virus: Darwin's dangerous idea out of control

David McFadzean (
Thu, 05 Oct 1995 10:16:58 -0600

Last week on the first day of a very relaxing vacation on Vancouver Island,
I was fortunate enough to stumble across a copy of Dennett's new book,
"Darwin's Dangerous Idea". It was, to use the reviewer's old cliche,
almost impossible to put down, though I had to several times to eat and
sleep. If Virus was to adopt a bible, this might just be it. Here's my
review from the book's web page (

Darwin's dangerous idea is seductively simple: all the complexity
and diversity we witness around us can be explained by natural
selection, a mindless and algorithmic process. Yet it is so easy to
miss the subtle implications and misapply the knowledge, some of
recent history's brightest minds (including professional
evolutionary biologists!) have fallen in confusion. Fortunately
Dennett has turned his illuminating attention on the problem. With
his keen wit and conversational style he proves to be a masterful
sightseeing guide on the incredible and exciting journey begun by
Darwin. Truly inspiring, I highly recommend it to all Virions.

Another book finished recently and highly recommended is Kevin Kelly's
"Out of Control" (see
Kelly provides an excellent survey of the rise of "neo-biological
civilization" which reads like a list of everything I find interesting:
Darwinism, memetics, AI, artificial life, e-money, complexity, cybernetics,
game theory, chaos, cryptography, genetic algorithms, cognitive science,
etc., etc. The common thread is complex adaptive systems, what Kelly
calls "vivisystems", where biology meets technology. A common theme in
this book and Dennett's is the Library of all possible books (attributed to
Jorge Luis Borge), a metaphor for the Vast space of all possible phenotypes.
I will have to add this concept to the web page of valuable memes. Buy
this book, it is worth the price for the annotated bibliography alone.

I've added another definition to the home page:
Virus is Darwin's dangerous idea out of control!

Anyone else read any good books lately?

David McFadzean       
Memetic Engineer      
Merak Projects Ltd.