Meme Pools

Sometimes I think of people — their minds, that is — as collections of concepts. We carry around ever-changing subsets chosen from a vast pool of notions. Some of these concepts are passive, like the value of the fine-structure constant (about 1/137) or the name of the fellow who deciphered Linear B (Michael Ventris), to give a couple of examples from my silly subset. Others are more active concepts, like how to do recursion, how to multiply fractions, how to change a sentence from passive to active voice, etc.

Progress occurs when a few people happen to have a fortunate coincidence of concepts in their heads so that, like a lucky genetic roll-of-the-dice, the combination turns into a really new idea: Newton and Leibnitz inventing the calculus, John Nash coming up with game theory, a bunch of folks figuring out how to mass-produce firearms and automobiles, etc., etc. So the Big Win for society is reducing friction, to enable more diverse subsets of ideas from the vast meme pool to interact more vigorously.

(cf. HumanNature (1999-12-05),...) - ^z - 2012-09-28