It seems the 21st century will oversee a climactic decisive battle of memeplexes. We are entering the era of violent clashing between fundamental ideologies both new and old. The ones with the most succesful highly viral memeplexes will win.
Take a look at this clip there: http://richarddawkins.net/article,3121,n,n
(this reminds me strongly of the terrifying documentary Jesus Camp)
Look at those people involved. Look at their convulsions, both physical and verbal. Are these people sane? Are they normal?
I maintain that those fanatics are, in fact, perfectly normal people. However, they are also batshit insane. The point to stress is the fanaticism and madness do not arise due to some fault or blemish in those particular people -- the insanity invades perfectly normal minds, much like a cold invades normal bodies. For whatever reason, the viral ideas of their particular church happened to invade their minds at a vulnerable time. These viral memeplexes are now gradually gnawing away at the victim's brain, modifying them to suit the needs of the memeplex itself -- much like the Cordyceps fungus chemically alters the victimised ant's brain to force it to go high up and cling to a twig, while the fungus kills it and sporulates from up high. The Cordyceps is truly a terrifying parasite for the ant it preys on.
And that is the terrifying part. Genetic illnesses, although sad and grotesque, do not terrify the rest of us lucky enough not to have them -- for they cannot spread upon contact. Viral epidemics, however, are terrifying -- even mild sicknesses like colds. Furthermore, when an ant is infected by the Cordyceps, other workers of her colony carry her as far away from the nest as possible, and even remain there to die themselves to spare the colony from infection. Some of our parasitic memeplexes have an even better strategy, however. They modify the environment around the affected to disable any potential ostracism of the victim. The parasite portrays itself to the outside as benign, thereby escaping much of the scrutiny that would otherwise bring forth its end. And there are more potentially vulnerable individuals to come in contact with.
This brings us to a rather interesting way to model and analyse many of the world's events: Human minds are highly malleable, regardless of how much we try to resist. We are much like the molecules a DNA molecule uses to perpetrate itself to the future generations -- they may be thermodynamically resistant to such enslaving, but the genes that have mastered the technique are highly succesful in continuing it further (the other genes just die.) The memes use us to live out their own evolutionary stories, and manage to enslave humans to behave at their whim. Nationalism, political ideology, religion - look how many human lives were lost to the fierce battles between them! Humans are trashed around like socks in a washing machine: innocent, vulnerable people simply trying to live can be converted into vicious irrational killing machines ready to destroy the others who are exactly like them -- albeit parasitised by a different ideology.
This view places no blame on the common folk who are parasitised, regardless of how vile their crime. They were weak, perhaps mentally unhealthy for whatever reason. They became sick. Now their sickness imposes its raging symptoms upon the lives of others.
There are the smart crooks who take advantage of these ideologies, and despite not being aware of the formalisms of memetics, are masters of the field. To the disadvantage of the rest of us, of course. Some of these people are politicians, people of great power. Many of those politicians are parasitised by vile memeplexes as well. Now that is truly scary, for the ideology can express itself to its fullest foul capacity.
The destructive ideologies are evolving along with the beneficial ones. They're getting better and better at what they do. And perhaps this century may be an age where their battle rages greater than ever before.
I'm afraid the only way to combat this would be to launch a memeplex as a counter-offensive. Some benign ideology that self-destructs after a certain timeframe, immunising its victims from future viruses that may not be so benign. Basically, memetic vaccination. The child's mind is particularly malleable, and must be protected from diseases by a proper education.
We face today a slippery slope downwards from anything that can be even marginally considered 'proper education'. Perhaps we are at the lowest level of education and social intelligence in many centuries. Perhaps we have never been as dumb, naive and gullible as we are now, especially in the west. This compounded by the fact that never before have the ideological diseases been so good at what they do, is a very scary detail. I am genuinely worried. And terrified.
We should be careful not to attack the inflicted, but rather attempt to cure them of the infliction. Of course, many of them view us as inflicted (in the religious sense; we definitely all are inflicted by one thing or another in other ways), and that is one advantageous adaptation of their parasite. Imagine a viral disease that made you feel great and also feel the need to spread it to everyone else! If such a virus ever evolved, even if it killed off the host in drastic manners, it would thrive!
Well, that virus is here. It's been here for millenia, and is now more advanced than ever before.
We are on the losing side. Let's get our acts together and spread the antidote of skeptical rationalism as well as awe and adoration of that which truly is, as opposed to that we wish would be. If we wait much longer, it might be too late...
Shock Me like an Electric Eel
6 hours ago in Catalogue of Organisms