The Wheel, the Original Meme
One reason that we know that ideas stick and spread is because they’re useful.
Ramez Naam was born in Cairo, Egypt, and came to the US at the age of 3. He's a computer scientist who spent 13 years at Microsoft, leading teams working on email, web browsing, search, and artificial intelligence. He holds almost 20 patents in those areas.
Ramez is the winner of the 2005 H.G. Wells Award for his non-fiction book More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement. He's worked as a life guard, has climbed mountains, backpacked through remote corners of China, and ridden his bicycle down hundreds of miles of the Vietnam coast. He lives in Seattle, where he writes and speaks full time.
Ideas spread for lots of reasons. It might be a catchy tune or a funny joke that you’ve heard that sticks in the brain and makes you want to propagate it, to tell others. But one reason that we know that ideas stick and spread is because they’re useful. The useful ones propagate.
So an example is the wheel. The wheel was invented in Egypt but it was improved upon hundreds of years later in Sumaria by going from a solid disk to spokes. How did it get to Sumaria? Well, merchants used it to travel and spread their goods from point A to point B. So that utility to them, the fact that it was a useful invention helped the invention itself spread from place to place. It was carried by humans to other places where then it was improved upon by other people.
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