TED Conversations

Diane Benscoter

Author - "Shoes of a Servant", Salient


This conversation is closed.

Memetic condoms to prevent extremism

I see extremism as more than a belief system; it is a dangerous cognitive disorder. It creates circular logic and is fueled by a message of "us" verses "them". If extremism is an infectious destructive meme it must be understood and combated with an even more powerful meme.

Extremism cannot be stopped with 10, 000 or 100, 000 troops equipped with the latest weapons of war. It will rise up again, every time, because it is the meme - not the person infected by the meme - that lives on.

Utilizing methods such as fMRI, it should be feasible to demonstrate that certain “memetic infections” can disallow access to the part of the brain where rational thinking takes place.

Let’s assume it could be demonstrated that extremism is linked to a memetic infection which causes dangerous cognitive damage to the brain (even if temporary) and that certain vulnerabilities to this type of memetic infection could be clearly defined.

It would then be possible to create "memetic condoms," if you will, to immunize against such damage.

An effective meme should have fecundity, fidelity and longevity. Armed with solid facts about the cognitive damage and the inherent dangers of extremist memes, educational memes could be built. After being carefully constructed, these preventative memes could be propagated in targeted areas to those most vulnerable, for example, those in war torn places.

If we can understand what happens inside the brain, making it possible for otherwise good people to be able to commit unthinkable acts…we can begin the long road to prevention.


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • Apr 3 2011: I agree with Jordan, but I must go futher. I can see you wanting to create a protective tool to prevent others from suffering from past negative experiences that you've had. Unfortunatley for you, your expereince was bad, or more acurately, you decided it was bad. (i am not saying it was not bad, but others with free will might have been very happy in your shoes). Your plan requires a cure to a disorder for which many might not want a cure. It also requires an arbiter who chooses in advance what is worth protecting others from. Will that arbiter be you? If not how would they be chosen? What if they in fact were already infected with another more insideous meme, that makes their decision making all the more dangerous than just leaving people alone? I think you are a courageous and decent person who is now flirting with very a dangerous idea in an effort to save others from the heartache you suffered, wiithout realizing that for society in genrral and the freedom of the individual in specific, your cure may end up being much worse than the disease. Speak out against the moonies...not free thought, as you define it. Good luck to you.
    • thumb
      Apr 12 2011: It's not the Moonies I want or need to speak out against. My story is anecdotal. What I am concerned with is preventing dangerous extremism or fanaticism. I can, unfortunately, empathize with the mental condition of suicide bombers. My experience does allow me insight in that respect, but to focus on my experience is missing the point. A deeper understanding of memes and their effect on cognition is what I am proposing. In that understanding lies a key to preventing atrocities. I understand the concern you raise. I am suggesting preventing a disorder that is highly dangerous, not stripping freedom from anyone.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.