模倣子 Dormant Immunomemes and Social Change

Tiffany gave me an idea about "planting seeds" in people's minds.  Normally changing people's minds is impossible, but this expression is well-used nonetheless.  The idea occurred to me that as long as someone keeps listening, even if they don't agree  or seem to adopt one's point of view (right away), or even if they admit defeat in the domain of dialectics yet remain unswayed or lukewarm about the competing new idea, or memetic system, there could be an enduring effect which could "lie dormant" and then express itself later.

My idea is that such memes, i.e., signal memes and immunomemes, can be absorbed notwithstanding and remain in reserve in the target individual's "passive memetic inventory" until they see their first opportunity to deploy them.

If You Think You Might Be Thinking...

Of course, this appeals to the theory that humans don't "think" in the classic sense, i.e., gathering and sorting information, applying some kind of logical decision process to it using some kind of magical biological "computer" which is some kind of humonculus, a kind of alter-ego of the person themselves, inside the person's head, who in turn has another, smaller humonculus inside their own head, and so on and so on.

Little fleas have smaller fleas
Upon their backs to bite 'em
And on those fleas, still smaller fleas
And so on, ad infinitum.

Instead, I posit that most of humans' seemingly intellectual activity in reality takes the form of "deploying (immuno)memes" at appropriate moments, and an individual's skill at so doing is a measure, perhaps the measure, of their success and esteem in society. It's identifying the right opportunity to "enact" or "deploy" some behavior (a meme) as well as the ability to imitate it ("perform" it) well.

As Easy as Pie

A silly but hopefully pithy example may serve. A target person may either a) dislike pie because they all have too much sugar or b) believe that all pies have to have a lot of sugar, or c) that only good pies are the ones that have lots of sugar in them. I may then argue with that person that some of the best recipes for apple pie have very little or no sugar. The target person may disagree with this point, but nevertheless comes away with the meme (signal meme or immunomene, in this case, depending upon how it's deployed) which lies dormant in their "mind" or their "(passive) memetic inventory".

The new meme has not yet been used, but the target person has seen it enacted by me, knows the words, and so is ready to use it although they have not as yet ever identified a situation in which deploying the new meme would be successful or actually tried it. This is rather like, and indeed may be a model of, "cognitive dissonance", that is, the competing idea is in the person's mind or awareness, but the original ideas remain installed as well, and they are the only one the target person has actually used.  An observer trying to gauge the target person's "emotional make-up" (whatever that means) might be inclined to state that the target person still "believes that pies have to have lots of sugar".

A short time later, our target person finds themself [sic] in a restaurant with some friends, and after dinner they all agree to have dessert.  Unfortunately, the dessert menu consists of only cream pies and meringues, and a low-sugar apple pie. Nobody's in the mood for creamy pies, but the "healthy" apple pie doesn't sound too great either. Our target person now sees the opportunity to deploy/enact their new (dormant) meme and says "You know, I've heard that the best recipes for apple pie have little or no sugar in them."

There is no conviction here, as there presumably was with me when I initially deployed the meme to the target person a short time previously. There is merely the opportunity to curry the favor of their friends, to reap a "memetic reward" in the form of their friends either responding positively to the new meme, or even just letting it be said and not reacting with hostility. Let's imagine that the friends accept the new meme, this regurgitated statement that low-sugar apple pies are acceptable dessert fare, they all decide to order the pie, and it turns out reasonably well. The target person reaps the memetic reward (a.k.a."memetic orgasm") and the operant meme becomes part of their working memetic inventory as one that has actually been used, and it is also copied to all of the friends.

How to Change the World

So what can we conclude? If it's somehow possible to "make oneself heard", then  it should be possible to passively implant "dormant" memes into a target individual which lurk in their memetic inventory until such time as they may first be deployed/enacted. The theory of mind I put forward is that much of what looks outwardly like intellectual behavior is in fact just so much shuffling through an inventory of memes and deploying them at the most opportune moment, and that this is driven by a kind of reward-based learning process. Humans may be quite adept problem solvers when it comes to things like catching and preparing food, fixing machinery, or figuring out how to get frisbees down from trees or off of roofs, but much of our modern activity has little or nothing to do with that sort of "problem solving". Much of what modern humans do is interact with other humans in social situations, to try to "solve" political and social situations, remedy moral crises, get others to do what they want, and avoid such manipulations and machinations directed at themselves. The theory is that most of this involves deploying memes, that is, taking the right action or, usually, saying the right sort of thing at the right time, in particular when it will make others (potentially large numbers of others) to deploy the same meme(s) or the expected response memes to achieve some kind of result favorable to one's own cause.

So the way to design memes for social change is to, of course, decide how people should act to make the world a better place, and then get them all to chuck out their old bad memes in favor of the new ones.

This sounds easy since of course the better memes should be immediately seen as such and that's all there should be to it, right? Don't let's forget that memetic systems (memeplexes) that survive over time have rich and complex systems of immunomemes to avoid this very outcome, that is, of their being chucked out and replaced.

Getting Around the Immunomemes

So what can we do? The whole strategy rests on the principle that there's such a thing as a "passive memetic inventory" and that it's possible to slip new memes into it without the targeted person being aware that this is happening. Memetic theory states that "meme teams" (memetic systems, a.k.a., memeplexes) don't "care" if some of the memes that make them up are illogical, immoral, or contradict other memes in the same memeplex. It's all about survival and success of the whole team -- all else is irrelevant. This includes the immunomemes on the "team", which tend to be the least moral and the most illogical (for various reasons). These immunomenes attack alien memes that threaten the system.

Some immunomemes are generic, that is, they can attack almost anything, that is, they are "omniphagic". For example, "Who ever heard of a pie without a lot of sugar in it?" or "That's ridiculous!" or "My mother always put lots of sugar in her pies!" Lots of appeals to invisible authority, bluster, frothy anecdotes, question-begging, cheap shots, and strawmen here. A more "targeted immunomeme" might be "I read that the British Diabetes Foundation declared that pie is not a food that patients with diabetes should be eating." A very specific (potential) immunomeme, potentially very powerful and effective, and one which could not be used in an argument about whether it's cheaper or more comfortable to take planes, trains, or automobiles around Europe or whether the office should consider switching paper clip vendors.

The point is that sugar in pies is not a "belief" as much as it is a set of memes (including immunomemes) that the person has at their disposal. If a "contrary" or "alien" meme may be passively introduced, i.e., enacted for them such that they know it well enough to enact it themselves later on, then that meme may become active later and potentially integrate itself into the target person's memeplex.

So it's perhaps less about "designing the meme" and more about imagining the situation in which a new meme might be able to be deployed, and then designing the meme to be available for use in such a situation.

The pie example is quite contrived and most memetic re-engineering problems have to do with politics, religion, racism, homophobia, sexism and other "-isms". These memeplexs are very old, very complex, and very well-defended by sophisticated multi-layered systems of immunomemes. These immunomemeplexes, in addition to being very sophisticated themselves, also tie in extensively with other super-memeplexes and therefore into the very core of society. One way to root them out is to pull a Mao, a Stalin, or a Hitler, or the actions past and present of any major religion, and kill millions of people until those who support the old system are mostly dead and the rest are so afraid they'll listen to anything. The hope is that there is an alternative.

A Gay Samaritan...?

An example that might be more relevant might be the meme that "Somebody said that homosexuals can be good Samaritans. I wonder if that's true. I may have seen one once." In Christian scripture, Luke 10:25-37, the Samaritans were disliked aliens, but a Samaritan man comes to the aid of another man who had been robbed and left for dead, and who got no help from any of his own kinsmen or other passerby. So even someone who is not one of the chosen people, e.g., a Samaritan, can do good work and from this parable and Christ's exhortation we get the expression, "Go and do likewise".

Such a meme would not directly affront the established Christan immunomemeplex, per se. Good Christians and Jews all hate Samaritans and gays and lesbians. But if Samaritans, who are disliked and mistrusted outsiders, can do good works, then why not gays and lesbians? And Christ gives his approbation for good works, even if done by unbelievers.

But the meme has not said "God loves Gays"...not yet. Here we see a model for "cognitive dissonance" that actually has some wheels on it. It's no longer the magical humonculus shuffling his papers and files in the attic of your brain, but a "bit" in a kind of memetic schtick that can be wheeled out at the right time to get a memetic reward from the audience. It's like an "insult comic" who gets better and better the more "bits" and "tricks" he can pull up when the situation calls for it.

Here "cognitive dissonance" takes the form of a meme that can spread through a population. Christians who look for gay people doing good deeds may find the opportunity to deploy this or related memes. The meme or its contrapositive could circulate without running afoul of any immunomemes.  For example, "Gays never do good deeds" or "I never heard of a gay doing a good deed for somebody else" could circulate with the same effect. Then a conversation like the following could happen:

Mildred: "In the news there was a house fire, and a man rushed in and rescued a couple of children. But it turned out later he was gay."
Robert: "That must be a mistake. Gays never do good deeds for others. Besides, they all hate kids."
Janice: "I heard that homosexuals can be good Samaritans. So maybe it's true after all."

The Bootstrap

Again, the design should focus on passive implantation and dormant longevity rather than getting the target person to enact the new meme right away. And the meme should be designed to be useful in normal situations in which the target might find themself [sic]. The thing is that once a few perhaps relatively meaningless memes are implanted in this fashion, a more serious program of "bootstrapping" an entire invading memeplex could be imagined, even one that made less and less use of the pre-existing memes of the targeted super-memeplex.

This is not unlike the technique for "brainwashing" employed by the Chinese against Americans captured during the Korean War, that is, to get them to profess a belief that Communism was better than American-style Capitalism after months of conditioning to agree with initially very small and insignificant memes, e.g., "Wouldn't you say that this is a 'good' and servicible table you are sitting at? Nothing wrong with it? Of course, it was built by communists. So Communism can't be all bad, wouldn't you say" and so on.

A sales technique involves getting the prospect to "say Yes" to as much as possible, to get them in the habit of doing so, so to speak. Peppering the prospect with questions and assertions which are easily said "Yes" to fosters a sense of agreability which may be steadily increased until, like the downed Korean fighter pilot, the prospect is agreeing to some very substantive things indeed, even doing a 180-degree turn on their original convictions.

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