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From Bacteria to Bach and Back by Daniel Dennett

Inversion of Reasoning

The inversion of reasoning that occurred by Darwin’s and Turing’s theories that discourages the mind of many: the humanistic values that are valued currently, such as the importance of educating children so that they are able to understand a topic or a method.] Understanding therefore is evaluated as “competence”. But Darwin and Turing theories suggest that “competence doesn’t always depend on comprehension and sometimes is a precondition to comprehension.”1 The next conclusion made, summarizes things quite nicely;

All the brilliance and comprehension in the world arises ultimately out of uncomprehending competencies compounded over time into ever more competent – and hence comprehending – systems.


Our skepticism about competence without comprehension has causes, not reasons. 2

An example that really highlights this occurrence, is the project organization applied during the Manhattan Project. Out of 150’000 scientists and engineers who worked on the construction of the atomic bomb, less than a fraction of that percent really new what they where doing. Just as single cell organisms did not comprehend that they where developing into multi celled organisms like us, who are now able to comprehend the process.

Information Worth Sharing

Memes as Viruses

Viruses can be considered memes, that exploit the resources of a cell by turning it into a machine that produces new viruses.3 Viruses do not understand the reason behind their quest since they are macromolecules and not even living things. Viruses and memes are themselves mindless. The meme that virus transport however, is a form of information, that once enacted inside a host cell, become a machine that produces even more memes. This relation that makes a virus a meme producer, can be referred to the way memes are produced among human minds. When we see meme on social media, it becomes a virus, which exploits the resources of the neurons of our brain to induce a likening for superficial information – which also aids the production of new memes.

Memes are referred to as “culturally transmitted informational entities”.4

Words And Evolution

Most mammal species can synthesis their own Vitamin C, but with human evolution, humans lost the ability to generate Vitamin C in their bodies.5 The same can be said about words, we are just as dependent on them as we are on Vitamin C.

Words are very much like offspring, that have the potential to pass to future generations and potentially end up written in New York Times bestseller.6 Just like the numerous species that went extinct, there will be many words that would never be read or heard again.

  1. p. 57 

  2. p. 58 

  3. p. 173 

  4. p. 175 

  5. p. 178 

  6. p. 190