This weeks most MemeticMeme is:

Memes are 'sticky'

  • Arguably, if we wanted to design a meme we might give it at least four attributes:
  • desirable
  • attainable
  • shareable
  • reproducible
  • We may agree that whatever memes really 'are', they act as though they are 'sticky ideas'.

Memes are not always 'useful'

  • One 'sticky idea' is Adam Smith's theory that self-centred diligence creates prosperity for all.
  • As such, it implies that we may suspend individual responsibility in order for the 'Good' to prevail.
  • Arguably, this idea is memetic because it appears to be 'attainable', 'reproducible', 'shareable'...and it is doubly attractive or desirable: i.e.
  • a) it invites us to be selfish in ways we enjoy
  • b) it depicts this mode of selfishness as morally good

Turning a tragedy into a miracle

  • In his famous essay, the 'Tragedy of the Commons', Garret Hardin (1968) points out that acts of individual greed may bring disproportionately large advantages to the individual, when weighed against the negative impact on society as a whole.
  • In other words, the negative effects of an individual's selfishness (i.e. on average) bring relatively larger benefits for that person.
  • For Hardin, the 'tragedy' is that our evolutionary heritage gave us the tendency to see this kind of selfish logic as 'common sense'.
  • If he is correct, we are all inclined to 'take advantage', even when we know that the collective result may ultimately disadvantage each of us.
  • It would be helpful to design a benign (opposite) variation of this 'selfish meme'.
  • We might describe it as a 'generous meme'.
  • The more 'generous memes' can be designed to be mutually supportive, the more auspicious our world will become.

Sticky and useful

  • If it is possible to design memes, and if we can choose benign versions of them, then we may be able to create a viable post-fossil fuel society based on mutualism?.

The Walking Bus

  • A good example of a beneficial 'designed' meme is the Walking Bus (external link).
  • Here are six advantages for the children:
  • they get better exercise
  • they learn better road sense
  • they are safer because of supervision
  • they socialise better
  • they will breathe better air
  • their parents will have to investment less on fuel, vehicle etc.
  • This system does not appear to disadvantage anyone, and brings benefits to virtually everyone.
  • How can we make it more memetic?

Visit Richard Brodie's Meme Central (external link) website and his list of memetics links and publications (external link).

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