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At 05:24 PM 18/01/02 -0500, "Lawrence DeBivort" <email@example.com>
>I must confess that I am grateful that the US government -- or ANY
>government for that matter -- knows much about memetics.
They don't of course. Not for a lack of trying on my part I should add.
>I believe we can build the requisite models, and do believe that there is
>much we can do -- even now -- to improve significantly US relations with
>The Cold War may serve as an example: the governments (US and USSR) were
>locked into a relationship based on military might and political
>brinkmanship. American citizens, acting privately, took it upon themselves
>to reach out to Soviet citizens; their rationale was that these contacts
>were the only means to defuse the mutual suspicions that the governments had
>engendered in each other. Memes to this effect were created and launched.
I have discussed the fall of the Soviet Union (Communism) in other
places. It was communism that held it together, and when that failed, the
"Union" fell apart. Communism was/is a meme. I have argued in other
places that it properly should be classed with religions because it was/is
in competition for the same "place'" in human minds as religion. The way I
measured how religious-like some meme is is how much having this meme
reduces the chance a person will self identify as a methodist or a baptist
or others which clearly are religions. Call it the religious meme
Communism in the old Soviet Union was not really a home grown
product. During WW I Lenin was given a huge sum of money by the German
government to take Russia out of the war. (The sum is hard to express in
modern terms, but it was certainly in the hundreds of millions of
dollars.) Once set up, the system used crude but initially effective
propaganda and other methods to suppress other memes, religious, political
and even scientific.
For a number of reasons the Soviets were not able to entirely close their
borders to information (memes). This leakage eventually made the
difference between what they were told the workers paradise on earth should
be doing in competition with the capitalist dogs so clear that the
communist meme lost its ability to persuade people to put up with the
endless problems caused by a "planned" economy. And the whole thing crumbled.
Communism is far from the first religion to fall, and in fact there is
considerable lip service paid to it today, though there are relatively few
"hard line" cases left, i.e., the meme has become diluted in most places
where it still survives. As to why (beyond the initial funding) communism
gained sway over a good fraction of the population of the earth, much of
the reason relates to our tribal pass where ideals much like those of
communism have been stamped into our genes. (See Matt Riddley's Origin of
Virtue for more.)
Notice that the communism meme was seldom able to compete without serious
subsidy. The high point measured by the percentage of world population
under communist rule (memes) was probably in the late 80s when free
elections in Nicaragua turned them out.
>The US government was deeply opposed to such contacts, but eventually were
>unable to stop them. Gradually the strategy worked, and Gorbachev, sensing
>that the end was near for centralized communist rule, was able to defuse the
>Cold War, the private citizen exchanges (then called citizen diplomacy) had
>enabled the Soviet people to ease their fears that the US would exploit
>their weaknesses. [In the interest of full disclosure, I was deeply
>skeptical that these citizen initiatives might have any effect, and I was
You are correct that contacts between people outside and inside contributed
to the meme leakage that displaced communism.
>It may be that we now need an equivalent of citizen diplomacy, in which
>Americans and others of good will, reach out to those who have become
>convinced by our government's actions that they are targeted by it.
One thing that is true but hard to convince is that *nobody* is in charge
of the spread of western culture. What are your citizens going to be
doing? Saying to people that 1) were nice guys, and 2) would the children
like to try this Game Boy? (A Japanese product.)
>a second problem to address: besides the US government, the move toward
>corporate globalism is viewed by many as a threat.
"Corporate globalism" is just a feature of western culture. The big
players are not necessarily even US companies.
>It is not quite clear to
>me how to mitigate this. The anti-globalization demonstrations don't seem
>promising, but I may be wrong about the impact of these, too. Memes may be
It is more like memes are the *problem,* western culture memes vs. the
memes of religious fanatics. Memetics might help you get a handle on what
the problem is.
>And a model that explained the 'why's of anti-American sentiment
>might be an important tool in helping our government policy-makers
>understand some of the impacts of what they consider.
I suspect really understanding the problem will just leave them feeling
>Re. your smallpox question: I can't imagine such a scenario, and would feel
>terrible if anyone were to recommend this.
Even though wealth does not entirely prevent insane memes (and cult
leaders) like Aum from causing massive problems, I think there is enough
data points to calibrate a model. The wealth factor and the rate of change
of wealth may be of major importance in the size of the pool of people who
are infectable by highly disruptive memes. In the last 50 years, the US
with a relatively large population has generated a handful of really grim
disruptive events. Northern Ireland/England has seen a much larger
number. It would be worth looking into the economic situation of the
social strata contributing to the problems there. Israel is another
example that could contribute data points to the model.
Wealth per capita can be increased by economic growth, but there are limits
on economic growth. If the population grows faster there is no obvious way
to prevent the really negative memetic effects of falling wealth per capita.
If you really wanted to be paranoid, maybe this *has* been modeled by
secret government agencies.
This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
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