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When ideas mate and reproduce

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My life experiences may not be at par with the privileged or those who have been socially active whenever given the opportunity. But my experiences are unique in that a person’s point of view varies from others. So the things I’ve seen would be different from others did, just as one looking at a rainbow.

It’s true that ideas are rarely new.

Because ideas are memes.

And from [1], “memes carry information, are replicated, and are transmitted from one person to another, and they have the ability to evolve, mutating at random and undergoing natural selection, with or without impacts on human fitness (reproduction and survival).”

Talking to a senior with rich experiences, like being part of the country’s people power revolution, love affairs with international women of intellect, and engagement with classical music, you’ll hear a broad mix of ideas you won’t get elsewhere.

Ideas are memes.

And as Seth Godin always says, “Ideas that spread win.”

But how do we create more memes of an idea? By rubbing off shoulders with people. 

You may get many ideas from books, podcasts, and online content, but spending time with a person face to face makes the mating of ideas more fun and interactive. Because a lot of your senses get involved, and the memory becomes so immersive, you surely would remember the moment you spent talking with someone.

More about how ideas are reproduced, I’d like to put something from a recent book I read entitled, “Future Minds: How the Digital Age Is Changing Our Minds, Why This Matters, and What We Can Do About It (by Richard Watson)“:

Memory plays a key role in the generation of ideas. This is because ideas are rarely new. More often than not new ideas are actually a recombination of old ideas or existing thinking. For new ideas to be born you need to or more old ideas to jump into bed and get a bit frisky. 

What is more, ideas can only select their genetic parentage from ideas, and variants of ideas, that already exist. Thus thinking, and idea generation in particular, is associative. One of the key traits of highly creative individuals is the ability to combine unrelated elements to create new concepts. A key driver of this is experience. The physical clustering of like-minded individuals is also important, because if people are close together then ideas can easily jump between them.

Interestingly, this recombination is rarely done consciously. Our brains continually soak up information–every single experience we ever have–and then file it away for future use. Furthermore, these historical experiences do not just gather dust in some remote corner of our brain. They actively influence how we think and act on a day-to-day basis, although most of the time we have no idea that this is happening.


[1] “Meme | Definition, Meaning, History, & Facts | Britannica,” Mar. 31, 2023. https://www.britannica.com/topic/meme (accessed Apr. 02, 2023).

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