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Q&A With Susan Blackmore, Author Of The Meme Machine

usan Blackmore is a professor of psychology at the University of Plymouth who believes memes, like genes, are evolutionary replicators that are subject to the forces of natural selection. After abandoning the field of parapsychology, Blackmore wrote the 1999 popular science book The Meme Machine, which attempted to constitute the controversial theory of memetics as a science. In 2008, she spoke at the prestigious TED conference about the "teme", a new kind of meme she described as the "third replicator." Recently, Blackmore has dived into the world of Internet memes, commenting on phenomenon like Rickrolling and LOLcats.


Q: We noticed you've recently been commenting on Internet memes. What was the first internet meme you've ever encountered?

Q: Do you think there's a reason behind the Internet's love for cats, even though statistically there are more dog photos on the web?

Q: You gave an interesting TED talk on the third replicator which you identified as "temes" a few years back. Could you briefly explain what a "teme" is?

Q: How is the idea of temes different from say, Sir Timothy Berners-Lee's vision of the Semantic web or the concept of technological singularity?

Q: You've said before that you do not believe in "free will" and that it is largely an illusory experience. Why do you think that is and do memes play a significant role in this?

Q: What is the current state of memetics as a science? What do you think the future holds?

Q: Outside of Ceiling Cat, do you have a favorite Internet meme or YouTube video?

Q: If you could delete any meme from the entire Internet, what would it be?

Susan Blackmore is an English freelance writer, lecturer and Visiting Professor at the University of Plymouth. You can read about her research on her personal website and view her latest posts on The Guardian's Comment is Free. This interview was conducted over email on April 18th, 2012.

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