Memetics death report exaggerated


Memetics death report exaggerated

A transcript of the above talk

Hi, I'm Tim Tyler, and this video is a brief one, which debunks a one of the "obituaries" of memetics, published in the final issue of the Journal of Memetics.

Richard Dawkins proposed tracking the health of memetics by tracking citations of the idea in learned journals - in the Selfish Gene. At least one author took this idea seriously. Bruce Edmonds produced some research along these lines in a paper entitled: "The revealed poverty of the gene-meme analogy why memetics per se has failed to produce substantive results".

The paper's sole piece of empirical evidence was represented by a plot, which purported to show that "the memetics bandwagon may have peaked" and that memetics "has been a short-lived fad whose effect has been to obscure more than it has been to enlighten".

The plot drew on data from Google Scholar - and appeared to show that mentions of the term "memetics" had peaked in 2001 and then gone into precipitous decline.


Bruce Edmonds - search results

After noting that the purported decline was heavily influenced by a single data-point, I attempted to reproduce this result in November 2008, using precisely the same methodology - Google Scholar searches for "memetic" (but not "memetic algorithm").


Tim Tyler - search results

My results failed to find any such effect - rather papers mentioning memetics by name have increased in volume monotonically year after year between 1990 and 2006.

Comparing our results gives a clue about what went wrong: the author obviously failed to correct for the paucity of recently published papers that are indexed in Google Scholar.

If you search the Google Scholar database on almost any subject, the data for the current year and the last one has not all been indexed yet.

Oops! Ironically the author of the paper subtitled "why memetics per se has failed to produce substantive results" himself failed to produce any substantive results!

Anyway, I'm happy to say that reports of the death of memetics appear to have been greatly exaggerated.

Enjoy.

References

  1. Bruce Edmonds - The revealed poverty of the gene-meme analogy why memetics per se has failed to produce substantive results;

Appendix

199010
199121
199229
199332
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199562
199681
1997155
1998247
1999258
2000331
2001427
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2004667
2005745
2006776
2007706
2008228


Tim Tyler | Contact | http://alife.co.uk/