“Now, as you know, biology runs on genes. And genes are the units of meaning of heredity. But we could make a model of the informational environment that is represented by culture. And in fact, this is done. A word has been invented: meme. M-E-M-E, meme. A meme is not the smallest unit of heredity; a meme is the smallest unit of meaning of an idea. Ideas are made of memes. And I think the art community might, uh, function with more efficiency in the production of visionary aesthetic breakthroughs if we would think of ourselves as an environment modeled after the natural environment, where we as artists are attempting to create memes which enter an environment of other memes that are in competition with each other, and out of this competition of memes, ever more appropriate, adapted, and, uh, suitable ideas can gather and, uh, link themselves together into higher and higher organisms. Now, in order for this to happen, there is an obligation upon each one of us to carry our ideas clearly. Because in the same way that a gene must be copied correctly to be replicated or it will cause some pathological mutation, a meme must be correctly replicated or it will cause a pathological mutation. For instance, I would say what the Nazis did to Friederich Nietzsche’s philosophy was a bad copy–a miscopied meme became a toxic mutation inside a culture.”
“What a gene is to biology, a meme is to ideology…Madonna is a meme, Catholicism is a meme, Marxism is a meme, yellow sweaters are a meme… rainbow-colored dreadlocks are a meme. Launch your meme boldly and see if it will replicate—just like genes replicate, and infect, and move into the organism of society. And, believing as I do that society operates on a kind of biological economy, then I believe these memes are the key to societal evolution”.
-Terence McKenna, “Memes, Drugs, and Community”. (1996)