virus: What makes memes compete?

Reed Konsler (
Tue, 15 Apr 1997 11:18:44 -0400

>From: "Corey A. Cook" <>
>Date: Mon, 14 Apr 97 14:38:58 CT

>Reed wrote:
>>It is only very recently that people could learned to read
>>to themselves.
>[1]What makes you say that? Is this a stable fact, or an illumination?
>[2]How recently? The last century, the last millenium, the last
> five millenium... How long?
>[3]Does this mean that until recently, _nobody_ could read to
> themselves, or that a statistically small number could while
> the majority couldn't?

Oh, crap. I though I might be able to sneak that one by...

[1] I can't answer that question.
[2] There are reports of Alexander the Great's troops being amazed by
his ability to understand communication without reading them aloud.
So, I suppose it depends on your idea of "recently".
[3] Literacy, to any real extent was a product of printing. Before then
there it really wasn't needed to be more or less successful. Thus
before that time people who could read were probably seen as wizards
and jealously guarded what little real knowledge they had. In a
sense, it was the explosion of power in the written word which
made literacy so common...the power of reading became so obvious
that people would sacrifice a lot for the ability.

I don't really know how common silent reading was before printing...although
according to Eisenstein ("The Printing Press as an Agent of Change") Reniasance
Scriptoriums resounded with the echos of numerous monks whispering to
themselves as they copied the texts. There are a number of ways to interpret
such accounts, though. The problem is that no one is going to say "June 10,
1910: We still don't understand Quantum Chromdynamics because Einstein has yet
to let us in on his dreams" and similarly no one will say "Nobody around here
knows how to read without moving their lips" else CAN you read?

But everyone I know first learned how to read by listening to themselves and
only afterwards learned "silent reading". Perhaps it depends on education?

Numer of variables...I would guess the answer is there have always been a few
"silent readers" but it has only recently (say, past 300-400 years) become
common. There have been so many information revolutions since then (Radio, TV,
Computer, etc.) that I think it's very difficult to understand the
"world-of-mind" of people in the past.