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Germs, Genes, and Memes: Function and Fitness Dynamics on Information Networks

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022


Understanding the dynamics of information is crucial to many areas of research, both inside and outside of philosophy. Using computer simulations of three kinds of information, germs, genes, and memes, we show that the mechanism of information transfer often swamps network structure in terms of its effects on both the dynamics and the fitness of the information. This insight has both obvious and subtle implications for a number of questions in philosophy, including questions about the nature of information, whether there is genetic information, and how to arrange scientific communities.

Research Article
Copyright © The Philosophy of Science Association

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This work was supported in part by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences MIDAS grant 1U54GM088491-01, Computational Models of Infectious Disease Threats, administered by the Graduate School for Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh. We are also thankful to many audiences for their feedback on this work, particularly Michael Weisberg’s Philosophy of Science Lab at the University of Pennsylvania. Patrick Grim and Daniel J. Singer contributed equally to this research.


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