The Story of the Queen of Anatahan (near Saipan!)
I'm trying to organize all my essays into a singular document that clearly lays out macromemetics, but there is a lot of material, and I'm not sure about the quality. Many of them are pretty well formatted, have plenty of footnotes, and include diagrams. Others not so much.
I thought I might go back to my short-lived resolution of writing a short post on macromemetics every Monday, and maybe use that format to start to put things into order. Kind of a "letters to the universe" kind of thing, I suppose.
I'll just take a stab at things. I'll try to start with the basics, the zero-assumption level of things, and build from there. I'll try to link in previous essays that support each new point. I guess I'll also go back and edit posts I've made for each Macromemetic Monday to add things like diagrams, more links, and so forth, so they actually lead to more understanding and clarification.
A Little on Micromemetics
I call my new science "macromemetics" in using the same kind of nomenclature as in economics, i.e., "microeconomics" and "macroeconomics." By this I mean that microeconomics deals with things like individual maximization of utility and individual economic decisions generally, while macroeconomics deals with things like money supply, inflation, and even supply and demand curves, in other words, phenomena that emerge from collective behavior of groups of individuals.
Macromemetics deals with individual behavior with respect to memes (1). Macromemetics deals with the behaviors of collections of individuals with respect to memes, or usually systems of memes (3).
Some Basic Concepts of Micromemetics
Individual people (4) engaging in memetic activities (5) deploy memes in the hope that they will resonate with other agents. An example is telling a joke and having other people laugh (6). If they don't laugh, then it didn't resonate, or the memetic deployment was "unsuccessful."
A good reference for micromemetics is The Meme Machine by Susan Blackmore.
The human brain is structured to recognize memetic deployments by other agents and decide how to react, and to assess the receptiveness of other agents to memes one might deploy oneself, and to learn how to enact memes deployed by other agents.
Memes are a kind of parasitic entities that piggyback on our ability to feel empathy for others, which is a faculty of the mirror neurons in our brains (7). We are able to watch another person doing something and work out what it would be like to do the same thing with out own bodies (or speech organs), and by the same token, guess at how they would react if we were to do the same thing.
As parasites that exist in the environment created by our mirror neurons and which may be transmitted to other individuals, memes are able to reproduce and also mutate via natural selection, much like our genes compete with each other for resources and reproductive success. This is where we start to move into the domain of macromemetics.
How memes work in the brain and human memetic behavior is pretty well established at this point and I take it as a given, a point of departure for macromemetics. A refer to micromemetic concepts throughout, but I don't so much interrogate the how the nervous system processes memes and so on, as such (8).
I have developed a collection of terms for many of these phenomena, which I have written about elsewhere, and which I'll try to build up in future Macromemetic Monday posts.
Micromemetics is to Macromemetics as microeconomics is to macroeconomics. One deals with individual behavior, and the other deals with collections of individuals.
We take as given that humans are memetic creatures with all that entails. I've devised a number of terms for micromemetic phenomena, and use those to describe situations and dynamics, develop theories, design experiments, and analyze the results. As such, I've managed to develop a number of principles, theories, and laws which can aid in memetic (social) engineering.
More to come, I hope!
(1) I define a meme as a readily identifiable behavior or stimulus. An example could be smiling, waving, flipping someone the middle finger, words, or any language event. Some allow that familiar objects, such as a coffee cup or a telephone, can also be memes. I also class these as MIAOs (2) since they technically cannot be "imitated," only "recognized."
(2) MIAO is a "Memetic Iconic Anchoring Object" since familiar objects attach collections of memes which all become available when a MIAO (such as a coffee cup) is presented, but conflating MIAOs and memes can be a useful shorthand and avoids a certain amound of quibbling.
(3) A system of memes, or "memetic system" is also known as a "memeplex," or for very large systems, such as a language or an entire culture, which might go so far as to employ the term "megamemeplex."
(4) I do no disallow animals or AIs or even other things from engaging in memetic interactions. My general term is a "memetic agent" or "agent" and this is anybody or anything which may receive memes and in turn "send" them (5).
(5) An "agent" is anybody or anything which may engage in memetic transactions. That is, sending and receiving memes. An agent may "enact" a meme, or "deploy" a meme. The former may imply that the agent is merely "rehearsing" the meme, or "practicing," while the latter implies that the meme is being put out there for other agents to be exposed to. An agent either "resonates" or fails to resonate with a memetic deployment. Why and when and how resonance happens and what that leads to is central to macromemetics.
(6) Emotional responses such as laughing, crying, yawning, or shivering are what might be termed "biological memetic responses" or "physiological memetic responses." Orgasms are also of this type. Some of these, such as laughing, crying, or yawning, are "contagious," which is a kind of memetic resonance.
(7) This is related to Dunbar's Number.
(8) Despite not wanting to hash over how the human nervous system produces memetic behavior, I do look into the memetic relationship of the individual with him or herself, and how this relates to interacting with the outside world. I call this domain "endomemetics" and I have terms like "idiomemetics" and "idiomemes" in addition to "endomemes" and "exomemes" (generally just what we think of as "memes").
(1) The Meme Machine by Susan Blackmore.
Index of Memetics Essays HERE
What is a "bad conversation" or "dysfunction discussion" and what causes it? What do good conversations look like?
I think the principles of improv comedy may shed a lot of light on this question, as well as those of memetics.
I'd like to describe in detail what bad and good conversations look like and isolate the some of the factors that cause them.
One protest I hear is that there would have to be some kind of dictator or chairperson running the conversation, in order to make a conversation better on purpose. I reject that notion. My belief is that a collection of individuals who are shown certain basic principles of behavior which they may each enact individually to make the conversation better, they will do it. One trick is that, from memetics, we need to have corrective behaviors in the mix, too, so when people forget themselves and behave badly, there are tools the others can use to bring things back into line.
Some aspects of good conversation might include:
1. Everybody feels "good" about them
1.1. Participants feel "refreshed" and like the time flew by
1.2. Participants feel like they contributed
1.3. Participants feel like they "were heard" (5)
1.4. Participants feel like they know each other better
2. Everybody gets to participate
2.1. The "talking stick" keeps moving
2.2. "Quiet" members are asked for their input
2.3. Every member's input feeds into the discussion
2.4. People are asked questions about what the said
2.5. There are "callbacks" to what people have said before
3.1. The conversation digs deeper into some topic(s)
3.2. The points raised all get touched on and explored
3.3. Questions get asked and answered
Things you see in bad conversations might include:
1. One or more members feel "bad" about the conversation
1.1. People feel exhausted, like it was a waste of time, are glad it's over
1.2. People feel ignored and/or misunderstood
2. Lengthy "monologuing"
3. Members are excluded
3.1. People speak, but their points are dropped, not followed up on, or even mocked
3.2. Members get "cut off"
3.3. Questions are not addressed
3.4. Speakers are immediately contradicted (5)
3.5. Running with strawmen (5,12)
3.6. Talking over people
3.7. Lack of "democracy" (8)
3.8. "Immunomemetic" behaviors and comments (11)
4. Excluding Behaviors (3)
4.4. resume-reciting, appeal to authority
4.5. "I like/don't like this" comments without elaboration (6)
4.6. Patronizing (9)
4.7. Ad hominem (10)
5. The conversation is monotonous
5.1. The same things get said over and over
5.2. Fixation on topics not of interest to everyone (2)
5.3. Members keep bringing up the same points, possibly because they are not answered
5.4. Behavior supporting staying on a tired topic, not letting the conversation move on
6. Flipping Between/Derailing Topics (4)
6.2. Excessive quippery
6.3. Jokes/side comments
6.4. (see 7.2.) The conversation keeps dying and must be jump-started repeatedly
7. Dead Air
7.1. Everybody stops talking
7.2. Constantly having to get the conversation going again (see 6.4.)
7.3. A subject is mentioned that is too awkward, or nobody has anything to say about
7.4. "Conversation killer" subjects seem to come up frequently
I've thrown up quite the laundry list. I hope, however, that despite the daunting number of things that conversations "should have" or should be watched out for, I can devise a very short and succinct and hopefully very easily understood set of principles to usher in the good and keep out the bad.
What is the Goal of a Conversation?
I think a good conversation is one that involves everybody, and which makes some kind of "progress" towards a happy result (2). This might look like everybody feeling heard, like their points were considered and discussed, and some interesting things came up and got talked about. A conversation (and a meeting) has a limited timeframe to accomplish these goals, that is, giving everybody a chance to take part. What does "taking part" look like? I'll take a super-simplistic example to try to illustrate this.
People feel good when they get to contribute, but also when others acknowledge their contribution and expand on it, refer to it. Hearing new things from others, especially if those things are in response to one's own contributions make the conversation interesting and satisfying. Saying mean things, dismissing ideas, or just ignoring people makes people feel bad.
How to achieve this?
Insights from Improv Comedy
Improv gives us ways to react to what other people say. Other systems that deal with this include things like debate, interview, speechmaking, and so on. These things don't lead to good conversations, however. Everybody being quiet while one person talks at length, or two or more people make lengthy responses to questions or what each other say, or one person asks another person questions for a long period can be fun, but they do not include everybody. I think a lot of bad, so-called "conversations" have actually degenerated into one of these forms.
Improv comedy is about keeping things moving, which is also a goal of a good conversation. The basic idea is "the offer" which is what any member just did or said. There are two outcomes when a member of the troupe makes an offer: to "accept" the offer, or to "block" the offer.
In memetic terms, a conversation is always in a "state," which describes what options each member of the conversation has in that state. The state of the conversation changes (or gets stuck) depending upon what everybody does. For example, the speaker may "keep talking" which keeps everybody in the state of "listening to somebody yack/drone on." This is a "meme". A more obviously "meme-y" thing to do would be to "interrupt" or "block" an attempt to interrupt. Another meme is just to do nothing, say, just to sit and listen, or zone out. This is the "let them yack on" option, and it's also "don't support somebody trying to interrupt". Do doing nothing is an action, too.
Back to improv. You don't have to kick in your own ideas in order to do something, to "accept the offer." It's possible to support somebody else's offer, such as, "that's an interesting point." That's just supporting, just indicating that you'd be interested in seeing that point discussed, which telegraphs to everybody else that if they throw down on that point, they will have your tacit approval. This is a way to make people feel good, like they're being validated, that they're part of the conversation.
There are several other things that demonstrate this. One is restating, or repeating the point and its details, preferably in a different yet still correct way (1). Another is expanding, that is, adding additional information or opinion to the point raised. Yet another is "callback", which is making reference to the point later in the conversation, e.g., "...and I think this comes back to Mary's point about sidewalk maintenance."
Improv can show us how to keep a conversation moving, but where do we want it to go?
A Sample Conversation
Let's say we have four people who are going to have a one-hour conversation. Each one of them has a "topic" that they want to talk about.
Dick likes to talk about dogs.
Jane likes to talk about cats.
Jack likes to talk about rain.
Jill likes to talk about fish.
Here's a sample of how their conversation might go. Dick says a few things about dogs. Jane restates some of the things Dick said, and then sort of extends what he said by bringing up cats. Dick says a few more things about dogs and he and Jane go back and forth about which cats and dogs they've owned and which breeds they like best, and recount cute dog and cat anecdotes and TicToc videos they've seen.
The conversation is now in a redundant, monotonous, almost monologuing state. Jack and Jill may be up a hill, but they are not in the conversation yet.
One good behavior that Dick and Jane could enact would be to try to include the others, since they are already established speakers. "Hey Jill, what kind of pets do you like?"
Alternatively, Jack and/or Jill could interrupt. This could be an uphill battle, if Dick and/or Jane resists, or in the improv parlance, "blocks." Like if Jill pitches how she likes fish and has an aquarium, Dick might block by saying, "Cats eat fish, but dogs don't," which rejects the fish topic from being integrated into the conversation and returns the conversation to just dogs and cats between him and Jane.
Jack might be able to get in a quip that doesn't get blocked by saying something about "raining cats and dogs" to get some airtime for his topic.
At this point only Dick and Jane have trotted out their "pet" topics, and Jack got in a quip, so his topic is kind of available for expansion or callback, but hasn't actually been discussed yet. Jill is still a fish out of water.
One question is whether Jack and Jill are shut out of the conversation, or whether their topics just being ignored, but they are still being able to participate to some degree. This latter seems unlikely, because Jack managed a quip but it went no further, and Jill got shut down, so maybe they didn't get many dog or cat comments in, either.
But if Dick or Jane, or Jack, managed to add to the dog and cat conversation with something like "Why do they call it 'raining cats and dogs' -- you guys are the dog and cat experts--what have you heard?" then we've started to include Jack. Jill could be brought in with stuff like "you don't have to walk your fish when it's raining out" or how fish are low-maintenance in other ways.
At this point we have included everybody in the conversation. This is good because it give the maximum of opportunities for things to talk about to everybody, and each topic you mention will resonate with at least one other person. This is the "memetic inventory" of the people in the conversation. This inventory goes up every time somebody is included, and every time a new thing is mentioned, and this gives everybody things to expand upon, to call back upon.
It's important that we do this, include people, in a conversation, but how can we measure this?
Phases of Conversation
Everybody getting to say something, and then those inputs being discussed by everybody, would seem to be a "goal" of a good conversation. How do we tell if this is happening? I've hit upon the idea of phases of development of a conversation. This is not necessarily a "recipe" for a good conversation, so much as a way of telling if things are not moving forward, and pointing up what still needs to be accomplished, such as there still being people who have not been heard from, or their input being ignored or dismissed.
Phase Zero: preliminary talking, but conversation not really started yet
Phase One: Choose topic (could be an explicit topic, say, for a meeting)
Phase Two: Each member "buys into" the topic, or pitches their own initial idea
Phase Three: All members' "pitch" is restated by at least one other member
Phase Four: Each member's idea, is "expanded" on by at least one other member
Phase Five: Each member's ideas are "called back" on by at least one other member
Phase Six: "Free talking"
fig. 1. Phases of a Conversation
This is of course simplistic. But it gives an idea how to rate how stuck a conversation is, and what needs to happen next in order to move things along. For example, if one person is monologuing, or two people talk about some topic that nobody else has commented on or bought into, then the conversation is stuck in Phase Zero (3). The idea here is basically that if a everybody has not had a chance to say something, either their own idea, or comment on the establish topic, then the conversation is stuck in Phase One.
What to do if you're stuck in Phase Zero or One? Obviously going around and asking everybody "what do you think?" could work, which would allow the conversation to move to Phase Two and on to Phase Three. Once everybody has given their input, there's a chance to restate, expand, and call back.
Time's a Factor, Lois
So the point is that there are six or seven phases to a conversation, and there is a limited amount of time for the conversation, and there are a certain number of people involved. Over an hour, on average you have about 8 minutes per phase. If we go back to our four-person conversation, we have to divide these phases four ways. In some cases we can imagine everybody restating everything that everybody else said, so this would be short.
Phase Zero (set-up): 8 minutes
Phase One (choose topic): 8 minutes
Phase Two (buy-in): 8 minutes / 4 people = 2 minutes / person (approx)
Phase Three (restate): 8 minutes / 4 people / 4 people = 30 seconds / person
Phase Four (expand): 8 minutes = 30 sec / person
Phase Five (call back): 8 minutes = 30 sec / person
Phase Six (talking): 8 minutes = 2 minutes / person
Total: 60 minutes
fig. 4. Phases of a Conversation and Time Breakdown
While the example may be a bit contrived, the point is pretty clear that a conversation must be fairly dynamic and quickly devote a certain amount of time to a number of activities in order for everybody to feel included. If some deliberate effort is not focused on this, they won't be, and the conversation risks not being very good. Another point is that even if considerable time is shaved off the time-wasting Phase Zero, or the topic-choosing Phase One, there's still not a lot to spread back around to the other phases of the conversation.
Phases may be combined, so Phase Two through Four (and even Phase Five) comments may actually serve to complete Phase One. So instead of each person getting some four minutes of free talking (Phases Two and Six) on average, it could expand to ten or even more. But the conversation must be dynamic. The talking stick has to move around, give everybody a chance to build on the topic, in order to get to Phases Five and Six as quickly as possible.
Phase Six is like the "bonus round" where people can speak freely at a fairly deep level about things that interest them, with the assurance that everybody else in the conversation is up to speed and able to understand what they are talking about, asking interesting questions, making interesting comments, and everybody can cooperate.
Once again, the task is to get everybody through all of the phases as quickly as possible. Improv comedy, "accepting the offer," is a way to keep the conversation moving, getting everybody involved as early in the conversation as possible, so they can all move through the phases.
What about "Interruptions"?
I didn't really mention interruptions in either list for good or bad conversations. Since keeping the conversation flowing is important, interruptions, per se, can be a good thing. If a conversation devolves into nothing more than a long series of monologues, and lengthy responses or more monologues, some kind of interruption may be called for.
In order for this to work, other members of the conversation have to "support" the interruptions. Otherwise, "high-status" members and their confederates can defeat attempts to change the direction of the conversation. Interrupting efforts are "memes" just like memes used to "block" people out of a conversation.
Summary & Conclusions
Conversations have to move forward and include everybody. The more people give input, the more opportunities for everybody to make references, to provide even more input, in the form of callbacks and expansions to what others have said. The improv comedy dynamic called "accepting the offer," as opposed to "blocking," is a mechanism for including people into the conversation.
We can think of phases of a conversation which move from one to the next based on how well everybody has been included, and we can determine if a conversation is stuck if it's not met the requirements for the next phase. Making progress means including people who haven't been included yet, which adds opportunities to restate and expand on and call back on their contributions.
Improv comedy points the way. When somebody says something, rather than block what they say, use it to say something new, to include the comment in the conversation. This moves the conversation to a new state (1). Being conscious of whether all members have been included, have they said anything, has anybody restated or expanded on what they said, or is anybody making callbacks on it. If the answer is no for any of these, then the conversation may be stuck.
(1) A basic principle of rhetoric is to always speak to the "highest and best" version of the other person's point. The contrary of this is to engage in ankle-biting and petty mockery of what the person may or may not have literally said (5). If belittling seems like a viable course, trying to "fix up" the other person's argument, trying to understand what they were going for, and asking a clarifying question, or even just taking a quick swig from the chalice of humility and asking them for clarification.
THIS IS A DOCUMENT IN PROGRESS
I have written hundreds of essays on macromemetics. Some of them are quite "complete" with footnotes, links to other documents, diagrams, and so forth. Some of them do a better job than others of explaining their points. My goal is to collect the best of them here as a one-stop-shop for those interested in coming to grips with my theories as they currently stand.
Another further goal is to collect ideas so that I can flesh out areas that are as yet underexplained (1) and write more about them. Ultimately I hope to put out some kind of book, probably of essays at first, and then some kind of macromemetics textbook later--baby steps.
I want to make a list of the essays, with links to same, possibly also with descriptions and links to keywords that are explained in each. For now, just the essays, ma'am. I'll see what I can do about the rest. I think I want to update all of the essays I reference herein back to this document, which should facilitate reading all of them in a reasonable order for anyone who wants to familiarize themselves with what I'm trying to do here.
I think I'm going to move all of these essays and such into appendices and reference them from a kind of text that ties them together theoretically and thematically.
Memetic Resonance and How Memes Work in the Brain
Kids Conspiring to Get Candy
Memetic Hell & Escaping it Through Play
Applying the Laws of Macromemetics to Critique Groups
Introduction to Macromemetics (a bit of an overstatement!)
The Memetic Nexus and the Rock Star
Memetic Nexus and Power
The Memetic Anathema of IP
Why do Jerks Get Ahead?
The Macromemetics of Apathy
The Ideomemetic Appeal of Religion
Memetic State Diagrams and Transition Matrix Sets
Applying the Triple Narrative Model to Bralessness Activism
Mel Brooks & Constructed Memetic Nexuses
Situational vs. Intrinsic Oppression
Immunomemetics & Bullying
The Immunomemetics of Kibbitzing
The Choice of Libidinal Bribes
Anthropomorphicization & Cults of Personality in Conformity
Intergenerational Abuse & Genocide
Marginal Memes as Tools of Control
TOOL Book: The Meme Machine
Cheese-Dicks in the Platoon
What is Meanness?
Immunomemetic Bullying & Intent
Why We Marry Our Parents
TOOL film: The Pervert's Guide to Ideology
The Memetic Nexus & The Rock Star
Memetic Sexual Equality
Gender Stereotypes & Bad Writing
Religion Packing the Meme-space
Immunomemes and Convergence to Stability
MAD Magazine Yiddish Etymology
Contact Memes & The Corporation
Memetic Nexus Relationship to Power
Apathy & Memetic Pathways
Ironically, it's Important NOT to be Earnest
The Memetic Orgy that is Pretendianism
Memetic Toolbox for Rapid Branding
Some Thoughts on Branding
How Do Immunomemes Function? (in progress)
Ain't No Use in Complaining
Immunomemes Against Solitude
2017 Blog Posts
Memetic Destitution and Violence
Ideomemetic Systems and Psychoses
Warrior Women CulturesOrganizational ValuesCheaters, Masochists, Sociopaths, and Proselytizers
Endomemetics & Therapy
October 2017The Ownership of a Human Being
War, Genocide, Colonization, and Slack
Make-Believe: The Macromemetic Nature of Ceremonies Bullshit
Neologismsnpsp;& WordsmithyFilming Yourself Being Filmed February 2018
The Police vs. African-Americans
Affirmative Action, Contact Memes, Pretendians, and Sherman Alexie
Memetic Marketplace of Ideas
The Appeal of Hatred
The Male Gaze
Agriculture, Religion, and other Bad Ideas
Metamemetics and Fighting Starvation
Japanese Memetic Terms (put in Glossary)
Nudist Resort Analogy and relation to Apathy
Is Gender Equality Even Possible?
Banning Terrorist Religious Groups
The Influence of Film Contracts on Attitudes towards Toplessness
Moving Beyond Capitalism in the Wide World
Etre Suivie aux Etas-Unis
Argument for Drug Re-De-Criminalization
Images that SHOULD Piss off Feminists
Ban Bikini Baristas?
Role Reversal in Media
Walking Alone at Night
Body-Con is like Addiction?
Beautiful is Beautiful
Sympathy for Disabilities
Memetic Engineering & Childbirth
Cross the Martian Desert for Love
Female vs. Male Science
Landing on a Feminist Comet
The Quiet Rooster
TOOL Book: Look to the Land
Undercutting Female Power
The Dialectics of Tiger Lily
TOOL Film: Until the Light Takes Us
Circumcision & The Burden of Empire
The Practicality of Asexuality
The Wage Gap & Other Stories (several links inside)
The Flag Rarely Flies at Full Mast
Marketing Climate Change
The Balls are Out-of-Bounds
Einstein on Objectification
Sloppy Terminology in the Media
No More Fed Funds for Circumcision
20 Smart Jokes
Star Trek Joke
Women Get Out First
Custom Rules for Risk
(1) One of these is the Box Binning Project, which I have yet to write up. This is a project I did at work where I transformed how my employer did inventory in the factory, which I estimate saved $1.3 million per year in staff costs alone, not including reduced opportunity costs.