Friday Quiz Meme

Richard Dawkins first came up with the idea of a meme in his 1976 book "The Selfish Gene". Essentially, memes are ideas that evolve according to the same principles that govern biological evolution. Think about all the ideas that you have in your head right now. They are all memes, and they all came from somewhere. Some of them will have come from friends and some will have come from the internet or television. Examples of memes are musical tunes, jokes, trends, fashions, catch phrases, and car designs. Now, the memes that inhabit your mind are in competition with all the other memes in the memepool (the collection of all existing memes). This means that they are all competing to get themselves copied into other people's minds. Some of these memes do quite well. Every time you whistle your favorite tune or utter a useful catch phrase, you are facilitating the spread of those memes. Every time you wear something that is "in fashion" you are helping the idea of that fashion enter other people's minds. Consider the first four notes of Beethoven's 5th symphony, or the "Happy Birthday" song. These are ideas that inhabit our minds and have been very successful at replicating. Not only have these memes found their way into literally millions of minds, they have also managed to leave copies of themselves on paper, in books, on audiotape, on compact disks, and in computer hard-drives (Silby 2000).

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Memes spread in a similar way to contagions, passing from one person to another. Those that are good at replicating tend to leave more copies of themselves in minds and are often written down in books or on websites, which helps them to survive and often thrive. Those that are not so good at replicating tend to die out. The most popular version of this nowadays are the internet memes. At its most basic, this is simply the passing on of a digital file or hyperlink from one person to others using methods available through the internet such as email or instant messaging. At its heart, an internet meme is an inside joke which happens to have a large number of internet users in on it. These types have a tendency to evolve and spread extremely swiftly, sometimes going in and out of popularity in just days.

Though not everyone agrees on what a meme is or what value they have, it is hard not to recognize that they exist due to the increase of occurrences on the internet. Many books have been written on the subject and the theory is constantly evolving. With our ever evolving technology and our ability to connect with people all over the world in the matter of seconds, who can tell where the future of memes is headed.