TED Conversations

Diane Benscoter

Author - "Shoes of a Servant", Salient


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Can we build useful memes? Peace memes?

The term meme has been debated for years, but it has recently gone mainstream. There are hugely popular sites like knowyourmeme, memegenerator and quickmeme. They are referring to internet culture and for the most part lack serious content.

Still, the usefulness of the term meme in it's more scientific definition has not been fully taken advantage of. I see the possibility of building powerful packages of information that spreads quickly - and more importantly can do good things. Using our understanding of what makes a powerful meme can we set out to build them for specific purposes?

Can we, for instance, build memes that are targeted toward those most vulnerable to being infected with dangerous memes such as those that infected hitler youth, suicide bombers and religious cult members?


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    Jun 9 2012: Like vaccination. The trick is to spread memes that look like the target memes, but are milder and easier to destroy.
    Education is such a vaccination. Memes in the classroom are weak. A class on suicide bombers is a vaccine.
    When you're out of the class room, the dangerous meme is recognized, and you've learnt how to deal with it while it was mild. And you're immune to BS.
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      Jun 9 2012: I agree with you wholeheartedly! The more we "vaccinate" against manipulation the less power manipulators will have.
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        Jun 10 2012: But there's something else education should do...
        It so happens that dangerous memes look alike. They all have "because X said so" extensions.
        We're wired to be intimidated by this and surrender to whatever nonsense is being delivered. So the easy thing to do it to build an immunity to that single extension.
        For instance, let's write on the walls in school the old Nullius in Verba :


        And instead of the idiotic allegiance to the flag, let the day begin with a short summary of what this means ; that knowledge comes with explanations.

        Or why not change the nasty " Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test." by the imperative :


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