One big difference between memes and genes is that memes are processed and possibly improved by the people that hold them - something that cannot happen to genes. It is this advantage that the memetic algorithm has over simple genetic or evolutionary algorithms.
These algorithms are useful in solving complex problems, such as the "Travelling Salesman Problem," which involves finding the shortest path through a large number of nodes, or in creating artificial life to test evolutionary theories.
Memetic algorithms are one kind of metaheuristic.
(07 July 1997)