Is there a relationship between Memetic Nexuses and Power?
I've previously discussed the concept of a memetic nexus, whether it is possible to create them, and will no doubt discuss it further later. I have been trying to come up with a macro-memetic description or definition of "power" for some time now. Of course, one of my big focuses for the past year or so has been to elucidate a set of units of measure for memetic phenomena. Given such a set of units of measure, it should be possible to characterize, among other things, the concept of power, and furthermore, possibly describe with some precision how power works and how to assemble or dismantle it.
And it may also be possible to control power in a non-violent way, which is, by the way, one of the two highest objectives1 of macro-memetics.
Power and Conservatism
A very rough definition of power is "the ability to get things done", but it may be something we can work with. A stable memeplex is conservative in nature, that is, that it has a rich panoply of immunomemes that deter and deflect attacks from any and all sources that seek to change its structure and functioning. This should be perfectly obvious, and is explained thoroughly elsewhere. To recap, however, if a memeplex were not conservative and unable to resist efforts to change it, it would not remain in place, would not remain stable, as we observe to be the case.
This presents us something of a paradox. If memetic systems are conservative, then how do they change and how do they respond to their environments, and thereby survive, among other things, which we also perceive to be the case (although perhaps falsely). This would appear to have bearing upon whether memeplexes enjoy anything resembling "intelligence", by the way. Memeplexes are conservative in nature, and yet they seem to be able to adapt in the short term to "external stimuli" or at least to "change direction" rapidly, all without disintegrating. Governments, religions, institutions all react to events, "threats", countries rouse themselves to go to war, and so on.
MIAOs, Memetic Nexuses, and Power
A MIAO is an iconic object to which memes may be anchored. This is the goal of marketing, or more specifically, branding, by the way. We want to avoid having to spend hours explaining to each new person how wonderful our company or product is, or worse, having to re-explain it all to the same person over and over. Another benefit of this anchoring is that it curtails what might be termed memetic drift, i.e., memes drifting in and out of a memeplex (this may or may not be a concept I want to develop later). It can also have other benefits such as carrying some or all of the anchored memes across language and cultural barriers.
A memetic nexus is like a MIAO in that memes may be anchored to it, but it doesn't really exist objectively except as a kind of synechdoche or metonymy in which the referent may or may not actually be there. There is a kind of question along the lines of whether "the presidency" would exist if the office were vacant, or is there "a voice of our generation" if no one person is so acknowledged, or is it attributed to whomever happens to have been speaking?
These may be two different kinds of memetic nexuses, i.e., those that are created before they are filled, as opposed to those which "coälesce organically" around a person or institution. The nature of how nexuses form may be for another discussion. The relationship to the memetic fabric and the memetic inventory of a nexus however, may go a long way toward refining its definition, however.
It occurs to me that the definition of power is that of inhabiting a memetic nexus. For example, "The President" is a memetic nexus (I believe), and its nature is that everyone in the organization, or the memetic cohort, rather, is conditioned, as part of their membership in the memeplex, i.e., the cohort, to somehow "pay attention" to what the President says or does, to one degree or another. It appears that "power" is related to the extent that a memetic nexus occupant (or just a memetic nexus—maybe there's little distinction to be made) influences the members of the cohort.
Memetic Nexuses and Virulence of Generated Memes
We all generate memes all the time. We all receive them. Some of us generate new memes which may or may not resonate with others. What determines this success is:
- How easily the the (new) memes are imitated
- If they seem likely (in our judgement) to be imitated by others were we to deploy them2
- If they "tie into" other memes so as to cause a chain reaction3 for even more reward
But I go on. What I think I'm driving at is that a memetic nexus, whether it's some organization with a press release organ, or an individual person, may act like a natural time-driven phenomenon like the news, or sports, or the latest show on TV, indeed, the latter may very much resemble what a nexus does, i.e., release memes which everybody receives at the same time, i.e., there is no propagation delay, no damping due to high or low virulence, no mutation, and all members of the cohort receive it no matter the perceived "strength" of the given meme.
A "meme fountain"4 is somebody who generates memes (usually lots of them) with a high degree of virulence. But these memes propagate over time, may mutate considerably, and don't necessarily have a beholden cohort that reliably receives the memes without subjecting them to the above criteria. A memetic nexus would appear to be a special kind of meme fountain, but is there more to it?
We could ask a quick question: is the Pope fundamentally different from an American "televangelist" in terms of whether each is a memetic nexus? Or is it just a question of degree? They function similarly, they each have a sizeable committed or "beholden" cohort. The Pope is selected and placed into a preëxisting memetic nexus, whereas a televangelist's nexus congeals around them and, as often as not, seems to dissipate when the televangelist dies (or is substantively discredited5).
It may be that a memetic nexus is a special kind of meme fountain with a "star network" topology of very few jumps to each of the members of a beholden cohort who unquestionably receive (and retransmit) the memes produced by the nexus. The motivation for cohort membership is that since all members of the cohort receive the new memes at the same time and with regularity, they are guaranteed memetic rewards amongst themselves, even to the point of reliable memetic orgies. There may be a "freshness" factor as well, i.e., humans thrive on the learning and imitation of new skills moreso than reënacting old ones over and over.
One intriguing aspect of nexuses and their relationship to power is that they may be one place where the faceless, evolving by Darwinian selection, anthill-like memeplex connects directly with an individual that makes up one of the "lower layers" of its being6. If we can think of human beings as "intelligent" (a doubtful proposition, by the way), then a memetic nexus may be a place where the second replicator can connect with the first, the meme-driven system connecting back to the gene-driven one. This is the kind of thing that's hard to imagine at the next lower level, i.e., the organism sharing some kind of communion with the genes that make it up. But in a certain sense they all communicate with one another. The mythical kind of connection, such as where G-d comes down and speaks to a prophet like a person, with a human voice, is impossible, since memeplexes speak different languages6 than human beings, whose languages in turn are different to those spoken by genes amongst themselves, and genes are made of molecules made of atoms, which have different rules for communicating yet again. But, it's as though a memetic nexus might be a place similar to where a single neuron, or small collection of neurons, has inordinate influence over the behavior of the whole brain, or one gene has huge ramifications for a host organism (or species!), or indeed, a single individual having inordinate influence over their entire people.
So the theory of the memetic nexus may be the key to understanding power within an ideological system (memeplex). We can ask questions which I've asked before: what are memetic nexuses? how do they form? can they be created? how may they be dismantled? what is their nature, or how may they be described in terms of their relationship to the memetic fabric or cohort? do they even really exist?
Some units of measure begin to suggest themselves: the likelihood of a meme being accepted and repeated, a measure of its "virulence", how that is influenced by the given memetic fabric and memetic inventory it is trying to propagate in, and how that all changes when the memes are being generated by a memetic nexus. Mainly, how do we characterize the virulence of a given meme? That might help us to characterize the strength of a memetic nexus, and what other units might we need? Perhaps the number of individuals connected to the nexus, and how strongly?
1To determine if it be possible to change ideological systems without the need for the deaths of large numbers of people, and to answer the question of whether memetic systems (memeplexes) are intelligent.
2Others imitating our memes (or at least reacting to them with other memes) produces a physiological memetic reward (or "memetic orgasm"), which is the motivation, similar to a sex drive or satiety reflex, to deploy memes in the first place.
3This is related to a "memetic orgy", i.e., when almost all memes deployed result in a reaction from most all members of a sub-cohort.
4c.f., Susan Blackmore, The Meme Machine
5e.g., Jim and Tammy Bakker
6c.f., Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid