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Meme Coding

ems8140's picture

Thursday’s discussion led us to talking about the concept of substrate neutrality. When we first began discussing what this idea of Dennett’s could possibly mean, I had a difficult time wrapping my head around his belief. I took it to mean something that could be used with an algorithm because, regardless of the substrate, the same process will occur. We then applied this concept to the tennis tournament example Dennett provided. The substrate would be considered the players of the tournament and they are neutral because no matter what, there will be a winner. Even if it is a competition between a novice and an expert, it could still be considered substrate neutral. I'm not a support of this concept of substrate neutrality. I believe that most people would not want to be considered neutral. Therefore, I don’t think this concept can apply to many other examples because of the different influences individuals have over their lives. This sense of control may lead Dennett’s ideas of algorithms to be ineffective. People want to determine their lives and not have a formula do so.

            Memes were also discussed on Thursday. While it is understood that genes code for proteins, it has not been determined for what memes code. Dennett’s definition of a meme includes the phrase something “worth replicating.” This led me to believe that memes, or these small units of culture, are maintained throughout the years because of the positive reinforcement one may experience when exposed to them. Based on this belief, I think that memes help to code for the overarching ideas, beliefs, values, etc. of a culture. In our discussion, we used the comical example of Internet memes, such as “lolcatz.” While this humorous website displaying funny pictures of cats with equally hilarious captions is by any means an integral part of our culture, the resulting feelings of happiness and enjoyment that come from viewing them are worth repeating. Whether through music, books, behaviors towards others, etc., people may (unconsciously) replicate the emotions they felt while viewing the pictures. This repetition among many people leads to the development of a broader cultural value of the importance of entertainment and happiness.



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