Any user of a digital computer knows how precious computer time and memory storage space are. At many large computer centres they are literally costed in money; or each user may be allotted a ration of time, measured in seconds, and a ration of space, measured in ‘words’. The computers in which memes live are human brains.

p. 197 The computers in which memes live are human brains.

It was obviously predictable that manufactured electronic computers, too, would eventually play host to self-replicating patterns of information—memes. Computers are increasingly tied together in intricate networks of shared information. Many of them are literally wired up together in electronic mail exchange. Others share information when their owners pass floppy discs around. It is a perfect milieu for self-replicating programs to flourish and spread. When I wrote the first edition of this book I was naïve enough to suppose that an undesirable computer meme would have to arise by a spontaneous error in the copying of a legitimate program, and I thought this an unlikely event. Alas, that was a time of innocence. Epidemics of ‘viruses’ and ‘worms’, deliberately released by malicious programmers, are now familiar hazards to computer-users all over the world. My own hard disc has to my knowledge been infected in two different virus epidemics during the past year, and that is a fairly typical experience among heavy computer-users.

Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, 30th Anniversary Edition, 2006

Footnotes (1989 edition) are doubly indented.

Added to diary 27 June 2018