TED Conversations

Holly Arnold

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Are memes important for our survival? How can we draw on memetic theory to inspire ideas of sustainability that go viral?

Memes are elements of a culture or behavior that may be passed from one individual to another by non-genetic means. Dan Dennet's TED talk addresses memes that are powerful because they inspire passionate, extremist behavior based on idealistic notions of freedom, justice, truth, communism, capitalism, and religion. While not always bad, memes can be destructive and result in conflict and death. Yet, memes have great potential benefit to humanity by eliciting behaviors that promote equality, peace, and sustainability. Sustainability in particular has been suggested to be the most important factor in determining the fate of humanity, as discussed by Paul Gildings. How can we harness the power of memes to inspire notions of patriotism, freedom, and justice that elicit a passionate response for the cause of sustainability, rather than a passionate response that leads to conflict?


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    Mar 8 2012: Every year, a pair of popular vlogging brothers, appropriating called "the vlogbrothers" arrange what is called the "Project for Awesome." The idea is that for one day, a bunch of vloggers will get together and make videos talking about their favorite charities and then everyone participating with like and comment and favorite these videos so that they can reach the "most popular" section on youtube. I think this is a really good example of how the internet community can come together and use their meme creation and replication skills to promote good ideas and people and organizations around the world that are putting these good ideas into action. In the world of the internet, memes are replicating and spreading much faster than I think they have in the past and if sustainability can join the ranks of other widespread internet memes, I think it can find a way to truly take hold in our everyday lives.
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      Mar 8 2012: On the "Project for Awesome" note, I think that using youtube and other internet mediums to spread awareness about social issues is great and being able to use something like the vblogging brothers to shine light to charities is great. This also reminds me of the recent Kony 2012 meme that is having such increased popularity. It is aimed at spreading awareness about the children suffering from the LRA in Uganda and seeks for Joseph Koni, the head of this problem to be stopped. The campaign has made a video and is spreading quickly around the country to get public attention. Te campaign is spreading the idea of ending conflict by the promotion of lasting peace and they are using fliers, facebook, twitter, FM radio broadcasts means of communication to spread the word. Now everyone that sees the posters of the elephant and donkey sharing the same head , know taht it is talking about the Koni campaign and that it is representing democrat and republican parties coming together and standing as one in this issue. Now there are even shirts that have that picture and says "One thing we can all agree on".
      This is why I think this is a great example of how we can use memes for the greater good of the people and our society. We are observing now more and more people stand up for issues they believe in and take action into their own hands.
      • Mar 8 2012: I thought I'd be the first to mention the Kony meme, but you posted this while I was writing my response!
        Perhaps the "great minds think alike" meme is true?

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