8/12/2005 7:48:14 AM


optionsScalper became the unwitting vector of a meme virus called Einstein’s Riddle:

I bumped into Einstein's Riddle the other day.  Einstein's Riddle is a puzzle that Albert Einstein wrote way back before I was born.  The problem was formulated as a "Logic Puzzle" in the form of those I mentioned in the above books.  Einstein felt that only 2% of the people in the world could solve this puzzle.  Perhaps in his day this was the case, but puzzles of this nature are commonplace in puzzle books in your local grocery stores.

He should know better given his background in genetic programming, and the smart guy probably does.

The logic puzzle looks deceptively simple, but is quite difficult, much like the ring in a keychain contraption. Einstein never actually wrote this puzzle, but it is well-known precisely of his alleged association to it. The actual author intentionally attributed it to him to draw interest to an otherwise uninteresting game, much like how chain letters purportedly written by Bill Gates spread through the Internet. 

A meme is a self-replicating viral idea that spreads through cultural evolution, just as genes are propagated through biological evolution. The concept first appeared in Richard Dawkin’s book The Selfish Gene. Evolution applies to general phenomena and only requires three action:

  1. Variation in traits —  each meme has different qualities
  2. Differential survival and reproduction — memes can spread because of experience, happiness, fear, censorship, economics
  3. Inheritance — memes are communicated/transmitted to others

Successful memes include various languages, religions, jokes, technology, chain letters, fashion, fads and so on. In the days before writing, successful epic poems survived generations of oral tradition through interesting heroic stories, fearsome creatures and rthymic devices. Successful religions survived by promoting a orderly moral society, promising eternal reward/damnation after life, standardizing on a holy book with a compelling story, providing a meaning for living (and reproducing), and so on… Word-of-mouth is an example of viral marketing: McDonald’s attempted to create watercooler buzz with the Lincoln fry Superbowl ad and blog site to mimic the successful viral “Subservient Chicken” campaign by Burger King.

The Internet, by virtue of being an information network, is the perfect lab for creating and observing new memes.






Net Undocumented is a blog about the internals of .NET including Xamarin implementations. Other topics include managed and web languages (C#, C++, Javascript), computer science theory, software engineering and software entrepreneurship.

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