Preprint Article Version 3 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

A Theoretical Treatment of Memetic Traits Using Gene-Meme, Meme-Meme and Population Equilibrium

Version 1 : Received: 27 December 2020 / Approved: 28 December 2020 / Online: 28 December 2020 (11:30:49 CET)
Version 2 : Received: 7 January 2021 / Approved: 8 January 2021 / Online: 8 January 2021 (13:37:59 CET)
Version 3 : Received: 24 January 2021 / Approved: 26 January 2021 / Online: 26 January 2021 (10:24:54 CET)
Version 4 : Received: 10 February 2021 / Approved: 10 February 2021 / Online: 10 February 2021 (16:31:42 CET)

How to cite: Shuler, R. A Theoretical Treatment of Memetic Traits Using Gene-Meme, Meme-Meme and Population Equilibrium. Preprints 2020, 2020120689. Shuler, R. A Theoretical Treatment of Memetic Traits Using Gene-Meme, Meme-Meme and Population Equilibrium. Preprints 2020, 2020120689.


Background: The term meme includes vertical trait transmission and laterally transmitted ideas that can be lasting or transient. Memes may sometimes follow the logic of population genetics, e.g. learned birdsong, but not when laterally transmitted. Much current work focuses on selection of memes rather than hosts. This paper investigates mathematically the interaction of behaviorally transmitted traits with host selection fitness. Methods: We analyze equilibrium between gene-meme and meme-meme competing propagators and consider whether a meme is linked to reproduction (e.g. vertical culture transmission), or not. We employ a genetic component and combined meme-induced fitness components for hosts, while memes have replication factors to distinguish from what’s good for the host (fitness). We use a Monte Carlo simulation roughly calibrated to the Industrial Revolution to study meme effects on population stability. Results: A basic effective calculus of memetic trait competition and interaction with genes is derived and analyzed. The transient nature of many lateral memes may be a defense against accumulation of deleterious memes. Laterally transmitted (panmictic) memes with high spreading rate will often not equalize with a genetic trait, spreading outside of natural selection of the hosts, presenting a cumulative existential threat. Vertical transmission reduces replication rate and allows group selection against deleterious memes. Competing mutually exclusive memes contribute to inequality and altruism, but compete through adverse fitness since exclusivity assumes low conversion. Conclusions: The advantage of a portfolio of groups or species may not accrue to a single group. This understanding elevates meme-risk to the level of a candidate solution to the so-called Fermi Paradox.


Meme; memetic; culture; propagation; equilibrium; inheritance; extinction; resistance; evolution; natural selection; Fermi Paradox


Biology and Life Sciences, Anatomy and Physiology

Comments (1)

Comment 1
Received: 26 January 2021
Commenter: Robert Shuler
Commenter's Conflict of Interests: Author
Comment: This version adds analysis of an accumulating meme replication factor acceleration condition, tightens up the wording to reduce length, and moves all background literature survey to the Introduction section.
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