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Journal SanityInAnarchy's Journal: Memetic Engineering

I've heard quite a bit about frightening memes lately, particularly neo-conservative astroturfing. It's become pervasive enough that Occam's Razor tells me that it can't be wholly astroturf, it must be a successful meme.

I think of myself as mostly immune to memes. By that I mean, it takes more than a catchy slogan or a bit of thought to make me adopt a meme. I'm immune to advertising, peer pressure, etc. And of course I realize it's impossible to be completely immune and still remain human and relevant.

And yet, far too many people aren't even close. I have a good friend who is one of the smartest people I know, and yet he has at least a couple of memes he's accepted and never questioned thoroughly. He thinks very well about them, too, builds on them, and his beliefs are self-consistent, but choosing that memeplex over another is, as Spock would put it, "not logical."

What we need is a powerful immunizing meme. A meme that is more than a fad, that is potent enough to spread as easily as MySpace or emo/anti-emo, but which carries a payload that immunizes against other, similar memes. A meme that tells you to stand up and think for yourself, and to fight for your beliefs, never relax and stop caring.

With people actually thinking for themselves, it should be much easier to accomplish most political goals I share with most people reading this. For instance, a demand for verified voting would be much easier with people actually thinking -- we know they at least claim to care about democracy. Ditto to a boycott of high def media (DRM), a mass exodus from Windows where possible, or voting for the candidate who's actually an honest man, instead of the one who has the most corporations to finance his campaign.

In fact, I think much of my political beliefs can be distilled to a simple and effective meme, but I'm thinking of this like democracy. The original reasons for any democracy could've been solved with a monarchy -- with the American Revolution, we could've done away with the tea tax, stamp act, etc, and still made George Washington King, instead of President. But we chose democracy to make it last, based on the theory (if I may theorize) that if the new government had a flaw, or developed one, democracy would correct it without the need for another revolution.

Same for memes -- if we, as a species, can become fundamentally resistant to being so easily subverted by advertising, politics, astroturfing, and dishonest memes, and develop a habit of thinking for ourselves, and questioning our every assumption, then we get an automatic benefit: If any aspect of our government or society has a flaw, we will correct it, without the need for a massive grassroots, campaign, mememetic engineering, whatever. If the flaw is as blindingly obvious as, say, Diebold, then we will independantly and automatically reject it, Stand-Alone Complex style.

Oh, it won't eliminate the need for these things. People do disagree, so we will need to construct memes or campaigns for, say, Linux vs Windows. Some of you will be on one side, some on another side, each calling the other a fanboy, and that's ok. But I would much prefer an intelligent dialogue than the willful ignorance of the majority.

That is the ultimate goal here: Eliminate ignorant apathy. By the time young John Doe buys his first gas-guzzler, he should be making a definite statement that he doesn't care about the environment. He should not simply buy it by default because he didn't know about hybrid cars. By the time Jane Doe buys her first Dell, she should either be making the statement "I like/need Windows and don't mind supporting MS" or "This is the best value I can get for this kind of hardware." She should not be buying it by default, because Dell advertising has given her a subconscious assumption of "computer==dell". Nothing done by default, or if you do, make sure it's consciously by default: I got the default Ramen because it's not worth my time to choose Ramen flavors, when they taste so much alike.

Comments! I want to know if this can work!

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Memetic Engineering

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The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first. -- Blaise Pascal