2016-05-03

模倣子 Rabbinical Packing of the Meme-Space

I was listening to The Book of Mormon CD from the musical for the zillionth time and remembered how my Mormon friends told me that it is a real problem that Mormon missionaries make up a lot of stuff when proselytizing abroad, i.e., they change the story of the church, the details of the mythology, I suppose tailoring it to be more acceptable to the local population they are trying to convert.

Why should this be? Why should it be a Big Deal anyway? It's not like the early Christian missionaries didn't change things around in order to draw in peoples farther and farther from Rome.  For example, the Germanic peoples got their Weinachtesbaum (Christmas Tree) integrated into Christian mythology, and it was clearly an important move, since they effectively moved the date of Christ's birth to correspond with Weinnacht.

Anyway, the point is that both religions do the same thing, but the Christians may have "gotten their act together" during their two thousand year head start over the Mormons. And the Jews even more so. But why would the Mormons have more trouble with this "memetic drift" than the Christians or the Jews (assuming that's even true).

This brings me to an idea which I may have written about at least a little bit already, and that's what I call "packing the meme-space". Furthermore, it occurred to me that doing that very thing for a religion may be a very important rabbinical function, a function of the priestly class, that is, to elaborate on the canonical scriptures and effectively "fill in" any possible derived interpretations so that the flock cannot deviate far from the (unwritten) orthodox teachings of the church because the priests and/or rabbis have already hammered it all out, talked it over post nauseam.

What's the problem with the Mormons, then? Simply put, they're a young religion and so they haven't had the kind of time that the rabbis of Judaism have had to talk over every possible interpretation of the Talmud. Hence, there is a lot of room to come up with new interpretations that nominally jibe with what the Book of Mormon is basically saying, and the understandings developed over the brief history of the church, that is, only a few generations and mainly in the State of Utah, as opposed to centuries and millennia the world over.

What does this mean, memetically speaking? If we think of the memetic fabric of a cohort(1) as a kind of multiplexed channel that can hold a semi-unlimited but in practice limited number of memes, then if we inject some memes, or we just say that some systems of memes exist in this fabric, then those memes may function in a system together, in a memeplex, but if there is enough "memetic bandwidth" left in the fabric for other systems of memes to form, then they will compete, obviously, with the first system in question. It's a simple question of competition for resources, and the resources in question are the "cycles", the thinking power, the meme-replicating power, of the collected brains of all of the individuals who make up this cohort.

This is just like any other limited resource, and one could perhaps make a loose comparison to the computing power of a networked cluster of computers.  They have disk space, volatile memory, network bandwidth, processing speed, how much screen space and how many keyboards and so on. There are only so many things one can do at once with these computers. They only have so much capacity. There are only so many programs, so much data, so many that can run or be transferred around at once.

The same is true of a collection of socialized humans and their brains and ability to communicate with one another, and the more efficient memetic systems (memeplexes) will win out. How? The memes that cooperate better, that take less time to transfer themselves between brains, that catch on the first time, that don't get erased once they are injected, once a person  is infected, and so on. The competition for the residual memetic bandwidth, a slice of the meme-space, is keen.

If you only take up the meme-space that you need to run your basic set of memes, for example, have Family Home Evening every Tuesday, fast on Sunday afternoons for the poor, show up at the Stakehouse on Sunday morning, go to Temple for mass-baptizing, weddings, and ceremonies, buy a Book of Mormon, wear your "magic underwear", eschew coffee, Pepsi (Coke became okay sometime after the late 1980s), smoking, watch BYU and the Utah Jazz games, don't swear, and basically bully anybody, Mormons and gentiles alike, who don't do those things.

Okay, but what about eating hamburgers?  Other foods? When can you eat them? Are you supposed to go shopping on Sundays? Saturdays? Movies? Which TV shows are okay? What do you say to other Mormons? How do you greet them? What about smoking cannabis or other substances that Joseph Smith may not have said anything about? You could go on and on and on.  There are all kinds of things that you could think about, and wonder whether they identify you as being a Mormon or not. See discussion of "contact memes" elsewhere, but that's off-topic for now.

But it's not only the fact that there are so many things that are left undecided, but also the fact that one has time  to think about these things.  The more time one spends thinking about random things that the orthodoxy has not nailed down, the more chance one has to drift off the anointed path into some kind of apostasy.

It makes me thing of what Slavoj Zhizek said about capitalism in the film The Pervert's Guide to Ideology.  That is, that there are products that serve no purpose, that we just have to accept that (perhaps). I think it is the same with memetic inventories. If you do not fill the meme space with something, something that you yourself invented, that is part of the ideological edifice (the memeplex), even if it does nothing "useful", then there is a chance for another meme or memetic subsystem to occupy that same space, and that subsystem could be a competitor, emit immunomemes that undermine your memeplex, and so forth. Just like if there are underutilized resources and capital in a capitalist system, some product will be produced, and that product may compete with our line of products, undermining them.

Long story short (too late...!), part of the elaboration, the development, the evolution of a memeplex with long-term viability is going to involve the development of a large set of memes which do little to aid the nominal functioning of the memeplex, or it's promulgation, per se, or even it's defense, but whose only real function is to take up the memetic bandwidth in the minds of adherents so they have no opportunity to drift away by thinking about things that don't have anything to do with the organization, and thereby run the risk of being infected by foreign memeplexes.

This seems to be to be a primary function of the rabbinical, priestly caste of a religion. The young age of the Mormon church is a deficit vis-à-vis this process, and also the structure of the church, e.g., up to the level of the Presidency it has only lay officers, so there is not the kind of professional caste of theologians, as one finds in other religions, who are salaried and have nothing to do but sit around and discuss the minutia of the mythology and its application in the lives of the faithful.

I believe that any ideology that would have long-term viability, be it Catholicism, Capitalism, Communism (maybe a reason why it seems to have 'fallen'...?), corporations (look at IBM and others), social clubs (Rotarians, etc.), military organizations, and so forth,  must address this issue.  I will work on coming up with more concrete proof going forward.

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(1) a memetic cohort: a group of people who are physically (or informationally) co-located and who share enough curtural background so as to be able to exchange memes readily amongst themselves.

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