I finally heard a good definition of “meme” as being a contagious idea…
In these times we hear a lot about news, videos, songs, images, LOL-cats, etc spreading “virally”.
As a computer scientist, I often deal with trying to contain the spread of computer viruses.
In reality, these computer viruses are nothing but information being copied from one node to another.
Information that changes the programming and thus the ‘behavior’ of the computer or device.
Can the right combination and pattern of information have the same effect on the organic computer that we call the human brain?
Of course, we experience the communication of information changing our behavior on a daily basis.
For example, if I came over to your house and told you that your dog was run over and laying dead in the road, if you cared about your dog it would be very upsetting to you. It may evoke a traumatic emotional reaction of confusion, anger, grief and result in crying or screaming. But then when you step outside, you find your dog happily wagging his tail and jumping up on you, glad to see you.
You see, it was not reality or the truth that effected your behavior. It was information. In this case the information was inaccurate (maybe I mistook the dog in the road as yours) or an outright lie, but it was not reality that you were reacting to, it was the information presented.
I remember the Batman movie with Jack Nicholson as the Joker. In that movie, the Joker had laced soaps, shampoos, cosmetics, etc with chemicals that by themselves in each individual product were harmless and undetectable, thereby passing scrutiny of the FDA, etc.
However, when multiple products were used in any random combination, these chemicals would catalyze and cause a transformation to happen to the person who used them.
It is easy to imagine this in terms of a chemical or biological combination of agents. Even medication that individually can be beneficial, can cause permanent damage or even death when taken in combination with other medications.
What if the same could be done with information?
What if the information we glean from movies, tv, magazines, books, talk radio, music, etc seemed benign taken individually, but in one of many “right” combinations it could induce emotional and/or irrational behavior? Are we being distracted by the plethora of sports and entertainment? Are the news outlets more interested in inducing emotional states of anger, fear, or bliss rather than telling the truth? Does the repeated and increasingly intense induced trauma put us into a passive suggestible state? Are we being hypnotized to go about our days in an unquestioning daze? Is being bombarded by the same talking points over and over again shape our thinking to the point that we react with cognitive dissonance to anything that is contrary to the mainstream message?
Combine this with fluoride in the water hardening our pituitary glands, mercury laced vaccines inducing autism, mutagenic viruses, breathing contaminated air, pesticides, cleaning chemicals, genetically modified organisms, artificial sweeteners and preservatives in our food, and on and on…
What could the synergistic effects be?
Could it help to explain why the world is going “mad”? Why recently several people that I have known personally for years have begun to act emotionally and irrationally? Why society calls evil good and good evil?