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memes + innoculation

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
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