Behind the LOLcat: Schrodinger’s LOLcat

Schrodinger’s LOLcat

A few days ago, I was listening to a podcast lecture on the basics of quantum cryptography when I got into a discussion about the nitty-gritty of the subject with my friend Justin.

dantekgeek: exponential on a regular computer, but reasonable time on a quantum computer, right?
justinwick: Right right
justinwick: assuming ur in ur quantum computerz, giving them enuff qbitz
dantekgeek: hahahaha
justinwick: 🙂
justinwick: schrodinger’s lolcat

I quickly searched flickr for a suitable image, and came across Kevin Steele’s fantastic “a box for every cat.” Some quick work in Skitch, and Schrodinger’s lolcat was born.

I figured my circle of friends would get a kick out of it, and that maybe it would be picked up by BoingBoing, but could never have predicted the amount of exposure my little creation has received.

Others had the idea long before I came across it, but for whatever reason, it was my LOLcat which gets all the glory. This puts me in kind of a weird position; On one hand, I don’t want to be seen as taking credit for an idea that was already floating in the ether, but the fact remains that we did create this thing without knowledge of prior-art, and I think that should count for something.

I want to make clear that I couldn’t have made this thing on my own, and it was only through the spirit of the meme, my conversation with Justin, and Kevin’s photo that this thing came to fruition. I am but one small robot on the LOLcat assembly line.

I’m in talks with Justin and Kevin about possibly printing up some t-shirts, but nothing is guaranteed– we might choose to just let this thing stay online, where it was born, and where it belongs.

14 thoughts on “Behind the LOLcat: Schrodinger’s LOLcat”

  1. — This is truly the “beauty” of the Schrodinger’s LOLcat idea, when you don’t know if the idea come to you or come out of you.
    Maybe we are only the human-memetrackers of it, and by the way, you totally deserve the credit for taking the idea to it’s tippig point (in a good way I mean).


  2. I must say that I am quite shocked by how well this image has been received as well. When I logged onto Digg Saturday and saw that it was the top story, I had assumed simply that someone else had had the same idea. Good work Dan, and thanks for bringing my ridiculous idea into reality 🙂

  3. As for ideas floating in the ether… please indulge me.

    Back in 1993 I programmed the very first Virtual Bubble Wrap, which was an easter egg in a promotion for our company Mackerel, designed in Supercard.

    VBW was based on one of the same kind of flashes as Schrodinger’s LOLcat that seems so obvious after the fact, in this case it was one of my partners, Dave Groff, who had the flash. The moment Dave mentioned the idea I realized how easy it would be to build and make cool.

    In 1995 Joey Devilla was working at Mackerel. He did a great time rebuilding VBW in Director, and then had it ready to be one of the very first games ready the day Macromedia released Shockwave. It was really quite popular.

    The web was comparatively tiny back then. Even as Mackerel’s web presence faded over the years after ceasing operations ten years ago, there were waves after waves of newcomers arriving on the shores of the interent each year.

    Again and again we would encounter independent instances of Virtual Bubblewrap over the years, including “The Original Virtual Bubble Wrap” which has been online since 1996. I get some amusement watching that site do its best to maintain its earlyish web pedigree in the face of subsequent instances of VBW as it eventually became a cliché.

    If for some reason the LOLcat meme just continues to grow and mutate in a future where nothing goes away, there will be future Shrödinger’s LOLcats that come from people who have never seen yours.

  4. What seems to have happened here is this:

    “I’m in ur box playing Schrödinger’s copycat”

    A meme copying itself by impregnating multiple inventor’s minds with itself? 🙂

    Independent co-invention happens so frequently that I wonder that there is still no established technical term for it (like cryptomnesia for the phenomenon when a forgotten memory leading to unintentional plagiarism), although Wikipedia has “Multiple discovery” and even a long list of examples.

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