Re: accelerating evolution

Dave Gross (
Thu, 17 Jun 1999 09:27:45 -0700 (PDT)

Date: Thu, 17 Jun 1999 09:27:45 -0700 (PDT)
From: Dave Gross <>
Subject: Re: accelerating evolution
In-Reply-To: <>

> 50,000 years ago: speech
> 5000 years ago: writing
> 500 years ago: printing
> 50 years ago: computing

Question: what happened five years ago...

A couple of gropes at an answer:

* (The easy one) - The Web - distributed and easily searched texts, blah
blah blah.

* (The more sci-fi) - The Dada Engine. Allows a computer to simulate a
jargon-filled or otherwise dysfunctional human language output so as to
be nearly indistinguishable from genuine human language generated in
that specialty/dysfunction (from someone on the outside).

Now that computers are getting sophisticated enough to simulate human
verbal output (and now that more and more genuine human verbal output
is mediated by computers) the possibilities for accelerating memetic
evolution are enormous.

Imagine a computer that, each time it gets a chain letter or urban
legend, recombines it with others in a thousand new ways and sends out
the results...

...a target-marketer that uses a computer to send out a differently-
generated spam email to every recipient, then tracks which ones are
most effective (automagically, of course), recombining these for the
next round...

...a computer that does limited parsing on usenet or mailing-list
messages - enough to be able to generate messages that look relevant
but which actually are a facade behind which lies advertising or

In other words, machines generating new permutations of memes. This
might bring havoc to the human meme-space, but will also (and perhaps
more to the point) create it's own meme-space - with computers having
senseless conversations that copy each others' turns-of-phrase.

Some of our more radical memeticists (including myself on a good day)
would suggest that the leviathan of human culture got its start in
much the same way.

-- Dave Gross
curator, Meme Theorists on the Web

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