Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Memes as software

In The Laughing Genes - A Scientific Perspective on Ethics and Morality Evan Louis Sheehan has a great analogy for meme-gene coevolution. He says:
This is analogous to the way in which the hardware and the software of computer systems have co-evolved, always remaining compatible with each other, yet each taking advantage of the other’s growing capabilities.
Memetic creatures are like software - and genetic creatures are like hardware. The memes-as-software theme is also prominent in:Dennett talks about running the English Virtual Machine on your "necktop" - by analogy with running the Java Virtual Machine on your laptop - which is neat.

I think that the memes-as-software perspective is a fertile metaphor that illuminates - and is illuminated by - issues such as the relative significance of memes and genes, the role of memes in adapting to unfamiliar environments, the relative rates of memetic and genetic evolution.

The idea of memes-as-software has also been represented in the movies - in particular in The Matrix:

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