It’s a basic principle of memetics that memetic agents seek memetic rewards1. It follows that the more reliable, the better. I also follows that the larger “menu26” of memetic rewards available motivates the adoption27 of a given memetic system2,3. This offers an explanation as to why a person would choose to take part in a religion, a political system, or a socio-economic system, especially when any and all of them are just plain bad for the individual or for humans collectively in terms of health and happiness.
Buying the Whole Package
Susan Blackmore4 cites the evidence that humans at the Dawn of Agriculture were less healthy, had shorter lifespans, and in general were much more miserable5 than their hunter-gather forebears. It’s a riddle, therefore, why humans should adopt such a system6. Not surprisingly, Memetics7 offers an elegant explanation.
Micromemetics tells us that agricultural memes are more “aggressive” than hunter-gatherer ones, and thus out-compete them. If one already accepts the micromemetic nature of memes, then this conclusion is fairly obvious. Both Micromemetics and Macromemetics would probably agree that farming memes are more “virulent,” i.e., they are easier to copy, for various reasons. Macromemetics would go further and assert that there are just more farming memes, and the whole “scaffolding” of the farming memetic system allows for more and more memes and entire memetic systems to be added (religion, politics, mathematics and even science, education, written language, etc.). To return to the food or sex analogy, in terms of “drive reduction,” it’s as if each person13 had at his or her disposal a rich smorgasbord of foods as well as a huge harem14, both of which continued to grow, almost without limit.
In other words, the mere fact that there are more memes16 in the agricultural megamemeplex, and that more and more may be packed in over time28, may be the major appeal of the adoption of such a system.
It is useful to note that in the case of religions, one invariably observes immunomemes within the megamemeplex itself asserting that the megamemeplex is “true.” Indeed, an entire collection of immunomegamemeplexes supporting such MIAOs29 as “heresy,” “apostatism,” “sanctity,” are omnipresent. These are appealing both in terms of a rich inventory of eligible memes for the would-be adopting agent to enact as well as defending the megamemeplex from collapse. Collapse of the megamemeplex would of course be a disaster to its cohort, since they would have invested enormous amounts of their memetic energy30 to learning the memes of the system and enacting them to connect to fellow members of the doomed megamemeplex. Staying power and history of survival is paramount. Political and economic systems share similar properties. The more powerful ones have huge immunomemetic systems that assert them to be “the most efficient/equitable/just,” for example.
Conclusion and Summary
Rather like if one heard of a bar where there was always a plethora of attractive, affable people, lots of great food and drink (possibly free…!), one would be keen to go there, and after a few times, probably become a regular patron, Macromemetics predicts that a large and complex memetic system, especially one that promised a vast cohort would be very attractive to the average human. This is because the system offers the prospect of memetic orgasms which are both powerful21 and reliable22.
Further, such a system should be well-protected by a panoply of immunomemeplexes, thus making it unlikely to collapse17 and wipe out one’s investment in internalizing the memes and rules18 of the system.
Established governments, socio-economic systems, religions, and even media empires23 are examples of these kinds of megamemeplexes. Despite their silliness, inconsistency, illogic, and most importantly, the fact that they typically degrade and make unhappy almost all of the human beings who participate in them, they are seemingly irresistible because of the rich network19 of memes they contain, i.e., the enormous potential for memetic rewards they offer to the would-be adoptor25.
The problem posed by aiding the individual to resist the allure27 of a given megamemeplex is an interesting one. Indeed, it is a question central to one of the moral goals of Macromemetics, i.e., the reliable furtherance of human happiness, including the avoidance of genocide and other horrors.
1 Memetic “orgasm”
2a.k.a., “memeplex,” or in this case, “megamemeplex3.”
3e.g., religions, economic or political system, etc.
4c.f., The Meme Machine
5 From anthropological evidence, etc.
6 Malthusian pressures leap to mind, but at the Dawn of Agriculture, presumably there were still enough resources that the hunter-gatherer to farming phase transition would not be motivated by these, although that might not in fact be the case. This merits investigation. If Thomas Malthus was behind the farming phase shift, then it also raises the question of influence or crosstalk between the two layered replicators of the genetic and the memetic, i.e., the memetic system changed, evolved, in response to a crisis at the genetic level. Contrariwise, the adoption of agriculture probably led to a rapid increase in colocated (same cohort30) populations, which is a more favorable memetic environment.
7Memetics as laid out by Richard Dawkins, Susan Blackmore, Daniel Dennet, et al. Answering the question of how and why the human brain likes imitative behavior, and citing evidence as to how this works8 and how “memes” are replicators, and have properties of natural selection and so forth. The focus is to illuminate how this functions at the individual meme and individual person level or between only two or a small number of individuals. “Macromemetics,” on the other hand, takes “micromemetics” as a given and seeks to develop general laws that apply to large groups of people and large, complex systems of memes20, as well as assign names to these laws, the principles and quantifies that underpin them, and develop measurable quantifiers for same.
8One important addition I make in the elaboration of Macromemetics, which is actually a micromemetic phenonmenon, is that of the “memetic reward,” or “memetic orgasm9,10,” as the driver for the individual to seek out behaviors to imitate, much as an individual seeks out food or sex, and situations where opportunities for these are plentiful. Likewise, places like cities, universities, media institutions, political and government offices, and fanatical cells (of religions and in general) offer environments with large collections of complete memetic systems as well as large inured cohorts.
9The location in the brain where orgasms “happen” is well known. Stimulation of this highly localized nerve plexus, even in the brain of a corpse, will produce a sexual orgasm response. My theory is that a similar physiological memetic orgasm plexus exists, and could be similarly identified (and stimulated…!) or that it might resemble an identifiable brain mode, such as REM sleep. Such a discovery would greatly bolster the Theory of Memetics in general, and of Macromemetics in particular.
10The quality and intensity of a memetic reward is influenced by the number of cohort members who respond to the enactment of a meme, and by how directly they respond to the enactor11,35.
11The degree to which the enactor is recognized as the source, as opposed to being the anonymous creator of a popular meme, i.e., a mere meme fountain as opposed to a memetic nexus12. This property of a memetic enactment is known as engagement.
12The Theory of the Memetic Nexus appears to be closely related to a memetic definition of “power,” or indeed, a working definition of power in a universal sense of the term. This theory may lead literally to a quantitative description of Friedrich Nietzsche’s Will to Power (der Wille zur Macht).
14One compelling aspect of Memetic Theory is that it proves beyond any doubt that women and men are “equal,” socialogically, intellectually, “philosophically,” if you will, in any meaningful sense15 of the term. It is, in essence, a validation of what might be termed the “Feminist Manifesto.”
15Except for superficial physical factors such as average body size and ability/inability to gestate children. These, of course, have memetic implications, but do not bear on the “equality” of the genders.
16This brings up the memetic design concept of “packing the meme space45,” covered elsewhere.
17Either through apathy, unfavorable environmental developments, attack by a more virulent megamemeplex, or other such misfortune.
18The study of whether a memeplex may be represented19 as a set of weighted transition matrices with memes as graph edges and “memetic states” as nodes is an area of study unto itself. A modeling of the Blue Shirt Tuesday experimental set-up is a simple example of an attempt at this.
19Transition matrix modeling may be more useful for theoretical discussion, possibly memetic engineering endeavors, more so than for “field analysis” purposes, i.e., the description of existing, organic memetic systems. The hope is that such models could be constructed, including quantitative measures which could lead to the actual assignment of “weights” to the transitions, so that megamemeplex behavior could actually be predicted...or manipulated20.
20Rather like the discipline of “psychohistory” from Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy, used by Professor Hari Seldon in the novels. One of the goals of Macromemetics is that it be able to be used in the same way.
21Involving the participation of a large cohort, e.g., a large audience for a show in which the agent in question is one of the players, an author or journalist of a periodical with a wide circulation, or a politician in a government ruling a large number of people.
22A large memetic inventory (collection of memes), all of which may be reliably learned, and which one can witness being successfully enacted by others time and again, allowing one to reliably imitate them oneself.
23e.g., The Walt Disney Company holds title to an enormous collection of symbols, characters, story lines, memorable songs and catchy lines of dialog (including, now, the Star Wars franchise), which represent a gigantic memetic inventory shared by millions if not billions of people, for which reference (including novel reference11) guarantees widespread resonance24.
24Resonance in a cohort is what leads to memetic orgasm in the enactor. The absence of resonance is related to alienation, and apathy (an area of ongoing research).
27a.k.a., inurement. The removal of a memetic system from an individual or a cohort is known as disinurement.
28and of course many of these may be borrowed or stolen from other megamemeplexes and easily integrated.
29Memetic Iconic Anchoring Object. A readily recognizable “object” (real or abstract) to which memes may be “attached” such that evocation of the MIAO immediately establishes context and makes all of the attached memes immediately available for deployment, if not deploying them automatically.
30The term “memetic fabric” applies here, mainly in terms of the collection of the brains of a cohort31 which directly relates to their memetic “carrying capacity,” i.e., the capacity of the collected minds of a group of individuals (or of a single individual) is limited32
31a group of people, often colocated, who are in easy33 communication with one another
32this is the motivation for memes to compete with one another. There is only so much space, so the more virulent ones push out the “weaker” ones, or those which are “inefficient34” This is why “packing the meme space” is a powerful memetic engineering concept. By “packing” the memetic inventory of the cohort, even with “useless” memes40 (that are nonetheless paired up with the core memes of the system), one uses up spare space in the memetic fabric (the actual total organic brain capacity of the members of the cohort) which might otherwise be exposed to invasion by foreign memes, not part of the system. Foreign memes may be hostile invaders, or they may fester into incursive memeplexes, or they just take up space better used by the “main memeplex.”
33Usually collocated, same language, socially able to connect (e.g., same class35, culture, etc.), but may also be connected technologically, via postal mail, trade, a lingua franca, electronic means such as radio, television, Internet, etc. In sum, able to communicate with one another with relatively little resource or time cost per transaction.
34take up too much space, usually linked to complexity, e.g., volume of text, number of images in order to be complete, difficult to memorize or imitate, etc.
35By the same token, artificial separations such as different sports team fans, different companies, classes, castes, etc., can allow multiple cohorts to coexist within the same physical human population, and even overlap, which allows for even more complexity and pathways for the exchange of memes. As elsewhere in Macromemetics, simpler is usually never better.
36The granularity of discrimination as to whether the meme has been enacted properly is also a factor, e.g., whether a joke was told right or whether a skill, such as juggling, typing, preparing gourmet food, etc. This property is known as marking. A meme is “well-marked” both if a large fraction of the cohort will reliably resonate with a correct enactment and be apathetic24 toward an incorrect one. A meme is “poorly marked” if the enactor cannot reliably tell whether they have deployed the meme properly, either because the nature of the meme is that criteria for success are ill-defined37, or the cohort reaction is poorly inflected38, or both.
37As in abstract art or free verse poetry, i.e., there is no objective criterion for whether the enactment of the art form has “captured” or “accomplished” what it was meant to, or not. This is why classic Decathalon sports (races against others, lifting amounts of weight, jumping over specific distances or heights, etc.), or scored games with clear rules such as tennis, basketball, baseball, etc., are “real” competitive sports, and “performance” sports such as figure skating, are not, and hence have questionable merit in terms of Olympic competition, etc.39
38Think of a “response curve,” rather like an energy curve for a catalyzed reaction in chemistry. In the presence of the catalyst, the reaction energy drops sharply. Similarly, when a well-marked meme is deployed (enacted) properly41, the cohort resonance jumps from near-total apathy to near-total resonance.
39That is not to say that aspects of figure skating performance may not be well-marked, e.g., the correct performance of a triple axel. Unfortunately, much of a figure skating routine is based upon “subjective” factors such as how pretty one’s outfit is, or the choice of background music. One of the many negative memetic consequences of this is that the outcome of a figure skating performance, as opposed to a valid competitive sport, is a poor memetic nexus11,12. Indeed, how good a memetic nexus it is may be a great decider of how valid a given competitive sport is, and certainly how viable it is as gambling or betting phenomenon.
40e.g., “let’s all wear blue shirts on Tuesday,” or company (or national) songs, special greetings, handshakes, etc., rituals, etc.
41Note that resonance, apathy, marking, and engagement are all related to memetic loops43, i.e, the process whereby an agent is exposed to a meme, may enact it one or more times, then deploys42 it until they are finally rewarded with resonance, closing the loop. This is related to the problems of intergenerational family dysfunction and to many cases of genocide, as well as other cycles of abuse. For example, a child is abused in a family environment, systematically or not. The child may enact the abuse behavior, but cannot deploy it43, at least not against the parent. Soon the child may be able to deploy the abuse memes (behaviors, physical, emotional, verbal, etc.) to other children, in the
42Enactment is where the agent performs a meme, in the presence of a cohort or not, and a deployment is an enactment which is also exposed to a cohort, i.e., may elicit resonance or apathy. In other words, a deployment will always succeed or fail, i.e., result in resonance or apathy, and depending upon how well-marked it is, powerfully one way or the other, but an enactment may or may not be an attempt to elicit resonance, i.e., it may be just practice or rehersal.
43Another related concept is residual memetic debt. Exposure to a meme, along with the motivation to join a given megamemeplex44
44Slavoj Zizek takes as example the patterns of abuse that exist in institutions such as the British Public School system and the US Military (or any military). Enactment of abuse memes, sexual, physical, humiliations, etc., instill residual memetic debt in the new members, which they continue to deploy on later new members, and so on, creating a culture of abuse. There may be more to it in the case of abuse, as opposed to cultures like IBM where company songs, shame-enforced dress codes, and so forth create a densely-packed40,36,etc. Memespace, with plenty of opportunities for newcomers to imitate the behaviors of established members.
45A perhaps subtle distinction may be drawn here between memetic fabric, memetic cohort, memetic inventory, and the memespace. A memetic fabric is the collection of physical human brains in a memetic cohort, which is a group of “closely connected” human beings. The memetic inventory is one of two things: either the set of all memes that make up a given memeplex, or the collection of memes in a single individual’s “head” which they are capable of enacting/deploying46. A memespace is the collection of memes that reside within a given memetic fabric, regardless of whether they are part of the same memeplex or not, i.e., they are all available to be exposed to any member of the cohort. Thusly, the “memetic inventory” of a memeplex is a fluid concept, and the memetic inventory of an individual may only be determined when said individual actually enacts a given meme47, since until that point the meme’s membership may not be known with certainty. However, a memetic fabric is clear-cut — either a person may communicate with another (with a certain level of effort), or they cannot. Likewise, if a meme is enacted by any such included person, i.e., it may be observed, it is by definition part of the memespace of the cohort. Whether it’s part of a memeplex, which may or may not be argued to exist, is another question and may even involve memetic deconstruction48.
46To clarify things (hopefully), an individual’s collection of available memes could be termed an ideomemetic inventory. Obviously a typical individual will neither have all or the memes in a given memeplex in their head, nor will they have only memes from a single given memeplex. The memes of a memeplex will typically be spread over multiple persons, i.e., to get the whole memetic inventory of a memeplex, one would have to look at more than one individual. Further, an individual may have memes which only they possess, or may even have a fairly complex ideomemeplex (which is a potential mental health assessment factor, e.g., how the individual interacts with the outside world, and how healthily — a topic for further research).
47Memetic hacking is a process of passively and actively interviewing an individual to evince the memes which they are able to enact or to which they resonate. The active portion of memetic hacking typically involves trying to evince the subject’s immunomemes, i.e., their reactions to foreign memes or memes deployed “incorrectly” or in an unorthodox manner or combinations.
48Memetic Deconstruction (as opposed to memetic analysis49) is the attempt to characterize the overall functioning of a posited memetic system (memeplex). This necessarily determines which memes are or are not members of the memeplex (which may often be arbitrary). It may also result in the prediction of as yet unobserved memes50, unsuspected inclusion or exclusion of members of the cohort, divisions of the memetic fabric, etc. Philosophically (or “metaphysically”), a memetic deconstruction exercise may approach something like delineating the “purpose” of a memetic system, or the concrete results of its functioning. It is in effect the reverse process to memetic engineering, in which one first decides what a novel memetic system is to do, and then designs all the memes that make it up with attention to how the memes function together, and details such as packing the meme space, etc. Memetic deconstruction teases out the collection of memes, determines how they operate together, and from that assesses the aggregate effect of the given system on the environment via the collective action of the cohort.
49Memetic Analysis is simply the process of taking inventory of a memespace, i.e., which memes are actually being observably deployed, and possibly the more basic and obvious interaction and deployment rules for those memes, e.g., which memes are deployed together (paired), which memes trigger the deployment of other memes, etc. One usually begins by limiting oneself to a given collection of individuals (an ad hoc cohort), and/or to a given set of behaviors (memes) which one perceives a priori as appearing to belong to some “memeplex,” usually broadly and vaguely defined.
50e.g., the systemic existence and “use” or “function” of homosexuality in the US military, ruling class, or as it turns out, the espionage class, as a parallel phenomenon in the British Public School system, i.e., as a membership marker, a locus/reservoir of residual memetic debt as expressed in terms of the threat of shame for disloyalty to the ruling elite or the spy network. I was always troubled by this discrepancy until I saw and read documentary evidence51.
51c.f. and e.g., Blind Man’s Bluff, Sherry Sontag, Christopher Drew, Annette Lawrence Drew