Author Topic: The Art of Memetics: Cliff Notes  (Read 5075 times)

Cramulus

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The Art of Memetics: Cliff Notes
« on: September 08, 2010, 04:50:12 pm »
I've decided to re-read The Art of Memetics. This is one of my favorite books, and I want to share it with everybody. Some people consider its density an obstacle to reading, so I'd like to do my best to summarize what Ed and Wes are talking about. Feel free to comment, ask questions, etc... I will answer as best I can.

Cramulus

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Re: The Art of Memetics: Cliff Notes
« Reply #1 on: September 08, 2010, 04:51:55 pm »


Chapter 1 - Evaluating Tools

Memetics is the science of cultural evolution. It examines how an idea emerges and becomes integrated into a larger system's behaviors. By studying memetics, we can learn to better understand our lives and achieve our desires.

There are a few things we're going to talk about here--let's define some vocabulary.

Magic is a highly loaded term which used to represent a much broader field. Over time, the useful bits of it were carted off and transformed by other sciences (alchemy, for example, eventually became chemistry). While many occult practices are a bit dated, the language used to describe the occult is highly useful for describing ephemeral things like memes and internal states. When we talk about magic, we're using Taylor Ellwood's definition: “Magic involves making the improbable possible. It’s learning how even the slightest change you make can have a radical effect on the internal system of your psychology/spirituality, and the external system of the environment and universe you live in.”

A meme is (as Dawkins puts it) a "unit of cultural inheritance". It is more or less another word for an idea.

An egregore is a body capable of transmitting memes across a network. Also known as a mastermind group, it refers to a network's "hivemind". This abstraction is useful because a group of individuals displays many of the same properties as a single individual. By understandings a group's drives and personality, we will be better able to position our ideas within that group.

There are two models of memetics we are using concurrently; one is the seed or virus model where small scale individual signals infect hosts and predispose them to particular actions. This model is most useful for creating communications and understanding how they spread. The second is the entity model, useful for understanding political and social movements. Here we look at larger memetic structures can act on the world through people who hold the belief sets, as if the memetic entities were intentional beings.

We individuals are like cells within the bodies of numerous superorganisms. In understanding ourselves, we must learn to peel away the layers of these superorganisms without losing our sense of individuality.

The role that magic once played in our society is now performed by the media. The myths, narratives, and context which define our world are being written by wizards wielding wands of holly wood. Marketing and magic are cousins - to understand the ecosystem of ideas, we will knit the two together.

Memetic processes occur in a space which is not tied to physical geography. We can think of memetic interactions as taking place within "meme space", a virtual place that occupies the memory of a communication network. This is analogous to a "cyber space" which occurs within one's mind. It is within this meme space that we will visualize memetic systems and nodes interacting with one another.

We can also visualize memetic interactions as taking place within a population of "meme carriers" distributed along a long tail.  Certain carriers are the first to pick up a meme and transmit it to others ("early innovators"). A strong meme picks up speed and support as it travels across a network. As it grows, it will leave the care of the early innovators and eventually be adapted by the majority.

Memes incline the host organism to further that meme's survival. Sometimes a meme may survive through retransmission - repeating it to others. Other times, it survives by etching itself deep into one's memory. Observed actions are a kind of communication, so memes spread via performance as well as through verbal interaction.

If we are figuring out how to change the world using memetics, one thing to keep in mind is that using a meme reinforces its own communication pattern. For example, if you use television to transmit a meme, you end up reinforcing the importance of television as well. If you communicate a message to "democrats", you are also reinforcing their identity as democrats. Memes that rely on certain populations or communication patterns have difficulty changing those patterns.

This is why, perhaps, so much cultural change emerges from the patterns surrounding new technology. As our world adapts to the presence of the internet, online communication patterns will shift to reinforce the social structures which are currently forming. Luckily, in these strange times, we have no shortage of new mediums, so it is unlikely that we will ever become locked into one cultural pattern.

Much like living organisms, memes are driven to reproduce themselves. It is in a meme's best interest to keep its host alive, healthy, and able to continue to retransmit it. For this reason, memes that make their host unemployable or less able to maneuver in social space do not often survive.

Doktor Howl

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Re: The Art of Memetics: Cliff Notes
« Reply #2 on: September 08, 2010, 04:57:18 pm »
NICE.

PLEASE TO CONTINUE.
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Dunning-Krueger out of control
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Bebek Sincap Ratatosk

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Re: The Art of Memetics: Cliff Notes
« Reply #3 on: September 08, 2010, 04:57:58 pm »
LOL, I'm in the middle of that book ATM :) Nice summation of the first chapter.

I particularly like the succinct way they lay out the "magic" term and reasoning on the first page :)
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Re: The Art of Memetics: Cliff Notes
« Reply #4 on: September 08, 2010, 05:01:35 pm »
:mittens:

I only made it 2/3rds of the way through AoM, before getting distracted and losing the spare cognitive energy needed to digest it properly. This is much appreciated.

Doktor Howl

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Re: The Art of Memetics: Cliff Notes
« Reply #5 on: September 08, 2010, 05:06:11 pm »
LOL, I'm in the middle of that book ATM :) Nice summation of the first chapter.

I particularly like the succinct way they lay out the "magic" term and reasoning on the first page :)

I took that as an analogy and moved right along.
"It's how we roll,
Dunning-Krueger out of control
(Girl, look at that gross margin)"
- TGRR

Evil doesn't work without good people. Good people will do the most repugnant, nasty shit for what they think are "the right reasons"

Cramulus

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Re: The Art of Memetics: Cliff Notes
« Reply #6 on: September 08, 2010, 05:35:35 pm »
Chapter 2 - Agency in a Networked World

We’re individuals, but we're also components of numerous larger systems. I do not believe we ever have complete control over ourselves, each of us contain numerous systems looking to further themselves through us. The question is not whether or not we have free will, but to what degree one can have freedom from these systems, and to what degree can an individual control them, given that there are other controlling factors?

The first step is to study the dynamics of memetic systems. We need to examine our inputs, outputs, how we receive a signal, transform it, and retransmit it.

We live within many nested circuits and systems. As a signal travels through these circuits, the people who are part of those pathways will transform and retransmit it. Depending on numerous factors, the signal may be reinforced and amplified, or opposed and nullified. The aim of memetics is to increase our ability to send signals which will be reinforced by more subsystems and in turn have a greater chance of manifesting change in the world.

Here’s a classic marketing trick: If you give somebody two pieces of information separated by a “but”, the person is more likely to remember the fact after the “but”. Basically, marketers attempt to raise a weak form of objection and then defeat that objection using the information they want to communicate.

There are three reasons for this. (1) by preemptively defeating an objection, it neuters the power of that objection if encountered later (ie, if you encountered the objection later, it would be the bit following the "but"). (2) it encourages people to accept the information without examining it. And most importantly- (3) the marketer has now framed the debate in terms that are biased towards the right outcome.

So how can we resolve free will, knowing that the presentation of information is very often framed and loaded in a way that leads you to a specific conclusion? These information systems bias us towards certain behaviors.

For our purposes, it doesn’t make sense to think of humans as entities totally independent of information systems. We exist in the middle world between a higher plane of symbols and language and a lower plane of archetypes and trends. We are the test tube in which these systems meet. People are parts of larger systems, and are also themselves made up of parts. No single part can fully control the organism it belongs to. There are conflicting drives within you, just as there are conflicting drives within the larger society. We are exposed to a spectrum of signals - the interesting question is: How do we come to any decisions regarding a course of action?

The common sense answer is that we make decisions based on the merits of any given situation. Unfortunately, this isn’t entirely true. For one, there is neurological evidence that we often act before there is any measurable thought energy in the brain. (in fact, there may be as much as a half second delay between initiating an action and coming up with a reason why you should do it) There are instructions coming to us through a variety of channels, it is impossible to be aware of all of them. Sometimes these instructions have to hit us numerous times, be reinforced by other feedback loops, before they become salient and affect our behavior. Thanks to the Internet, the feedback loop process is getting faster and faster, accelerating change and making the world more reactive than it’s ever been.
« Last Edit: September 08, 2010, 07:33:20 pm by Cramulus »

Cramulus

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Re: The Art of Memetics: Cliff Notes
« Reply #7 on: September 08, 2010, 08:13:58 pm »
ack! I just realized that the Art of Memetics is protected against derivatives in its creative-commons license. I've requested permission to continue from Ed.  :oops:


Edit to add: He said it was cool!
Also, Hi Ed! :wave: Feel free to chime in if I get it wrong.
« Last Edit: September 08, 2010, 09:41:41 pm by Cramulus »

fenris23

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Re: The Art of Memetics: Cliff Notes
« Reply #8 on: September 08, 2010, 11:34:40 pm »
Yarr! Permission be had me maties.

I'll give it a proper look later. If you have any questions...

Doktor Howl

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Re: The Art of Memetics: Cliff Notes
« Reply #9 on: September 09, 2010, 12:10:51 am »
Yarr! Permission be had me maties.

I'll give it a proper look later. If you have any questions...

Welcome aboard, though I notice you've been regged for a couple of years.

I like this stuff.  A lot.
"It's how we roll,
Dunning-Krueger out of control
(Girl, look at that gross margin)"
- TGRR

Evil doesn't work without good people. Good people will do the most repugnant, nasty shit for what they think are "the right reasons"

Cramulus

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Re: The Art of Memetics: Cliff Notes
« Reply #10 on: September 09, 2010, 03:29:17 pm »
CHAPTER 3 - Mind/Body/Bricolage

Collage is the art of rearranging and remixing materials available in your environment. In a lot of ways, the body is a collage too, a constantly evolving chain of proteins and fats which form a cohesive structure. Our personalities can also be described as a collage – we remix, rearrange, and re-appropriate the cultural meme pool, creating an identity we use as a vehicle to navigate social spaces. Our persona is eclectically selected from a spectrum of cultural inputs. On this canvas called identity, new memes emerge from these juxtapositions. We pass these things back and forth between us, refining them and remixing them in the face of stress and stimulus.

Our nervous systems are wired for stress. Stress represents a possible threat to survival, and this makes a number of very old psychological systems kick in. Information paired with stress is more memorable. Bonds forged in the face of stress are more intense.

Perhaps the best way to take advantage of stress is to use it to forge new bonds and provoke new evolutionary growth. One might envision a central tribal unit which creates modular income-generating tribes all feeding into the same system. Each of these tribes is an organ in a social body, strengthened by the stress of survival and united by tribal self-interest.

The organs further the needs of both the social body and the individuals within that tribe. This is how our biological wellbeing becomes connected to societal cooperation. Each individual within the tribe serves both the social body and his self-interest. These are the two primary factors informing personal and social behavior. So to understand human behavior, we have to understand both how humans relate within those organs, and how those social organs relate to one another.

Emotions cause physiological changes in the body which in turn predispose the individual towards certain actions. This is the function of modern marketing and advertising, to change your mind in a way which makes it more likely for you to make a purchase.

Money is a very complex signal in our world. It is tied to our survival and is a means to achieve our desires. In the ancient world, people’s behaviors were guided by fear of expulsion from the tribe. Now we live in a much more individualistic society, and that pressure has been replaced by a fear of losing one’s job or income. This is how money has become connected to old psychological systems geared for survival. There is a lot of stress connected to money, and that means a very strong emotional appeal is necessary to influence how one spends it.

The decision making process isn’t strictly rational. It’s emotional, conflicted, and tangled. This preconscious decision making space is where memes do their work; They don’t affect the world directly, they work by affecting the behavior of human agents. Their theater is the social communication space.

While we are more aware of memes that enter our consciousness through language, our nervous system also picks up memes through association and juxtaposition. We are constantly absorbing information through images, video, and other post-linguistic forms of communication.

The “propaganda of the deed” is of particular interest to us – ways to influence behavior which rely on action, not language. Video and images are very useful in this regard because they are able to juxtapose action and meaning. Historically, if you weren’t present at an event, your only way to experience it would be through a verbal retelling or textualization of the event. An event was limited, in this way, in how effective it could be to change people’s behavior. Now we are able to film an event, edit it to add certain associations or juxtapositions, and broadcast (and rebroadcast it) it to a large audience. This is how terrorism has become such a hot topic these days -- It’s one thing to have heard about Pearl Harbor on the radio, it’s another thing entirely to watch the video of the plane crashing into the World Trade Center.

Anything that seeks change has a vector we can chart, a movement we can describe. In order to affect a meme, we have to get close to that vector and apply some force to it. As we’ve said, meme bearers do not necessarily have to be flesh-and-blood human beings, memetic bodies (networks / egregores) can hold and transmit memes too. These metaphorical beings include its meme bearers and the objects they use to affect the world. This physical extension into space and time gives us a vector we can attack. There are two traditional ways to affect an egregore – (1) to somehow alter or constrain the behaviors of the meme bearers, or (2) to inject an engineered phage into the network.

In biology, phages are viruses which devour the cellular structure, creating copies of themselves in the process.. In memetics, phagic repurposing is the mechanism of altering behavior by imparting coded information tailored to an existing meme.

The internet is particularly useful here, as it allows us to document and examine interactions between people. It also facilitates nonlocal participation, and communication divorced from biological identifiers. Identity, when it relies on self presentation and not biology, can become much more of a collage.

There are numerous non-linguistic ways our brains store information. Iconic memory, for example, consists of logos, landmarks, graphics, and their associated meanings. Technology allows our world to become much more integrated and contain much more associational data than ever before. Semacodes are a technological innovation which illustrates how linguistic information can be transmitted into iconic memory through a juxtaposition method. Semacodes are basically little square stickers which contain a pattern of dots. If scanned by a cell phone camera, they link to a URL. In this way, people can associate real world objects with internet content. If you use semacodes, you will begin to associate certain places with the ideas to which they’ve been linked. This allows for a greater degree of linking between iconic and linguistic memory, and gives us more opportunities to transmit information into different forms.
« Last Edit: September 09, 2010, 03:43:25 pm by Cramulus »

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Re: The Art of Memetics: Cliff Notes
« Reply #11 on: September 12, 2010, 08:50:40 am »

An egregore is a body capable of transmitting memes across a network. Also known as a mastermind group, it refers to a network's "hivemind".

I thought an egragore was any body of similar people capable of transmitting memes, where a mastermind group was an egragore with a specific mission and trust?
If sheep entrails could in any way be related to the weather, i.e. sheep trails only originate where it rains, then you could use it as an accurate model for discerning what the weathers going to be like. Either, sheep shit makes it rain, or raining makes sheep shit. Sheep don't shit "randomly" sheep shit after they eat, it doesn't rain "randomly" it rains after water collects in the atmosphere.

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Re: The Art of Memetics: Cliff Notes
« Reply #12 on: September 13, 2010, 03:52:42 pm »
I thought an egragore was originally found in the first edition of Monster Manual II.

Cramulus

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Re: The Art of Memetics: Cliff Notes
« Reply #13 on: September 23, 2010, 12:32:00 am »
I thought an egragore was any body of similar people capable of transmitting memes, where a mastermind group was an egragore with a specific mission and trust?

I think of an egregore as an organism made of ideas. It's the "spirit" of a group of people. Just like an individual person, it can have information, attitudes, or motivations that it expresses through the people which participate in it.

If you've ever been involved in a group that seems to take on a life of its own, you know what I'm talking about.


here's what the source text has to say:

Quote from: http://artofmemetics.com/memetics/page8.html
An egregore is, in a sense, a hive mind generated out of a group and a body capable of transmitting memes across networks. The term egregore can be used in referencing a guiding intelligence within corporations, institutions, and religions that exhibits elements of an individual entity. Concepts like genus loci, or spirit of a place, and the zeitgeist, or spirit of a time period, can also be referenced as an egregore, but for our purposes we are more interested in examining those egregores which arise from mastermind groups and which go on to influence social networks.




I've got more than half of the next chapter written. At some point soon I'll wrap it up and post it.

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Re: The Art of Memetics: Cliff Notes
« Reply #14 on: September 23, 2010, 09:10:42 pm »
I thought an egragore was originally found in the first edition of Monster Manual II.

egragore? manticore? what's in a name?
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