Beme



A beme (pronounced /biË?m or bÉm/) consists of the smallest unit of being, or existence. "Beme" is an adaptation of the linguist's word "morpheme", which means the smallest unit of meaning. Being is usually defined as a state of existing, or as a person's essential nature or character. Therefore, bemes are the smallest units of a person's essential nature or character. For example, an image of one's mother, a predilection toward honesty, and the ways one smiles are all examples of bemes. Generally bemes fall into the categories of mannerisms, personalities, recollections, feelings, beliefs, attitudes and values.

Bemes get transmitted verbally, electronically, or by repeated action from one mind to another. Since bemes can be transferred from one individual to another, one could view their propagation as similar in some ways to the spreading of a new gene through a population. Bemes are different from genes in being generated by the interaction of a conscious being with its environment, as opposed to being generated by random mutation.

The root of the term beme also branches from the word meme, coined by Richard Dawkins in 1976, which constitutes a theoretical unit of cultural information. Examples of memes include societal identifiers such as songs, catch-phrases, clothing-fashions, and the technology of building arches. Memes parallel without biochemistry the replication and mutation characteristics of genes. An idea such as "war is bad" is a meme that can be passed from person to person the way genes are passed from parents to children. The meme "war is bad" can also be mutated into "war is always bad" or "war is good" just as genes for growth can be mutated into gigantism or dwarfism.

A beme differs from a meme in that a beme is a unit of information unique to a given individual, whereas a meme is a unit of information specific to a given society. The term beme was originated by author Dr. Martine Rothblatt in relation to her theories regarding consciousness and the possibility of replicating consciousness using future AI- like software. Dr. Rothblatt first introduced the term beme in May of 2006 in a lecture entitled, "Of Genes, Bemes & Conscious Things: From Transhuman Enhancements to Transbeman Rights," which was presented at the IEET/Stanford Conference on Human Enhancement Technologies and Human Rights, which was held at Stanford University.

"Memes" span a broader field than the linguistic-bound morphemes (the "peace sign" and "smiley face" are also memes), and are studied more for their transmissibility characteristics than for their inherent meaning. By analogy, a beme is a unit of existence, nature or character that can behave like a gene. Hence, a beme can produce behaviors like a gene can produce proteins. Also, a beme can be replicated or combined or mutated either within a being (as occurs with genes) or in an offspring (as also occurs with genes).
As a means to research bemes Dr. Rothblatt created the Lifenaut Project in which users store their bemes for future mind uploading. Rothblatt states that, "The wisdom of ancestors is valued across all cultures, and beme-based storage helps to ensure that wisdom continues to guide future generations."

In certain instances bemes might be thought of as very specific kinds of memes. However, not all small units of existence are also units of cultural transmission. In any event, the growing public familiarity with the concept of memes is helpful in gaining understanding of the new concept of bemes.

Footnotes

Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene (1976). He was more interested in explaining that Natural Selection operates on the gene and not the organism. This explained the mystery of altruism since it may well be in a gene's best interest for some of its hosts to kill themselves so that others may long reproduce. In the same vein, Dawkins noted that Nature also cares little for even the molecules that make up our genes. She just nurtures in a predictable fashion phenomena that self-propagate. As an aside he noted that many aspects of human culture - he called these aspects memes -- propagate in a functionally similar fashion, with society serving as Nature.


See Also

• Consciousness
• Artificial Intelligence
• Mind uploading
• Philosophy of mind
• Qualia
• Exocortex
• Simulated Reality
• Turing Test
• Technological Singularity
 
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