Viterbi professor to release ‘Memes, Genes, and Cenes’

After studying social media culture throughout his career, computer science professor Len Adleman will be releasing “Memes, Genes, and Cenes,” a book that explores memes in popular culture, in late 2018.

Viterbi computer science professor Len Adleman’s new book will explore memes and their role in popular culture and media. Photo from Viterbi website.

In his book, Adleman argues that memes are alive and behave in similar ways to biological beings, experiencing the same reproduction and extinction. Adleman says that they struggle to survive and evolve in a Darwinian fashion.

“Memes are a generalization of genes, and, among other things, they include your beliefs,” Adleman wrote in the introduction of an early excerpt of his book. “After studying memes for many decades, I have come to think that they are as indispensable to our understanding of human phenomena as genes are to our understanding of biological ones.”

In 1977, Adleman co-created the RSA cryptography system, which is widely used for public-key encryption and security of sensitive data, like credit card numbers, with cryptographers Ron Rivest and Adi Shamir.

Adleman and his partners received the A. M. Turing Award in 2002 for this project, which is often regarded as the “Nobel Prize of computing,” according to the Association of Computing Machinery. Adelman’s system is used in almost all Internet-based transactions and has become a staple for e-commerce in the virtual world.

Most recently, Adleman, Rivest and Shami were named inductees this year in the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame. The 46th annual induction ceremony will be held at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. in May.

Adleman told Viterbi News that he has no plans to retire, and the almost 70,000 hours of research that he has accumulated for “Memes, Genes, and Cenes” is proof of this.

“The next time you run for president, fight a war or just deal with the ordinary problems that humans are heir to, perhaps the meme-centric perspective will be of use,” Adleman wrote in his book. “If you want to understand why you will die, or if you need guidance on achieving greatness, memes may help here as well.”