Diane Benscoter

Author - "Shoes of a Servant", Salient
Portland, OR, United States

About Diane

TED Conferences

TEDWomen 2013, TED2011, TED2010, TED2009

Talk to me about

Peace Memes, longevity, your passions

My TED story

I discovered TED nearly 10 years ago while searching for signs of intelligent life in the universe, as Lili Tomlin would say. It immediately became a life goal to attend the conference.

I had the great honor of attending TED, and also presenting a short TED talk at TEDU in 2009. My talk was about about the 5 years I spent inside a religious cult in the early 70s and the subsequent 5 years spent as a deprogrammer. In the talk, I drew a parallel between what I had been through and extremists such as suicide bombers.

In 2010, I attended TED Active. It was WONDERFUL!! I will be back in Long Beach this year but highly recommend either.

Attending TED feeds me like nothing else could. It's not just the talks, but also the attendees that make the week so spectacular. I now know there is intelligent life - very intelligent life, and very inspiring life on this planet. Because of TED I am convinced we are evolving toward peace on this planet.

Comments & conversations

95694
Diane Benscoter
Posted about 2 years ago
Can we build useful memes? Peace memes?
Thank you Barry. Because of my experience, of losing my cognitive freedom to a religious cult, I have some thoughts about it that are a bit different than those you described. My interest is in first understanding three things as much as possible. 1. Memeplexes that grow out of an addiction to power or money. These memeplexes tend to evolve into a set of psychological themes, such as described in Robert Jay Lifton's book; Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism (Chapter 22) which as he says "pose the gravest of human threats". 2. Vulnerability - I am interested in creating a developmental scale that would help identify stages of life when an individual is most vulnerable to all-or-nothing memeplexes as well as factors that contribute to vulnerability at any stage of life, such as divorce, loss of career, etc. 3. Prevention - Once we understand the problem of memetic infection better, as discovered through above - the information needs to be disseminated to those most vulnerable in the most effective ways. The creation of these memes has a strong resemblence to those you mentioned in your question but are targeted to prevent manipulation. As you point out, memes are already used in all the cases you suggest. I am proposing a focus on preventing manipulation. Again, thank you for your comment!
95694
Diane Benscoter
Posted about 2 years ago
Can we build useful memes? Peace memes?
Yes, Edward, that is helpful. Dawkins listed the following three characteristics for any successful replicator: copying-fidelity: 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. fecundity: 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. longevity: 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.
95694
Diane Benscoter
Posted over 3 years ago
Memetic condoms to prevent extremism
Thank you Trey. This is the heart of what I am saying. I would like to be part of an effort to "target educate" specific areas of the population that are most vulnerable to extremism as well as the general population.
95694
Diane Benscoter
Posted over 3 years ago
Memetic condoms to prevent extremism
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.
95694
Diane Benscoter
Posted over 3 years ago
Where on the continuum does religion become extremism? Is extremism a cognitive disorder?
Hi Debra, You make some very good points which I tend to agree with. After much consideration regarding this issue I I have narrowed my focus to preventing extremist terrorism. That doesn't mean the concept is not valid and important in many areas; even abusive relationships exhibit similar characteristics. There will always be charismatic leaders who offer easy answers to complex situations. When those "answers" are backed up with some concept of "God" as the voice of the answers it becomes very potent. That being said; politics, among other highly charged belief systems, can also be the fuel to feed extremism. You can't stop a powerful destructive meme with troops. Killing those infected will not stop the meme...Yet, I I think there IS a way to prevent extremist memes from spreading. Understanding our vulnerabilities is key to prevention. We need to provide "memetic condoms" to those most susceptible to being influenced by power hungry meme spreaders - whose goal is to create "us" and "them" thinking in order to dominate. I'm not suggesting replacing a belief system with another one. I am suggesting understanding the human condition from a memetic perspective as it relates to extremism and spreading that understanding to take fuel away from the most dangerous and destructive meme spreaders.
95694
Diane Benscoter
Posted over 3 years ago
Where on the continuum does religion become extremism? Is extremism a cognitive disorder?
Hi Peter. Thank you for your post and your candor. I understand your points would not dispute the power of power. My hope is to understand the characteristics of those most vulnerable to extremist memes. I also hope to understand, through research, as much as possible about what happens, from a neuroscience perspective, when certain vulnerabilities meet certain types of extremist memes. I am not worried about you strapping a bomb to your body and detonating for Jesus! However, someone who is lost in their world, whose world is war torn, who is at the prime of their life with little hope for happiness...etc. I worry about. Therein is my passion. I want to protect those most vulnerable. In doing so, the Hitlers of the world may have less to feed on.