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January 24, 2005

One Meme or another

Without going into too much explanation, I’ll try to paraphrase what many others have used as a definition for meme. Then I’ll talk about something I’ve noticed about memes and their propagation.

A meme is any idea, thought or thought pattern that replicates itself. Memes is not really like genes, but that’s where this new word came from. Ideas or thought patterns are said to replicate themselves by ‘infecting’ other brains like a virus and then altering behavior. A meme rapidly spreads from mind to mind in this way. But even this analogy of a virus to me is not an accurate choice of words to describe the transfer of information from one person to the next and the conversion of that information into knowledge, because a virus implies only something bad that needs to be eradicated or inoculated against. Some examples of memes are: “How to start a fire,” “Minnesota is cold,” “We have a divided country,” “Our life is very short,” “How to mix acrylic paints to attain the desired color,” “Our freedom is in jeopardy,” “what’s fashionable to wear this year,” “Biking is fun,” etc. As you can see any thought or idea that gets put out there for others to here, see, and comprehend is a meme.

One article I read, which was related to computer technology in the workplace talked about bad memes that we had to watch out for in our workplace. It warned about being deceived by memes that attempt to manipulate our minds. Yet, without realizing it, the author offered his own meme to replace the undesirable, manipulative meme. His meme was attempting to offer a better way to relate to others in our work environments. Like a virus, his idea will effect some people and not others. Or if we use the analogy of a seed, some seeds are planted in fertile ground and grow, while others fall on dry, unyielding ground and die. Some people will think about his ideas and pass them on to others. Then his meme has replicated itself.

Every idea is a meme, and when we disagree with one idea we are offering a counter idea whether we realize it or not. We are replacing one idea with another idea that we are attempting to propagate. An example of this is the thought put out there that “Religion is trying to manipulate us.” We argue that religion is using memes to control us, but at the same time we are attempting to manipulate others with the meme that “Religion is bad.” Our alternative is still a meme that will either spread or die, like a virus.
Unlike a virus though, some memes we want everyone to share, like the idea that it’s “theft is undesirable.” In general, we’ve determined that this idea should survive and be propagated into everyone’s minds. There are not too many people who like the idea of having their things stolen. We wish that everyone would not steal so this is an idea that we want to pass on to everyone. I share this thought pattern.

Here’s another meme I want you to consider: Investigate Everything. Memes attempt to manipulate our behavior so we should recognize them for what they are and evaluate all memes that get planted into our brain. As we grow from babies to adults to death, we are constantly learning and changing. Every idea or thought we come into contact with has the potential to change us, good ideas and bad, healthy ideas and unhealthy ideas, practical ideas and impractical ideas. But rather than just classifying, processing and accepting memes, investigate the truth or factuality of every meme. That includes the memes we are trying to pass on to others. Be a scientist with your own brain. Investigate everything.

In a recent “CSI,” Crime Scene Investigation episode on TV, Grisholm sat listening to his team explain what they thought happened at a very old murder scene. They didn’t solve the case of who did the murder but were willing to accept the answers they did come up with and put it to rest. They found the missing body and notified the family so they could have closure. Grisholm said, I don’t like holes. We still don’t have the murderer. What does the evidence say? They all began to dig further and soon they came up with the answer. The evidence revealed the truth. Find the facts, find the truth. Investigate everything.

In the book I’m reading now, “How to think like Leonardo da Vinci,” one of the key attributes given of a genius is, Curiosita, a natural childlike curiosity to investigate everything. It is the willingness to question everything, including oursleves. Be a genius and Investigate everything.

Be it one meme or another, you’ll get thoughts and ideas that will try to propagate in your brain and you’ll try to pass on thoughts and ideas to others. Let this be one of them that changes you. Investigate everything.

Posted by carl1236 at January 24, 2005 5:32 PM | Attitude