Making sense through the struggle of memes Presentation by Kate Jones at 2011 Double Festival of Project Renaissance
Making sense with memes • Each human mind is a unique combination of perceptions, concepts, experiences, contexts, beliefs and goals. • Both the physical Universe and the individual mind evolve through emerging layers of combinations, from unity to complexity, from chaos to organization. Both are combinatorial and associational.
A new theory of human consciousness • Introducing memes • What are they, where are they, how do they get transmitted? • They get encoded into the mind’s software. They are replicators. • They take on a life of their own and act like any life form seeking to preserve itself from destruction and change.
Defense • Input filters check for similarities, differences, and any associated hazards. • Repetition of experiences reinforces impressions and context. • Every stimulus gets a value tag based on what’s already in the file. • The value tag triggers a complex of emotions. It hijacks the lower functions.
Enemy or kin? • The brain and body’s diagnostic system does lightning-swift calculations, comparing the new data against all previous similar data, and instantly decides whether an idea is friend or foe. • Based on this value judgment, the other person, who is the bearer of the questionable memes, is likewise judged.
Truth or fiction? • Humans are inundated all their lives with outpourings of facts and make-believe. Fortunately we have a truth-seeking device built in. • This device is not failure-proof. Sources of error (list 4 minimum): • Rationalizations that protect error (list 3 minimum):
Language • Certain sounds come to represent code standing for objects and relationships. • Names have implicit value quantities and qualities, based on how well they contribute to the organism’s survival, stability, comfort and pleasure. • Become aware of what makes you happy, and why.
The macro vs. the micro • In a well-integrated consciousness, all the contents of the mind are organized along a hierarchy of values, from the smallest point to the largest picture. • The system automatically calculates its balance sheet from moment to moment. • The system also calculates the investment needed to gain or maintain a value.
It’s to die for... • The lion stops running when she can’t catch the gazelle within a reasonable amount of time and effort. • Some things just aren’t worth the effort. • Some things are of such importance that any price is worth their attainment. • A meme sees its host’s function as part of a higher value: the group versus the one.
War and sacrifice • When a nation makes war, it “spends” many of its members’ lives and happiness for the protection, enrichment, security of the rest of the people. • The volunteer military are gambling that they individually will survive this meat-chopper process, and have convinced themselves that the cause is worth it to “save” their country.
Rational self-denial • Beyond the initial demands of a baby for food, warmth, love, the growing child is in a process of learning delay in gratification. • Individuals postpone some pleasures and satisfactions so as to invest in a larger future gain, the next level. • Rational self-interest takes others’ needs and interests into the calculation.
The totalitarian temptation • Along the hierarchy of values, there is a continuum. The mind’s calculus posits the largest and the smallest, galaxies vs. the quantum level, infinity vs. the singularity. • Any quality can run to the totality of its potential and is driven by the engine of life and growth. • Unchecked, a system moves toward the totalitarian terminus.
The purpose of purpose • Through natural selection, the most potent and self-preserving functions survive. • If staying alive is the highest priority, all else is subsidiary to that main purpose. • Other “purposes”, whether careers or art or social structures, can grow only out of a surplus built from the previous level. • “Transcendental” seeks the next level.
Is progress mathematical? • Consider human societies from clan and tribal to global groupings, and acquiring the support structure from direct raids and conquests to subtle diplomatic deceptions. • Productive cooperation—can it work at the largest societal level without sacrificing the unit, the individual? • Resource management for the long term.
How does the system know? • The human software’s hierarchy sorts itself by patterns. It follows a template, from DNA replication to meme structures. • From the unit building block of survival needs to the most complex legal contract, the memes cohere in ascending sizes of conceptual complexity. • Any meme “bundle” can be unpacked into its contributing components.
The tenacious meme • A meme is a unit of electromagnetic data. It will hold its pattern as the DNA passes on its genetic code for replication. • Through language and action, a meme seeks to spread itself to others. • Its diagnostic detection program sniffs out any threats and goes on the defensive and offensive to protect itself from change.
When ideas conflict • Ideologies are huge clusters of memes that have rationalized their structure and will seek to maintain their control and build their ever-increasing power over others. • Because the emotions are programmed into the memes’ modus operandi, the host is virtually helpless to “rethink” a proposition. Feeling trumps thinking.
Free will • Abstract thought is a relatively recent development of the brain. Thinking about thinking is an emergent property. • Understanding ourselves and examining our meme set dispassionately is not a ready skill. Re-evaluating our belief systems and voluntarily making changes based on better evidence takes an effort of will—a supervisor meme.
The self looking at the self • Introspection is an emergent skill. When does a child become aware of itself, and of how much about itself? • Can the mind reprogram itself? Can it be self-correcting? Yes, with sufficient input. • The scientific method shows human knowledge is cumulative and correctible. Myths, faith, rationalizations have no place here. We need the “truth” meme.
What about imagination? • Memes can project future developments based on what is already known. A pattern replicates like a fractal. The template keeps building. The system is “sticky”. • Human ingenuity and inventiveness are attributes of this reaching forward and stretching higher. Induction, deduction, inference, logic—tools built of memes.
Everything is a metaphor • All learning (programming) is through stories—fables, allegories, nursery rhymes... • All our entertainments are in the form of stories—movies, books, plays, TV, even songs, radio plays, news reports, celebrity gossip. We are steeped in the artificial excitement of fiction every waking moment. Every story reinforces a meme. How can we tell the real from the make-believe?
Everything is a symbol • Symbols (icons) are the mind’s shorthand way of picturing its memes. Each symbol sits atop a huge pyramid of supporting concepts and may, in turn, be a building block for a larger chain. Check the premises. • Words are symbols, too. They are memes made visible.
Making sense of it all • In conflicts and confrontations, ask: What memes are at stake here? What are the participants defending? • It’s more important to be right than to be thought to be right. It’s OK to make mistakes as long as they’re corrected. • Watch out for concept splicing. That’s bootlegging of memes.
Making sense • There are no paradoxes. There is no conflict of interest. Go to the next level. • Know thyself. Be your own explorer, anthropologist and archeologist of your unique meme set. Then enjoy encountering others and sharing their unique insights in camaraderie and compassion.
Making more sense • If evolution favored the predatory and ruthless, that does not work in building lasting civilizations. We need the next level of cognitive development. These brains of ours have the complexity of a galaxy. We just need to look inside. • Win’s methods are a step in the right direction for dynamic thinking. It’s time to break the old paradigms.
Truth, goodness, beauty • The Cosmos awaits us, and our memes are the tools. They have brought us this far. Now it’s up to us to become self-directing and self-correcting.
The adventure continues... • Infinite diversity, from infinite combinations.