Tuesday, August 02, 2005

A subject which I have not commented upon for some time, yet which is still close to my thinking, and I feel is linked to the subject of our species development is that of memes:

"What if ideas were viruses?

Consider the T-phage virus. A T-phage cannot replicate itself; it reproduces by hijacking the DNA of a bacterium, forcing its host to make millions of copies of the phage. Similarly, an idea can parasitically infect your mind and alter your behavior, causing you to want to tell your friends about the idea, thus exposing them to the idea-virus. Any idea which does this is called a "meme" (pronounced `meem').

Unlike a virus, which is encoded in DNA molecules, a meme is nothing more than a pattern of information, one that happens to have evolved a form which induces people to repeat that pattern. Typical memes include individual slogans, ideas, catch-phrases, melodies, icons, inventions, and fashions. It may sound a bit sinister, this idea that people are hosts for mind-altering strings of symbols, but in fact this is what human culture is all about." from Global Brain Group

Yet language is a virus - or rather, thoughts are. Just as RNA protein molecules act as transmitters of information between DNA, that carry information to instruct the DNA to develop and act/function; so does language in the human sphere act as the transmitter of our thoughts between human molecules within the global cell. If a bacterial virus is passed along, such as cancer, it causes the cell to decay, and this infected cell is liable to spread the disease.

Similarly, if a segment of the human population gets a virus-idea (such as 'kill all those people who do not believe as we do'), then this idea spreads through language and culture to infect and destroy. We, like cancerous cells, are wiped out.

Biology passes on genes; human culture passes on memes. During our childhood we are fed certain 'truths/rules/laws' etc that we learn to condition ourselves and abide by - our cultural 'genetics'. So too will our generation pass on our cultural/developmental genes (memes) to our offspring. The condition of our memes - our thinking and mindset - will determine the fitness for evolution of those that are fed with our ideological memes.

Thus, it is imperative, crucial that we establish a healthy and positive, forward thinking set of cultural genes (memes) to duplicate and pass on to our evolving species. Not to do so can have catastrophic results for the future. Let us not turn our language into a destructive virus - let it be a healthy organism.

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