Have you been assimilated? Are you an autonomous individual acting of your own free will, or have you unwittingly become the tool of some larger organism? Before you reject these questions as absurd, consider the following. Even if you act of your own free will or, at least, believe that you act of your own free will, what if the information that you base your decisions upon has been constructed with the intention of causing you to make various predetermined choices? If your reality is not real, but instead is an illusion created specifically to induce you to behave in a way that benefits something outside of yourself, is there any way that you would know? This paper will answer the above questions.
Brief Introduction to Memeplexes
As I write this paper, it is the year 2004 and many decades have passed since the concept of the meme was introduced to the world. Though the concept and the word "meme" which denotes it have become known in increasingly wider circles, the concept and the word remain unknown to most people. Of those that have encountered it, some fail to see the word "meme" as more than jargon. Nevertheless, memes are real and the implication of the meme concept has profound implications on human existence. Those ignoring the concept of the meme do so at their personal peril. The idea that ignorance of memes may present a danger to an individual may seem to be an exaggeration, but after reading this paper I suspect that you will agree that dismissing memes as benign curiosities is unwise.
A good definition for the word meme can be found here:
Definition of Meme:
/meem/ [By analogy with "gene"] Richard Dawkins's term for an idea considered as a replicator, especially with the connotation that memes parasitise people into propagating them much as viruses do.
Memes can be considered the unit of cultural evolution. Ideas can evolve in a way analogous to biological evolution. Some ideas survive better than others; ideas can mutate through, for example, misunderstandings; and two ideas can recombine to produce a new idea involving elements of each parent idea.
The term is used especially in the phrase "meme complex" denoting a group of mutually supporting memes that form an organised belief system, such as a religion. However, "meme" is often misused to mean "meme complex".
Use of the term connotes acceptance of the idea that in humans (and presumably other tool- and language-using sophonts) cultural evolution by selection of adaptive ideas has become more important than biological evolution by selection of hereditary traits. Hackers find this idea congenial for tolerably obvious reasons.
The entire definition, as shown above, is salient to this paper. We could reword it as follows:
(1) A meme is an idea which differs from other ideas in that it includes a mechanism for replication.
(2) Memes replicate by using human individuals and/or human societies as a means to propagating copies of themselves.
(3) Memes, in that they are replicators, are similar to genes. Like genes, they exist only to copy themselves. Like genes, the may evolve over time by mutating and competing with other memes. Memes are concerned only about their own reproduction. Anything employed to forwarding the goal of the meme (e.g. an individual that believes in the meme as an idea) is inconsequential to the meme outside of how it contributes to the meme's replication.
(4) Meme-complexes, also referred to as memeplexes, are collections of memes which symbiotically act to promote the replication of the individual memes within the collection. In a sense, they are a society of memes banded together in order to increase the probability of the survival of the members of the collection by using as a means to replication resources which they collectively organize to benefit the individual memes in the collection (the only benefit a meme enjoys is an increase in its number of offspring). In this sense, memeplexes are to memes as cells are to genes.
This paper is not about memes, it is about memeplexes and how they use individuals, institutions, corporations and societies as a means to their reproduction. The above explanation of the meme is given in order to provide the background needed to understand what a memeplex is and to stress that memes and memeplexes, though related, are distinct.
A memeplex is a symbiotic society of memes. However, I propose that memeplex's themselves can be divided into two useful categories: First Order Memeplexes and Higher Order Memeplexes.
The first order memeplex is comprised only of memes. The higher order memeplex is comprised of other memeplexes. Once again an analogy from biology is in order. An organ within a living creature is to a cell as a second order memeplex is to a memeplex. Just as an organ is a group of cells that act in concert to provide some higher order function to a living creature, a second order memeplex is a group of memeplexes that act in concert to provide some higher order function to a third order memeplex. Thus, the living creature is to the organ as the third order memeplex is to the second order memeplex.
This distinction is not arbitrary. Just as cells provide service to organs and organs provide service to living creatures with the aim of increasing the probability that the living creature will endure long enough to replicate successfully, thereby replicating the genes that compose the cells of the organism; the first order memeplexes provide service to the second order memeplexes and the second order memeplexes provide services to the third order memeplexes with the aim of increasing the probability that the third order memeplex will endure long enough to replicate successfully, thereby replicating the memes that compose the first order memeplexes of the third order memeplex. Just as the living body uses all of its parts and all of the resources it consumes or manages in an effort to endure long enough to reproduce its genetic code, the third order memeplex uses all of its lower order memeplexes and all of the resources (i.e. humans) it consumes or manages in an effort to endure long enough to reproduce its memetic code.
The third order memeplex can be thought of as a highly organized and stable entity which has evolved for the specific purpose of replicating its memes. It uses human beings, human societies and human organization as resources to this end (i.e. replication of its memes). It pursues this goal with absolutely no concern for the human beings involved. In fact, there is no evidence that any memeplex is conscious. Therefore, human beings used merely as resources for memeplexes have surrendered, perhaps unconsciously, their autonomy and have become resources to the unconscious, soulless machine that is the third order memeplex.
An important question we must ask ourselves, given the above, is do we have any choice? Must we be resources for a memeplex and if we must, can we pick and choose a memeplex that benefits us rather than uses us merely as a means to its own end?
The Anatomy of a Third Order Memeplex (Divisions of Labor)
There are a potentially infinite number of third order memeplex types. Therefore, unless we pick a specific third order memeplex (something we will not do in this paper), we can only point out the general second order memeplex types that are needed to form a successful third order memeplex. Put simply, we wish to enumerate the most general divisions of labor within a third order memeplex.
Since memeplexes replicate, there must be a division of labor concerned with replicating the memeplex. Memeplexes, like living creatures, do not replicate in a vacuum. They must consume resources and order those resources in a way that results in one or more copies of the memeplex. Therefore, there must be a division of labor responsible for obtaining resources and another division of labor responsible for organizing those resources into one or more copies of the memeplex.
Additionally, since memeplexes are in competition with one another, memeplexes must compete with other memeplexes for resources. The struggle to obtain resources will inevitably lead to conflict between memeplexes. In order to obtain resources (i.e. human beings), memeplexes must find ways of subverting the free will of human individuals with the aim of redirecting their labor to the benefit of the memeplex. This implies that there may be many different manifestations of a division of labor concerned with obtaining resources. Reflections upon human societies suggest that war, propaganda, slavery and employment are good candidates to consider as manifestations of this division of labor.
Memeplexes must be able to exploit the resources obtained by means of the aforementioned divisions of labor and direct those resources towards replication. Therefore, there must be a reproductive division of labor within the third order memeplex. Obvious candidates within human society come to mind: teachers, writers, actors, politicians, etc.
Memeplexes face another challenge to survival - infection. Since memeplexes are complexes of memes, they must protect themselves from the invasion of foreign memes intent upon subversion. Foreign memes may evolve for the purpose of hijacking a memeplex in an effort to direct it to self destruction or to the service of another memeplex. Since the danger of memetic infection is high when other competing memeplexes are present, the memeplex will need to deploy a division of labor which used human beings as mindless drones aimed at destroying any foreign meme that invades the memeplex. These mindless human drones can be thought of as the memetic analog to the anti-body. In fact, they are identical in purpose to the anti-body: to fight off infection. Since they are identical, we will merely borrow the term "anti-body" to describe this division of labor. Candidates within human society abound which may form examples of mindless anti-bodies (e.g. The Protest Warriors, The ADL, KOBEHQ, The Free Republic, Ditto-Heads, etc.).
The anti-body is not the only defense against infection. There are other mechanism that can be deployed by memeplexes to fight off infection. The most obvious is censorship. Memeplexes may avoid the need to deploy anti-bodies by deploying censors as a substitute, the goal being to prevent infection by preventing competing memes from entering the resource space (the set of potential and actual human resources) of the memeplex. Another defense against infection is to actively seek out and destroy all competing memes. This is an advanced technique unlikely to evolve on its own. In the biological world, natural viruses occur as means to replicating the genetic code of the virus. Humans can engineer viruses to accomplish some other goal (e.g. destroying the human resources of a memeplex competing with their won). However, even engineered viruses exist for themselves and will evolve to their own end (self replication and advantage over competing viruses and defense against viruses). Therefore, once they are released, they no longer act exclusively in the interest of their creators. The same is true for memetically engineered memes. They may begin by destroying their target but they will evolve towards their own end (self replication). An example of such a meme within human society is the "Nazism is socialism" meme that has been spread by the human resources of Bush's neo-fascist memeplex. The purpose of this meme is to convince potential resources to shun socialism by deceiving them into believing that socialism is a form of fascism. Interestingly, this was Hitler's intent as well when he invented the term, thus another similarity between the Bush neo-fascists and the Nazis has been found.
Considering the above, we arrive at the following most general divisions of labor within the third order memeplex:
Slavery (promulgation of a false reality to induce voluntary cooperation through deception, slavery by force, employment (slavery by limitation of choices))
Self Defense (anti-bodies, censorship, assassination)
Memetic Engineering (an emerging division of labor currently employed by intelligence agencies, law enforcement, psychological operations)
This paper narrowly focuses on the divisions of labor within third order memeplexes. It demonstrates that all successful third order memeplexes (e.g. ideologies) must employ at least four divisions of labor (Replication, Resource Organization, Slavery and Self Defense). For each division of labor, we have identified candidates within human society for each. For those of us concerned about free will and individual autonomy, the above analysis calls for a answer to the following questions:
Are all memeplexes degrading to the human will?
Can humans engineer memeplexes that act for both the benefit of the memeplex and the individual humans serving within its divisions of labor?
Are memeplexes unavoidable?
How can memetic engineering be used to destroy harmful memeplexes?
All of the above will be addressed in future papers.
Copyright ? 2004, Stephen DeVoy, All rights reserved. Permission granted for non-profit republication in journals and magazines (online and offline). Notwithstanding the above, permission to copy is denied to any magazine or journal supporting George Bush.