Copying Makes Evolution Possible

Susan Blackmore in Wired:

The whole idea of a meme is that it’s information that is copied with variation and selection. So any idea that is copied from person to person is a meme. But an idea that you think up for yourself and is not expressed is not a meme. The emphasis has to be on copying, because that’s what makes evolution possible.

[Some memes] succeed because they’re good for us or they’re true or beautiful or useful and we select them for those reasons. Some other memes succeed, in spite of not being beautiful or true or useful, by using tricks. So religions, for example, have some value, but by and large they’re false ideas that use tricks to get into people’s heads — threats of hell, promises of heaven, the allure of being a good person or of God loving you. There are also memes that trick you into thinking that you’re going to get popular or that you’re going to get rich or that you’re going to get a bigger penis, whatever it is. [Ed: ambiguous ‘it.’]

Wired asks, What will [the future] look like?

Well, it will look like humans are just a minor thing on this planet with masses (of) silicon-based machinery using us to drag stuff out of the ground to build more machines.

As Kottke said of this quote, Good times.