Read the whole article.
COLUMN - IN ORBIT - Dangerous Ideas:
"If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too." - Somerset Maugham
"The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first." – Thomas Jefferson
They are the new biological warfare, the ultimate propaganda weapon—weapons that make more of themselves—inside your and your neighbor's heads.
Units of cultural information that replicate have been called a variety of names—mnemes, mnemotypes, culturetypes, and idenes—before their current name caught on and, as befits the concept to which it refers, proliferated like there's no tomorrow. Which there may not be.
Memes—the notion of self-replicating bits of culture—are a seductive, slippery concept, vigorously debated in some corners of academia. And while I am serious in saying that they are easily deployed not just in marketing and church, but in counterintelligence and propaganda, they can also be merely banal or annoying. For example snippets of song you may not even like but can't get out of your head..."say I'd like to know, where you got the notion...Our love is like a ship on the ocean...rock the boat, don't rock the boat, baby...”—The Hues Corporation.
Memes take the form of clothing fashions, religious ideas, and technologies—anything that can replicate, not by genes (although they are ultimately involved) but by the monkey-see-monkey-do imitative tendencies—the mimesis from which their name derives—of the species Homo sapiens sapiens.
Memes were first brought to the world's attention by the erstwhile Richard Dawkins, who has himself morphed into a kind of meme, becoming not just a name but a cultural symbol—for atheism, and for Darwinism, especially neoDarwinism which considers genes to be the persistent physical core of evolution, with animals and species being mere vehicles for their persistence and spread.
Dawkins's name (quite similar to Darwin's, as if it were a nonlethal mutation) reproduces from text to text, and is invoked by atheists requiring ammunition against creationists and theocrats, as well as religionists attacking secular humanism and academics decrying the limitations of biological determinism. Dawkins as meme replicates not only on the spines of bestsellers, but in documentaries, talk shows, and on television in the famous South Park episode where he is portrayed buggering a bald transvestite.
Which illustrates one of the crucial differences between memes and things: memes do not die when you attack them. They spread.
If you drop a bomb on a building it can be destroyed. But if you attack an idea, complain about or lampoon an image, as in the Dawkins parody episode of South Park, you will tend to reinforce rather than destroy it.
Russian philosopher P. D. Ouspensky made precisely this point regarding a building and the events of the destruction of the Trade Towers and Building 7 on 9/11/2001 makes his assertion glaringly obvious: the images and ideas of these buildings, the controversies and questions surrounding them, photographs of and emotions connected with them, have proliferated in the wake of the their collapse.
There are a great variety of elements that use the nutritive broth of imitative humans to replicate rather than the double helical chemistry unveiled in 1953 by Francis Crick and James Watson. In his novel Daimon and his TED talk, software engineer Daniel Suarez chronicles the spread of “bots”—programs involved in gathering marketing data and surveillance that increase corporate efficiency, and give the cognoscenti greater powers of espionage.
According to Suarez, the bots seem innocuous, but they dangerously concentrate societal control in the hands of the few, chipping away at the ideal of democracy and traditional Western liberal values.Perhaps truly innocuous is RepRap.
Wednesday, March 09, 2011
Dorion Sagan - Dangerous Ideas: Memes and the New Orwellianism
Cool article on memes - units of cultural information that replicate - from Dorion Sagan at the Wild River Review.