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Memes and the Course of Human Events

Posted on March 23 2010 4:44 pm
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by T.A. Speaker

Memes. A necessary precursor to “transformative change” is the proliferation of mutually re-enforcing ideas, the combined authority of which eventually overwhelms majoritarian indifference. Professor Dennett, with whose strident atheism I must one day pick a bone, calls these ideas “memes”. Like animal species in nature, memes can interact in a variety of ways. The most potent, and potentially the most dangerous, participate in mutualistic associations, deriving benefit from each other even as hummingbirds and long-tubed flowers exchange pollination services for energy (nectar).

There are also costs, and there can be cheaters as well, topics best left for another occasion. For now, we note that as mutually-re-enforcing memes propagate, their ability to dominate the public discourse increases. The result can be an abrupt shift in the ideological landscape. In mathematics, such changes are called “catastrophes;” in engineering, “hard excitation.”

Often there is a trigger — for example, the importation of Lenin into Czarist Russia. But triggers only work when there is powder to ignite, i.e., when the memes are already potent, but not sufficiently so to spark revolution by themselves. Importantly, the trigger can itself be a mimetic consequence. This is because proliferating memes alter the societal context in which they exist. This, in turn, produces feedback (positive or negative) affecting the memes’ ability to propagate, influence and survive. In short, there is a nonlinear dynamics of memes, though, so far as I am aware, this has never been studied in a serious way.

Shown in the accompanying figure are some of the memes and mimetic consequences that threaten America as we know it:

1. Resurgent Marxism, in the guise of “affordable housing,” contributed to the current economic melt-down, which, due to rising unemployment, drives calls for Healthcare “Reform” (HR).

2. Marxism also promotes HR under the banner of “social justice.”

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