My essays are primarily concerned with macromemetics (1), but I have discovered the need to lay out a few micromemetic (1) concepts, namely, memetic loops and residual memetic debt, in order to support my macromemetic conclusions These concepts provide a model, an answer, to the problem of why human beings choose to deploy memes, and which memes they choose to deploy, if any. The question of why humans deal in memes at all is already answered by Susan Blackmore (2) and others.
However, just like the question of why a given human being should decide to eat, to have sex, etc., at a given moment still seems to need an answer. I have a few simple concepts that address this, and also happen to take in large problems such as why we have intergenerational abuse and genocide, and even why children misbehave and other familial and social dynamics.
In short, these concepts are basic to such concepts of memetic engineering and analysis.
People are driven to deploy memes because they hope to get a memetic reward (3). This biological reward/response is achieved when an individual is imitated by others, or when they successfully imitate others, i.e., when their successful imitation is acknowledged by said others or somebody else. This could be getting taught a skill, retelling a joke, making an artifact just like somebody else did, wearing the same clothing style, and so on. The fact that we have copyright laws makes a strong point that this is a basic component of human nature.
Examples of Memetic RewardsOne interesting example may be live performances as opposed to filmed or recorded ones. Performing in front of an audience, and being in the audience, affords the chance to exchange memetic rewards. There may also be smaller rewards to be members of the same audience along with others, even if the performance itself is filmed/recorded.
One thing to be pointed out is that there are purely physiological memetic responses, e.g., crying, laughing, getting angry, afraid (sweating, trembling), and these can be reward-yielding memetic responses, but cannot themselves be imitated, per se. A comedian/actor gives a performance, and an audience laughs/cries/etc. and the performer gets a reward, although the response itself may not be later imitated, or rather, if somebody laughs or cries in other circumstances, it is not an imitation of the performance reaction, nor is it such if somebody else tries the same jokes or schticks and also gets a similar response (it is not the same response in memetic terms).
Memetic Loops and Residual Memetic Debt
The imitator and the imitated both get rewards. If the imitation
attempt receives no reaction however, this is a different thing (4).
Theoretically, failure to elicit memetic responses is the cause for
anti-social behavior and violence, and even intergenerational dysfuction
and genocides, and that brings us to memetic loops and residual memetic
A memetic loop is something that begins when a meme is deployed, and then completed, or "closed," when it is successfully imitated (6). The deployment of a meme creates an open loop, causing memetic debt in the deployer, which is then "paid back" when a desired response (7) is deployed, thereby closing the loop.
Loops that are left open, even partially (8), result in residual memetic debt, i.e., a desire in the individual to recover that remaining memetic reward (9). In the case of familial abuse, where a parent is abusive toward their children, the children are unable to return the abuse, to perform the abusive act against the parent in return, until they themselves have children and are able to enact the same meme from the same direction. Preventing children from crying or getting angry when punished/abused probably makes the residual memetic debt worse (10).
Sub-populations who are not able to evince memetic responses from the mainstream population may resort to violence in order to get some kind of reaction (12). Given this, a possible solution to interracial violence may be to react to the memes the other group is putting out, e.g., laugh at their jokes, etc. -- who knows? Heavens forefend, learn their languages!
When we get to genocide, we can see examples of a people who were the victims of genocide turning around and inflicting similar horrors on another population (16). One example may be the Hutu and Tutsi peoples of Rwanda, i.e., the minority Tutsis were established as the ruling class by the Belgians upon their departure as colonial rulers of the country (13), and then when civil war broke out, the Hutu ended up slaughtering the Tutsi, perhaps in "closing the loop" on the oppression they themselves had suffered under Tutsi rule.
Another compelling example is the Israelis, the Germans, and the Palestinians. The German genocide of the Jews is legendary, and now we have the Israelis herding the Palestinians into their own concentration camps (14), in a kind of replay of what was done to them during WWII. Other examples no doubt abound, even to the examples of long-standing feuds between inner city gangs and families such as the Hatfields and the McCoys and such.
It occurred to me that micromemetics was lacking something, namely a driving physiological force to compel individual human beings to deploy memes (or not) and how to react when these memes are responded to and when they are not responded to. I devised the concept of a memetic reward (3) and its related memetic loop to satisfy this requirement.
Implicit in the memetic loop, which requires "closure," is the idea of residual memetic debt (15) which is either quickly resolved, the loop closed, or not. Failure to close a memetic loop results in the individual (or collection of individual) harboring the memetic debt until such time as they can recoup it. This offers us an interesting explanation for why people cheat and steal, why children (and adults) misbehave, what drives non-political violence, and why intergenerational dysfunction and even genocide happen (and are perpetuated).
(1) as opposed to macromemetic, which is the study of systems of memes working within the context of large groups of people, a.k.a., "memetic cohorts." Micromemetics refers to how memes work within the minds of individuals, how they are transmitted, etc., that is, how they are experienced by individuals and how memes influence individuals. One could say the "biological aspect" of memes, which is what I hope to discuss here, and how it relates to group behavior.
(2) The Meme Machine, Susan Blackmore, PhD., foreword by Richard Dawkins.
(3) I also refer to this half-jokingly as a "memetic orgasm," because this is a useful way of looking at it, i.e., it is a physiological response, it reduces/satisfies "drive," and there is an inherent desire to achieve/attain it.
(4) Failing to receive a reward from imitation can lead to trying harder, trying other things (5). In my essays Memetic Destitution and Violence and Why Does Alienation Lead to Violence? I look at how non-response to attempts to garner memetic rewards can lead to anti-social behavior.
(5) Children misbehaving can be in response to a parent reacting, especially in the case of young children. If the parent does not react to a given misbehavior, the child will tend to fairly quickly abandon it in favor of a new behavior. If it's a bid for attention, then reacting strongly to good behavior can be effective (of course), or simply paying lots of attention to the child to keep them [sic] out of the bad behavior zone.
(6) Again, a response could be laughing, crying, etc., as in the case of a comedian delivering an act. Some memetic deployments expect an imitation of the deployed meme, e.g., learning and using a skill being taught, a neologism becoming widely used, a new style becoming prevalent, or a new product having market success. All of these represent a memetic loop being closed.
(7) And this may be a response that actually harms the deployer, physically or emotionally or what-have-you. They still get a memetic reward, close the memetic loop, if a relevant response is offered.
(8) Discussions of partially-open memetic loops (engendering residual memetic debt) are discussed in The Tragedy of the Koffee Klatch and Contact Memes and the Corporation and elsewhere.
(9) to make it the rest of the way to "orgasm" if you will.
(10) See the Re-evaluation Counseling theory of emotional discharge. If you beat your children, at least let them cry and get mad at you (and hit you (11) )
(11) If you can't handle getting hit by your own kids, you might thing twice about beating them in the first place!
(12) See Slavoj Zizek in A Pervert's Guide to Ideology, by Sophie Fiennes.
(13) This must be the only time that European colonial power deliberately messed up their colonial territory before decamping....not!
(14) See Noam Chomsky et al
(15) which occurs when the meme in question is not resolved, or when the resolution is ambiguous. For a clean resolution example, see "Blue Shirt Tuesday" and "Prime Pizza Thursday," and for unclear resolutions and their consequences, see The Tragedy of the Koffee Klatch, and Contact Memes and the Corporation.
(16) even a totally different one to their original oppressors, as with intergenerational abuse
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