Humanity may be a “stepping stone” on the way to a vast temetic ecology
Susan Blackmore discusses genes, temes, and a new future creation story in which humanity is the “Pandoran” species unleashing a third level of evolution on planet Earth.
I want to make three arguments here.
The first is that humans are unique because they are so good at imitation. When our ancestors began to imitate they let loose a new evolutionary process based not on genes but on a second replicator, memes. Genes and memes then coevolved, transforming us into better and better meme machines.
The second is that one kind of copying can piggy-back on another: that is, one replicator (the information that is copied) can build on the products (vehicles or interactors) of another. This multilayered evolution has produced the amazing complexity of design we see all around us.
The third is that now, in the early twenty-first century, we are seeing the emergence of a third replicator. I call these temes (short for technological memes, though have considered other names). They are digital information stored, copied, varied and selected by machines. We humans like to think we are the designers, creators and controllers of this newly emerging world but really we are stepping stones from one replicator to the next.