Thu, 28 Aug 2003

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memes and the arrow of time

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Lights go out and I can't be saved,
Tides that I tried to swim against....

I managed to crash my webhost temporarily, forcing the sysadmin to disable my blog, but as you can see, it's all fixed now. Let me just say, sometimes, recursion is not the answer. But enough about that.

So I suppose bizarre non-sequential thoughts will often manifest in a brain half-broiled by the sun, half-steamed by the humidity (It is 95°F out there.) I walked to the post office to pick up my package, when what has got to be my favorite song for 2003–"Clocks" by Coldplay [lyrics]–popped up on my iPod playlist.

Confusion never stops, closing walls and ticking clocks, gonna
Come back and take you home, I could not stop, that you now know, singing
Come out upon my seas, curse missed opportunities, am I
A part of the cure, or am I part of the disease, singing

Of course, the carrier hadn't brought my package back to the post office yet, so I left empty-handed. I decide to stop in at the nearby pizza parlor, where, in an act of doubly-meaningful synchronicity, "Time After Time" by Cyndi Lauper was playing.

Time. Where is it all going.

My brain shifts gears, and I contemplate memes, and evolution, and music. (This occurs, I think, as I am listening to my iPod while I pass a store selling vinyl.) Like how poems and songs are, of course, memes. And the less reliable and the more coarse-grained the transmission media is, the better the chance they have to mutate, and perhaps evolve to become even more successful in replicating. Perhaps the most coarse-grained/least reliable medium is oral/aural transmission. But this gives the performers a lot of creative leeway. Adding an extra riff here, tweaking the lyrics there. And then there is writing, musical-notation. It still allows creative interpretation. But as you move closer to our own era, the way these things are transmitted become more and more rigid, less and less mutable. Digital text. CDs. MP3s. While these things can, in theory, mutate (bit rot and all), it is unlikely that it will mutate into something better by chance.

Of course, memetic mutation does occur in our era, more commonly known as the remix. Notice the spate of techno remakes of old '80's songs. And then, there is hip-hop, the memetic equivalent of sexual reproduction. Mixing and matching random strands of music, creating something entirely new, though still somewhat reminiscent of its memetics parents.

15:59:07 28 Aug 2003 > /soul > permalink > 0 comments

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