22 January 2007

Memetics 101

Consciousness is changed via practice - you are what you do. "Brainwashing" the passive brain is impossible. The most effective advertising does not say "Brand X has qualities Y and Z"; instead, it presents a meme which associates X with Y and Z and leaves it up to the recipients to connect the dots. All the best "cult" literature, art and popular narrative - the most virally infective memes, to use another metaphor - require that the readers/viewers/listeners do some work to make some sense of what they are given.

For some years I have practiced - on and off - a meditative/cognitive-self-help practice known as UCP. It can be boiled down to systematically comparing present reality to places in your memory and your imagination. Once again, the crucial part is to compare and contrast - do some mental work - rather than to just passively observe.

So, Rule One for wannabe memetic engineers: leave some holes in your propaganda. Leave it to the recipients to make the connections that you are pointing towards. This opens the possibility of misinterpretation, but it ensures that it will actually get a hook into the cognitive processes of the target audience.

Rule Two would, of course, be leave it open source - "proprietary" belief systems only work in a capitalist system where their propagators have a truckload of money to replicate their ideas via brute force. On the other hand, if you've got no money, you have to attract collaborators, not employees. Example: Lovecraft not only incorporated other's ideas (Carcosa, Hastur etc.) into his mythos, but actively encouraged others to join in - hence the Cthulhu Mythos has grown virally. (I think perhaps Larry Miles is trying to do something similar with Faction Paradox.)

Rule Three, as Uncle Al knew, is of course invoke often.