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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 10 2012: Does the following definition characterize what you refer to as, "serious content"?:
    "Computing Dictionary, meme definition
    Richard Dawkins's term for an idea considered as a replicator, especially with the connotation that memes parasitise people into propagating them much as viruses do.
    Memes can be considered the unit of cultural evolution. Ideas can evolve in a way analogous to biological evolution. Some ideas survive better than others; ideas can mutate through, for example, misunderstandings; and two ideas can recombine to produce a new idea involving elements of each parent idea.
    The term is used especially in the phrase "meme complex" denoting a group of mutually supporting memes that form an organised belief system, such as a religion. However, "meme" is often misused to mean "meme complex".
    Use of the term connotes acceptance of the idea that in humans (and presumably other tool- and language-using sophonts) cultural evolution by selection of adaptive ideas has become more important than biological evolution by selection of hereditary traits. Hackers find this idea congenial for tolerably obvious reasons. "
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      Jun 10 2012: Yes, Edward, that is helpful. Dawkins listed the following three characteristics for any successful replicator:

      the more faithful the copy, the more will remain of the initial pattern after several rounds of copying. If a painting is reproduced by making photocopies from photocopies, the underlying pattern will quickly become unrecognizable.
      the faster the rate of copying, the more the replicator will spread. An industrial printing press can churn out many more copies of a text than an office copying machine.
      the longer any instance of the replicating pattern survives, the more copies can be made of it. A drawing made by etching lines in the sand is likely to be erased before anybody could have photographed or otherwise reproduced it.

      If we keep these in mind while thinking of, for instance, the people most likely to be vulnerable to the concept of becoming a suicide bomber for jihad - we can craft memes that will most effectively lower their vulnerability.
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        Jun 10 2012: Not that I advocate the horrors you mention, but I am concerned about how this Behavioral Modification Plan would be administered. Are we saying there is brainwashing, but it is for a good cause and therefor justified? How far does the Meme Designer Czar go in ridding humanity of "undesirable" behavior? I am opposed to the idea of "building memes."

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