.

But, many times in life people dwell upon different instances that have
totally different outcomes even though the bases were the same. The fact that
through technology and with the up rise of such advanced communication networks
in the form of “meme’s” we are not dwelling carefully on the fact that our
interpretations are unique to each one of us. Hence, when the idea of
“imitation is what makes us special” (Blackmore 34) is agreed upon, I disagree,
as meme’s leave behind a legacy that people do take into account but apply it
to real life scenarios differently. A valid example that goes hand in hand with
this idea is the implementation of AI (Artificial Intelligence). AI has evolved
over time by it has not done so without the help of scientists and other
brilliant men and women who combined their knowledge gained through various
sources such as colleges, schools and even certain people who they must have
worked under. The knowledge that they have received/gained is just another act
of ‘imitation’ but what I want to hit upon is the fact that they should have
stuck to the plan that was already set in stone but, instead they tried
something different which allowed them to create something spectacular that
would change the robotic field forever. Hence, the point that I wish to make
through this argument is that if knowledge passed down from generation to
generation is called ‘imitation’ then how is it possible that something new is
created from old learnings?

Moreover, Blackmore’s elaborate depiction of what a meme actually is,
helps shape an image of how creativity influences inception and propagation of
meme’s. Her constant implementation of such examples, helps shape an image for
the readers, which is easier to comprehend as to why she is stating that we
have to stop “thinking of our ideas as our own creations” (Blackmore 37). But, with
real life examples and other examples within the text it can be seen that the
writer is confident that her supporting evidence is enough to persuade the
reader into thinking that memes is totally for the worse.

But, according to me, they are not that bad/selfish after all as every
time they are passed on they enhance the host’s knowledge rather than add to
the trail. One might say that ‘what about the memes what affect the people in a
negative way?’ ‘They don’t care about the host’s feelings?’ ‘They just want to
be passed on?’ Well, in such a scenario the principle of ‘take it or leave it’
applies, knowledge or other key inputs will always be passed from one person to
another in various shapes and sizes, which shows that if wanted one can even
decide whether to let these meme’s affect them in a good way or not! The song
“Happy Birthday to You. Millions of people – probably thousands of millions of
people the world over- know this tune.” (Blackmore 37), is the perfect example
that illustrates the positive effect of memes within a person’s life. This tune
brings about a happy atmosphere in that certain place and is also recited when
it’s a special day, that being someone’s birthday. By knowing this tune are we
imitating each other? Yes, we are, but if you have ever looked up the “Happy
Birthday Song” on the internet, you must have noticed that there are over 100
different variations of the same song. If we did imitate each other as
Blackmore clearly states, “The thesis of this book is that what makes us
different is our ability to imitate” (Blackmore 33) the possibility of a big change
occurring should almost be a nullified value, but yet in today’s modern times
unfortunately that concept/belief no longer exists.

Comparisons between meme’s and parasites are often made for the similar
nature they share, but has one ever looked close enough to see that they
replicate each other in every single way possible. That means that they are
identical in every single angle or part. This throws light on the fact that
these organisms are not evolving enough to cause a large-scale change, but
memes on the other hand have been able to carry out this ‘large scale’ change,
as they are able to leave behind something different every time! Having played
the game of ‘telephone’ in my childhood days, the game always fascinated kids
as to how was it possible that the message would change when it would reach the
last person in the chain. Connecting this very example to the idea of memes can
further help in understanding as to why they give back something to those who
reproduce or spread them! In this case the identical message that has to be
passed on is the meme and they kids are the vehicles who carry pass it around
via telling each other through oral contact. But, if you’ve played the game
before it is often noticed that by the end of the chain the message has been ridiculously
changed from something really straightforward to something completely out of
the box.

The point that I’m trying to hit upon is the fact that even though the
meme aimed to be passed on from kid to kid, that did not happen which shows us
that though memes have the ‘selfish motive’ of being passed on from one host to
another, it does not necessarily force its authority onto the host for
accepting it. Thus, questioning the ideas and justifications, it is yet to see
whether “these predictions will decide whether memes are just a meaningless
metaphor or the grand new unifying theory we need to understand human nature.”
(Blackmore 39). Furthermore, given the interaction of memes with the world it
could be said that, the approach taken by memes is that of a gene but when it
comes to using humans as a vehicle, things start to get a little more
complicated. Imitating one another is by default in our systems otherwise without
that we would not have our basic fundamentals in place, but when Blackmore
states that “all life revolves by the differential survival of replicating
entities” (Blackmore) it is hard to see how memes are selfish as “memes are
stored in human brains (or books or inventions) and passed on by imitation”
(Blackmore 36) shows that memes do give back something to their reproducers!
They give back knowledge! These memes have become successful, by being able to
demonstrate different human elements such as happiness or developing a liking
to something when something is passed on from human to human. All of the above
examples that I have used in order to justify that memes are ‘not’ selfish and
that they give back, is altogether an example of a meme being replicated but
through different depictions/understandings.

All in all, the idea of memetics being personified through Blackmore’s
work has not only help gain a different perspective on the nature of memes, but
also in learning the ever-continuing process of evolution. The world as we know
it would have been ‘bland’ or ‘unorthodox’ if it weren’t for that slight touch
of creativity that us humans devise through memes.

 

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