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Memes, morphic resonance and multiples

August 22nd, 2002

For the second time, I’ve coined what I thought was a neat new blogterm, only to see it pop up simultaneously somewhere else. Last week it was “peaceblogger” which showed up on Slate. Today it’s the “Catallaxy Collective”, simultaneously used by Tim Dunlop. It’s not a meme since the whole point of memes is “replicating with modification”. There’s a marvellously nutty idea called “morphic resonance”, invented by a British scientist called Rupert Sheldrake a couple of decades ago, which is supposed to explain this kind of thing. But I think the best explanation is that this is a trivial instance of Merton’s law of multiple discovery. Given the right circumstances, the internal logic of thought will lead several people to make the same connections at once. Tim and I think similarly on lots of things, we both wanted to refer to Jason and his co-bloggers as a group, and neither of us could resist the lefty associations of “collective”.
As an aside, Merton is the father of Robert Merton who got the Nobel Prize for Economics for his work on option pricing (a multiple discover itself) then helped Long Term Credit Management to bring the world financial system to the edge of collapse in 1998.

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