Culture: the "memes" in heritage

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Every human being has a double inheritance: a genetic inheritance and a "memetic" inheritance. The first is widely known, the second is much less well known. (1). The memetic heritage covers the world of culture, ideas and knowledge. This inheritance is not superimposed on genetic inheritance; it combines with it, creating stimuli or inhibitions that have the effect of shaping each individual.

The "memes" implement an ongoing process of reconstruction, even self-production. It is never a passive injection or a simple reproduction, but on the contrary an intense cognitive activity.

● Every culture deeply permeates the human being from a very early age: taboos, education systems, diets, determine the actualization of a particular attitude, psychological or emotional trait. These "early imprintings", as Edgar Morin calls them (2)The various types of stress, such as stress, stress and strain on the whole of an individual's brain function. The memes received by an individual are instigators that trigger a series of cognitive reactions in the brain, which vary greatly from one human being to another.

● The most lasting memetic projections of men were means of communication, that is to say, simulacra allowing the emergence, exchange, conservation and transmission of traces. Speaking is a means of projecting oneself; the oral language commanded the first great advances of the human species. Writing gave humans a prodigious leap forward: by freeing their brain's storage capacity, humans multiplied their ability to project themselves onto others and the world through writing and then through books. One cannot understand the human without understanding his projections.

● Men and their projections are part of the same world, they participate together in a memetic ecology. Man alone is nothing. His consciousness, and to some extent his intelligence, depend on a complex network in which humans and technical and memetic entities interact. Man is intelligent only because he is a member of a human group whose language he possesses, a whole set of methods, brain configurations, memes and technologies.

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Man is an active particle of a memetic ecology that nourishes him and which in return he nourishes by projecting himself into it. My neurons, my cognitive maps are articulated with writing systems, with books, computers, media of all kinds, superstitions, myths, arts, which form a network in which I am a stakeholder.

In memetic ecology networks, there is no distinction between thinking subjects, inanimate objects and ideas. (3). All of them contribute to educating and informing the environment in which they operate. The memes invented by men are actors in their own right, like humans, of a collective in permanent redefinition, which is nothing other than culture and civilization. Without writing there would not have been universalist religions, without Gutenberg, modern science would probably not have come into being, without the press and books, democracy would have remained only a dream.

(1) The first to mention the "meme" (and to create the word) is Richard DAWKINS in his book published in Oxford, where he teaches, in 1976, The Selfish Gene (Odile Jacob, 1996). The meme is a unit of cultural information that replicates itself from brain to brain according to modalities that I described in Homo Sapiens 2.0 (op. cit.). The meme resides in the human brain, but also in all the artificial extensions of the brain, invented by man to complete and extend his memory: books, computers, information carriers, etc. (Odile Jacob, 1996). Whatever the modalities of this storage, a meme always remains a meme. Whether it resides in a brain or in another physical structure, it undergoes an evolutionary process.

(2) See: Edgar Morin, Le paradigme perdu : la nature humaine, Seuil, 1973.

(3) Cf. Pierre LEVY, Les technologies de l'intelligence, La découverte, 1990.

 

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