Survival Machines

Four thousand million years ago, what was to be the fate of these replicators? They did not die out, for they are past masters of the survival arts. But do not look for them floating loose in the sea. They gave up that cavalier freedom long ago. Now they swarm in huge colonies, safe inside gigantic lumbering robots, sealed off from the outside world, communicating with it by torturous indirect mean, manipulating it through remote control. They are in you and in me; they created us body and mind; and their preservation is the ultimate rational for our existence. They have come a long way, these replicators. Now they go by the name of genes, and we are their survival machines.
--Richard Dawkins

As semi-legitimate scientists (and not biologists), we probably all think that Dawkins is pretty damn cool. But it never hurts to be reminded of this fact. Dawkins views about evolution, and the role of the gene as the fundamental unit are some of the most sensible things I thing I've ever read.

As I continue reading The Selfish Gene, I will try to more fully develop my semi-bullshit theory of memetics. One of the things I believe is that we are very close to self replicating machine life, at which point the meme will surpass the gene as the fundamental unit of survival. Even if classic nano-replicators are impossible, increasingly more of the interesting activity on Earth is taking place in entirely virtual realms. Assuming the fundamental substrate survives, software will become increasingly complex, and free itself from using us as agents of its selection.


  1. Rodrigo11.5.07

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  2. Also be sure to read The Meme Machine by Susan Blackmore. Blackmore is a British psychology professor who has been trying for a long time to turn memetics into an actual scholarly discipline of sorts. I really liked her book.