Archive for the ‘Memes’ Category

Taleb Quote

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Nassim Taleb from Twitter: “What they call philosophy, I call literature; what they call literature I call journalism; and what they call journalism I call gossip.”

Memes, Part One

Friday, March 13th, 2009


There is a social component to human intelligence. A great deal of what we consider to be intelligent, thinking activity is actually memory masquerading as intelligence. We can all see the results of it: towering skyscrapers, sleek airliners, glitzy smartphones. But, how did they get here? Where does it come from? How does one define the intelligence that created it?

While society has had IQ tests, college placement exams and the like for more than a century, no one seriously thinks that these are true tests of native intelligence. Too much of the tests require a particular social understanding, such that a teenager from Ghana is almost immediately at a disadvantage to a teenager from the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Why have no universal tests been created?

The answer comes from the nature of intelligence – intelligence is social and highly dependent on the network of memories and experiences that are built up in an individual. Those memories and experiences are highly personal, and quite different from one society to the next. The human brain is a living filter for those memories and experiences, judging them on their suitability and choosing to keep and pass on some of these individual memories and experiences or not others. This is the basis of most of mankind’s intellectual accomplishments. This form of intelligence has been most elegantly described in the discussion of memes.

First things first. I have not read a good primer on memes – most of them seem to count on smart people to grasp on the idea intuitively. It took me awhile, so I think a better explanation is called for.

COMING NEXT: Primer on Memes, The Current State of Evolution.