Archive for October, 2010

Network Realism

October 25, 2010 Leave a comment

from BookTwo’s Network Realism: William Gibson and new forms of Fiction:

Gibson’s been talking a lot lately about atemporality, this idea that we live in a sort of endless digital now. In “Zero History” we have an echo of “No Future”: everything compressed into the present. This idea is what Zero History is really about. (This is the Order Flow: the future is defined by the present; who pinpoints the present controls the future.)

While not one to contradict Gibson himself, I’m not sure I buy this exactly: indeed, the wikihistoriography project was, in part, a refutation of this view. But it’s undeniable that something is happening, a network effect produced by the sudden visibility of just how unevenly distributed those futures are.

I want to give it a name, and at this point I’m calling it Network Realism.

Network Realism is writing that is of and about the network. It’s realism because it’s so close to our present reality. A realism that posits an increasingly 1:1 relationship between Fiction and the World. A realtime link. And it’s networked because it lives in a place that’s that’s enabled by, and only recently made possible by, our technological connectedness.

Zero History is Network Realism because of the way that it talks about the world, and the way its knowledge of the world is gathered and disseminated. Gibson seems to be navigating the spider graph of current reality as wikiracing does human knowledge.

Links and formating from the original, and tip of the hat toward technoccult for this one.

If you’ve read anything here, it should be obvious that this is getting quoted primarily for the “1:1 relationship between Fiction and the World” & “our technological connectedness” paragraph – but while I’m at it, I’ll just simply point out that BookTwo’s “wikihistoriography” material does not actually refute Gibson’s “endless digital now” – “Everything should have a history button” is just another way of saying “everything compressed into the present.”

Categories: Uncategorized

fusion paranoia

October 4, 2010 Leave a comment

from Mel Ayton’s Conspiracy Thinking and the John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Assassinations:

There was always an inevitability in the linking of the assassinations to alleged ‘conspirators’. America is obsessed with conspiracy theories and a large proportion of the population believe there are conspiratorial answers to everything from the JFK assassination to the sightings of alien spacecraft. This has occurred because there is a general psychological tendency for people to think that a major or significant event must have been caused by something similarly major, significant or powerful. As historian Henry Steele Commager observed in the late 1960s, “There has come in recent years something that might be called a conspiracy psychology: a feeling that great events can’t be explained by ordinary processes. We are on the road to a paranoid explanation of things. The conspiracy theory, the conspiracy mentality, will not accept ordinary evidence…there’s some psychological requirement that forces them to reject the ordinary and find refuge in the extraordinary.”

An article in the American Journal of Psychology explains this phenomena as, “Humans naturally respond[ing] to events or situations which have had an emotional impact upon them by trying to make sense of those events, typically in values-laden spiritual, moral or political terms, though occasionally in scientific terms. Events which resist such interpretation—for example, because they are, in fact, senseless—can provoke the inquirer to have recourse to ever more extreme speculations, until one is reached that is capable of offering the inquirer the required emotional satisfaction. Once cognized, confirmation bias and avoidance of cognitive dissonance may reinforce the belief. In a context where conspiracy theory has become popular within a social group, communal reinforcement may equally play a part. As sociological historian Holger Herwig found in studying German explanations of World War I: ‘Those events that are most important are hardest to understand, because they attract the greatest attention from mythmakers and charlatans’.” Dr Patrick Leman of the Royal Holloway University of London also conducted research into the phenomenon. Leman said that conspiracy theories flower because people feel distanced from institutions of power so are more likely to distrust official accounts. Furthermore, he observed, the rise of the internet allows new theories to spread quickly and widely. (The Economist, 9.7.2004)

from Wikipedia’s entry on Conspiracy theory, subsection on Political use:

In his two volume work The Open Society and Its Enemies Popper used the term “conspiracy theory” to criticize the ideologies driving fascism, Nazism and communism. Popper argued that totalitarianism was founded on “conspiracy theories” which drew on imaginary plots driven by paranoid scenarios predicated on tribalism, racism or classism. Popper did not argue against the existence of everyday conspiracies (as incorrectly suggested in much of the later literature). Popper even uses the term “conspiracy” to describe ordinary political activity in the classical Athens of Plato (who was the principal target of his attack in The Open Society & Its Enemies).

In his critique of Marx and the twentieth century totalitarians, Popper wrote, “I do not wish to imply that conspiracies never happen. On the contrary, they are typical social phenomena.”[32]

He reiterated his point, “Conspiracies occur, it must be admitted. But the striking fact which, in spite of their occurrence, disproved the conspiracy theory is that few of these conspiracies are ultimately successful. Conspirators rarely consummate their conspiracy.”[32]

Popper proposed the term “the conspiracy theory of society” to criticize the methodology of Marx, Hitler and others whom he deemed to be deluded by “historicism” – the reduction of history to an overt and naive distortion via a crude formulaic analysis usually predicated on an agenda replete with unsound presuppositions.[33]

(fourth and final paragraph above now deleted from Wikipedia.)

from Wikipedia’s entry on Conspiracy theory, subsection on fusion paranoia:

Michael Kelly, a Washington Post journalist and critic of anti-war movements on both the left and right, coined the term “fusion paranoia” to refer to a political convergence of left-wing and right-wing activists around anti-war issues and civil liberties, which he claimed were motivated by a shared belief in conspiracism or anti-government views.

Social critics have adopted this term to refer to the synthesis of paranoid conspiracy theories, which were once limited to American fringe audiences, has given them mass appeal and enable them to become commonplace in mass media, thereby inaugurating an unrivaled popular culture of conspiracism in the U.S. of the late 20th and early 21st century. Some warn that this development in conspiracy theory may have negative effects on American political life, such as producerist demagogy and moral panic influencing elections as well as domestic and foreign policy.[14]

Daniel Pipes, a Jerusalem Post journalist, wrote in the 2004 article Fusion paranoia–A new twist in conspiracy theories:

Fears of a petty conspiracy – a political rival or business competitor plotting to do you harm – are as old as the human psyche. But fears of a grand conspiracy – that the Illuminati or Jews plan to take over the world – go back only 900 years and have been operational for just two centuries, since the French Revolution. Conspiracy theories grew in importance from then until World War II, when two arch-conspiracy theorists, Hitler and Stalin, faced off against each other, causing the greatest blood-letting in human history. This hideous spectacle sobered Americans, who in subsequent decades relegated conspiracy theories to the fringe, where mainly two groups promoted such ideas.

The politically disaffected: Blacks (Louis Farrakhan, Cynthia McKinney), the hard Right (John Birch Society, Pat Buchanan), and other alienated elements (Ross Perot, Lyndon LaRouche). Their theories imply a political agenda, but lack much of a following.

The culturally suspicious: These include “Kennedy assassinologists,” “ufologists,” and those who believe a reptilian race runs the earth and alien installations exist under the earth’s surface. Such themes enjoy enormous popularity (a year 2000 poll found 43 percent of Americans believing in UFOs), but carry no political agenda.

The major new development, reports Barkun, professor of political science in the Maxwell School at Syracuse University, is not just an erosion in the divisions between these two groups, but their joining forces with occultists, persons bored by rationalism. Occultists are drawn to what Barkun calls the “cultural dumping ground of the heretical, the scandalous, the unfashionable, and the dangerous” – such as spiritualism, Theosophy, alternative medicine, alchemy, and astrology. Thus, the author who worries about the Secret Service taking orders from the Bavarian Illuminati is old school; the one who worries about a “joint Reptilian-Bavarian Illuminati” takeover is at the cutting edge of the new synthesis. These bizarre notions constitute what the late Michael Kelly termed “fusion paranoia,” a promiscuous absorption of fears from any source whatsoever.

fand rom Daniel Pipes’ [Michael Barkun on] Old Conspiracies, New Beliefs, from NY Sun, following on the quote above:

The connection of conspiracy theorists and occultists follows from their common, crooked premises. First, “any widely accepted belief must necessarily be false.” Second, rejected knowledge — what the establishment spurns — must be true.

The result is a large, self-referential network. Flying saucer advocates promote anti-Jewish phobias. Anti-Semites channel in Peru. Some anti-Semites see extraterrestrials functioning as surrogate Jews; others believe the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are the joint product of “the Rothschilds and the reptile-Aryans.” By the late 1980s, Mr. Barkun found that “virtually all of the radical right’s ideas about the New World Order had found their way into UFO literature.”

Commentary: …of primary interest here is the example of large-self-referential networks developing out of simple rules.

Categories: exhaust fumes Tags:

memes + innoculation

October 1, 2010 Leave a comment

formerly at Wikipedia’s entry for meme, but now rewritten:

A meme (pronounced /mi?m or m?m/) consists of any unit of cultural information, such as a practice or idea, that gets transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another. Examples include thoughts, ideas, theories, practices, habits, songs, dances and moods and terms such as race, culture, and ethnicity. Memes propagate themselves and can move through a “culture” in a manner similar to the behavior of a virus.

deleted from Wikipedia’s entry on memes, subsection on memetic engineering:

Memetic engineering consists of the process of developing memes, through meme-splicing and memetic synthesis, with the intent of altering the behavior of others. It consists of the process of creating and developing theories or ideologies based on an analytical study of societies, their ways of thinking and the evolution of the minds that comprise them. The term was coined by Leveious Rolando, Gibran Burchett, and John Sokol.[citation needed] Attempts at Artificial Meme-Phrase Creation have not met with noted success, though apocryphal stories tell of the putative origins of these sorts of memes.[23]

Sometimes people modify and fabricate memes consciously, even intentionally (think the self-image of advertising agencies, for example – though some argue that the intention comes from the memes).[attribution needed] This would help to explain how rapidly, extensively and usefully memetic evolution has functioned in and for culture.[original research?] People apply many ever-evolving meme-based systems of analysis and error-correction to all information flowing in and out.[citation needed] Just as genetic material has developed gene-based error-correction models, memetic systems have “found” it advantageous to associate with meme-based error-correction models.[citation needed]

However, attempting to popularize a fabricated meme or an unproven theory often results in a backlash against said meme: the originators of a meme may appear to have a hidden agenda, as in the case of intelligent design.[24]

deleted from Wikipedia’s entry on memes, subsection on propagation of memes:

In modern times, the advent of the Internet – and more specifically of email – has provided memes with a high-fidelity propagation medium that enables highly prolific memes to propagate quickly. For example, chain-emails furnish a significant instance: in-depth studies have examined their evolution and mutation based on their differential survival rate.[original research?] Paper-based chain-letters, predecessors to this meme-distribution net, have also attracted study,[27] but they have a lower propagation-rate due to the higher copying effort, and a higher mutation-rate may have occurred due to manual transcription or degraded photocopying, thus potentially reducing their lifespan. It seems plausible that the first email chain-letters started when recipients transcribed paper-based chain-letters to email[attribution needed], suggesting that memes can move from one propagation medium to another (more efficient) one.[original research?]

an important concept, given the viral metaphor, but now deleted from Wikipedia’s entry on memes, subsection on resistance to certain memes:

Karl Popper advocated memetic caution in the strongest possible terms: “The survival value of intelligence is that it allows us to extinct a bad idea, before the idea extincts us.”[citation needed]

Resistance to violent and destructive courses of action has formed a common meme that can guide human cultural and cognitive evolution away from disastrous paths[attribution needed] – for instance the U.S. and USSR stockpiled but did not deploy nuclear weapons in action in the period of the Cold War. Some cultures can consider ignorance a virtue – in particular, ignorance of certain temptations that the culture believes would prove disastrous if pursued by many individuals. See for example the operation of the Index librorum prohibitorum.

The Internet, perhaps the ultimate meme-vector to date[attribution needed], seems to host both sides of this debate[original research?]. Opposition to use of the Internet can stem from any number of memes: from ethics to intent to ability to resist hacking or pornography.[attribution needed]

from Stuart Moulthrop’s No War Machine:

McDaid’s nuclear war script is not a virus in this sense. Because it operates only on its own code, it cannot infect other objects or files. It is actually a recursive accretor, a strange parody of a virus that only infects itself — a “suicide machine” in Deleuze and Guattari’s terms (356). Yet the implications of the script are clear enough: the technologique that produces interactive fiction is deeply allied to that which produces invasive, self-reproducing texts. David Porush has observed that the encounter between fiction and technology produces a “soft machine” in which writers seek to “innoculate” their literary imagination against the inroads of machine culture (x). As Porush points out, the overture to viral language is among the most powerful of these innoculations. McDaid’s script illustrates this quite clearly: the script is not a real virus, only a fairly benign approximation. (There are no real viruses anywhere in the Funhouse.) But innoculation, like all homeopathies, collapses the opposition between sickness and health, benignity and malice. So we might learn from McDaid’s quasi-viral escapade that the mutant machine of hypertext always implies its viral alter ego. We can understand hypertextual fictions only if we consider them in the context of cybernetic viruses — or to be precise, viral fictions.

The promiscuousness of the virus sets off a disastrous explosion of discourse, much as McDaid has shown. But the promiscuousness of hypertext points elsewhere, not to manic reiteration but toward a plenum of differential possibilities, or polylogue. As in the case of the virus, the full development of this mutant discourse is only approximated in current examples. Hypertext fictions as we know them represent what Joyce has called “exploratory hypertexts,” structures whose multiplicity is strictly limited by authorial design (see “Siren Shapes”). These writings may not be “electronic books,” but they are definitely cases of technonarcissism, multiples that collapse into an essential unity. But just as we have the myth of a self-evolving, artificially intelligent virus, there is also a myth of advanced hypertextuality. This is what Joyce calls “constructive hypertext:” an unlimited, dynamic, collaborative body of writing shared with many reader/writers across an information network — a primitive analogue for the consensual hallucination of cyberspace. Discursive promiscuousness in this context would mean, at least in some degree, a flattening of hierarchies and a revision or dissemination of authority.

from Edward Rothstein’s Technology: CONNECTIONS;Beyond ‘The Selfish Gene,’ where ideas alter the ways in which we think (at NY Times):

Various notions of meme are circulating, but most compare the meme to a disease or computer virus. Mr. Dawkins tended to consider a meme to be a kind of grand illusion, “informational parasites.” Even a profession of “faith,” he wrote, was a sign of a meme: the object of faith owes nothing to reason or evidence, but is still felt to be unquestionable; God, he suggested, is a meme. The impact of related memes is evident in cults that seem to break down any kind of mental “immune” system, allowing the memes to “infect” the brain. Self-preservation becomes less important than meme-preservation, which is why a cult leader can inspire mass suicide. (…)

Yet we suspect that more is going on. Even Mr. Dawkins wants some nonmemetic priority reserved for science since “the selective forces that scrutinize scientific ideas are not arbitrary and capricious.” He sees science as a means for inoculation against memes. But cultural ideas are not arbitrary; we deem them so at our risk. Ideas have power beyond their ability to replicate. There is a world beyond memes.

{Commentary: Rothstein does not seem to appreciate the difference between “natural selective” forces (being blind, random) and other non-random selective forces. This gets back to Popper and the analogy between natural selection and scientific progress.}

from Glenn Fleishman’s Viruses of the Mind:

How to fight a memetic virus? With good information (memetic antibodies) and with inoculation. The antibodies and inoculations represent individuals who try to assemble the actual facts and post of E-mail them to the same forums where the viruses originated in the first place.

from Damian Peterson’s Genes and Memes in a Nutshell:

Over many millions of years we’ve adapted clever ways to detect whether someone has good genes or not and we’re quite picky about who would make a good partner to make copies of our genes with. But we’ve only been doing the meme thing for a relatively short amount of time and with the volatile mixture of poor meme-recognition and the sheer speed at which memes can mutate we have to be very careful not to allow bad memes to spread. A bad meme can do infinitely more damage than genetic heart defects and cancer. Just ask a victim of the crusades, the holocaust, jihad, Rwanda, Somalia, Bosnia, Pearl Harbour, Hiroshima, Afghanistan, the KKK, the slave ships, the Inquisition or the Roman Empire.

One of the best ways to inoculate your body against a bad meme is the liberal application of rational thought. Most bad memes don’t stand up to reasoned scrutiny and most bad memes occur in environments that discourage free thought and criticism. If a meme doesn’t encourage scrutiny or open criticism then it’s possibly hiding something. Stay on your guard; life’s too short for bad memes.

formerly at the dawkins forum, now apparently down. this was cached here at some point: — attribution unkown:

The reason I ask is that I’ve come to the realization that cults (evangelism included) are not just caused by a meme, but by a highly evolved, pathogenic and infectious meme. (I suspect that lots of people might already see it this way, but it is rarely written as if to come from such a perspective. Has anyone formally published a meme theory of contagious mental illness, as in a parallel to the germ theory of disease?)

The key to a pathogenic meme is that most memes are just replicators, but these pathogenic memes actually alter the way people think. As Sargant has shown in Battle for the Mind, there are physiological controls on how/what we think, and these things can be triggered by thoughts alone. That is, in the most extreme cases, high-intensity or a severe deficit of anger, fear, pain, and other emotions and stimuli, can alter your core beliefs and how your mind actually processes information. Anyone who understands how life has evolved should be able to instantly recognize how these replicating thoughts have evolved, by random mutation and selection pressures, the ability to control human beings in order to reproduce themselves more efficiently.

Attacking the dogma totally ignores the mechanisms by which people have become ill and remain ill. As I said you are fighting symptoms instead of trying to go after the cause. It also doesn’t protect rational people from being infected because these memes do not work by convincing people via rational thought, they are highly evolved to be able to bypass and subvert those defenses.

I don’t know if it’s possible to find a “cure” for viral memes, but what I am positive about is:

-Everybody who is not mentally ill is susceptible to brainwashing/mind control. Certain personality types are resistant to some techniques and less susceptible to others, but NOBODY is immune to them all, unless they do not have a physiological brain. This includes you and me. (I think accepting this is the biggest obstacle.)

-Nobody will ever find a way to destroy or reverse viral memes by denying their existence or blaming their victims.

-Like life, viral memes are continuing to evolve. The information age has vastly increased their replication rates, and the competition between these virii and is probably ratcheting up their rate of evolution. At some point they will find the key to subverting those personality types who are more resistant and they’ll quickly fill that niche… our minds. What happens to the world when the rational ones are knocked off by this type of thing?

You won’t destroy cult memes by debunking their dogma because it is not the cause of their insanity, it is a result of it.

In long,

Knowledge is in this case the vaccine against mind viruses. Like all vaccines they best work on those that are yet to be infected. By the preventive spread of the meme it stops spreading. By showing the truth behind what they try to say, it strips the power of that idea and kills it.

But as the old quote goes “it is easier to take a fortress from within by stealth the from without by force”, so by attacking the idea directly will only steel them in their resolve. Though by creating doubts, their own mind will destroy these ideas from within, again this is done by showing the truth of what they say. Hence why we probe the devout and don’t take them directly on.

But the hardest thing to do is show them a world where they don’t need their gods, to fight the fear which forms the basis of their beliefs. This can only be done once they start to question everything.

What is that fear, The fear of death, which really is fear of the unknown.

Categories: memes