The CAGW Memeplex; a cultural creature

The hypothesis for a single, simple, scientific explanation underlying the entire complex social phenomenon of CAGW.

UPDATE: as of 1st November, this Post is up at Climate Etc the blog of atmospheric scientist Judith Curry:
UPDATE1: as of 2nd November, this Post is up at ‘Watts Up With That’, the most viewed climate site on the planet:

Whatever is happening in the great outdoors regarding actual climate, inside, truly inside, in the minds of men that is, overwhelming evidence indicates that Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming is a self-sustaining narrative that is living off our mental capacity, either in symbiosis or as an outright cultural parasite; a narrative that is very distanced from physical real-world events. The social phenomenon of CAGW possesses all the characteristics of a grand memetic alliance, like numerous similar structures before it stretching back beyond the reach of historic records, and no doubt many more cultural creatures that have yet to birth.

Having painted a picture of CAGW from a memetic perspective in fiction last December, see the post:, I realized that many people instinctively sense the memetic characteristics of CAGW, and typically express this in blogs or articles as relatively casual comments that cite memes or religion. Yet these folks appear to have no real knowledge of how truly meaningful and fundamental their observations are. Hence I have provided a comprehensive essay which attempts to fill in this knowledge gap, and indeed proposes that the entire complex social phenomenon of CAGW is dominated by memetic action, i.e. CAGW is a memeplex. Note: a ‘meme’ is a minimal cultural entity that is subject to selective pressures during replication between human minds, its main medium. A meme can be thought of as the cultural equivalent to a gene in biology; examples are a speech, a piece of writing (‘narratives’), a tune or a fashion. A memeplex is a co-adapted group of memes that replicate together and reinforce each other’s survival; cultural or political doctrines and systems, for instance a religion, are major alliances of self-replicating and co-evolving memes. Memetics101: memeplexes do not only find shelter in the mind of a new host, but they will change the perceptions and life of their new host.

An amusing depiction of a serious entity; the narrative colony creature that is the memeplex of Catastrophic Antrhopogenic Climate Change

Because the memetic explanation for CAGW rests upon social and evolutionary fundamentals (e.g. the differential selection of self-replicating narratives, narrative alliances, the penetration of memes into the psyche causing secondary phenomena like motivated reasoning, noble cause corruption and confirmation bias etc.) it is not dependent upon politics or philosophies of any stripe, which tend to strongly color most ‘explanations’ and typically rob them of objectivity. Critically, a memetic explanation also does not depend on anything happening in the climate (for better or for worse). CO2 worry acted as a catalyst only; sufficient real-world uncertainties at the outset (and indeed still) provided the degree of freedom that let a particular ‘ability’ of memeplexes take hold. That ability is to manipulate perceptions (e.g. of real-world uncertainty itself), values, and even morals, which means among other things that once birthed the CAGW memeplex rapidly insulated itself from actual climate events.

Homo Sapiens Sapiens has likely co-evolved with memeplexes essentially forever (Blackmore), therefore they are a fundamental part of us, and indeed no characteristic of CAGW appears to be in the slightest bit new, quite the contrary. Underlining this ancient origin, one class of memeplexes folks are familiar with is: ‘all religions’. Yet these fuzzy structures are by no means limited to religion; science has triggered memetic themes before and extreme politics frequently does so, and there have even been historic memeplexes centered on climate. This does not mean CAGW is precisely like a religion, but being similarly powered by self-replicating narratives creates the comparable characteristics that many have commented upon.

Using a great deal of circumstantial evidence from the climate blogosphere and support from various knowledge domains: neuroscience, (economic) game theory, law, corporate behavior, philosophy, biological evolution and of course memetics etc. the essay maps the primary characteristics of CAGW onto the expected behavior for a major memeplex, finding conformance. Along the way, contemporary and historic memeplexes (mainly religious) are explored as comparisons. The essay is long, book-sized, because the subject matter is large. I guess an essay describing all of climate science would be very long, so one exploring the entire memetic characteristics of CAGW plus I hope enough context for readers to make sense of that, is similarly so.

The context is extremely broad, ranging from why pyramid building evolved in Egypt to a passionate cry against kings, priests, and tyranny in a radical women’s journal of the early nineteenth century. From the impact of memeplexes on the modern judicial system courtesy of Duke Law, to the ancient purpose of story-telling and contemporary attempts to subvert this, along with a plot analysis of the film Avatar. From the long and curious tale of an incarnation of the past is always better meme currently rampant on the internet, to the evolutionary selection of fuzzy populations in biology and the frankenplex multi-element cultural creature that is CAGW. From the conflict related death-rates in primitive tribes versus modern states, to analysis of corporate social responsibilities after the Enron and banking sector crises. From memetic chain letters that stretch back to the hieroglyphs (Letters from Heaven), to the analysis of social cross-coalitions via game theory within the perspective of economics. From the concept of ‘the Social Mind’ courtesy of neuro-scientist Michael Gazzaniga, to pressure upon religions by aggressive atheism as promoted by Richard Dawkins. From modification of theistic memes in the Old to the New Testament, to notions of Gaia and telegraph wires and wing-nuts. Plus memetic sex, witchcraft, cults, Cathars, concepts of salvation, Communism, hi-jacking altruism, Lynsenkoism, lichen, psychologizers, National Socialism, de-darwinisation, that ugly term ‘denier’, and much more.

Next page (2) for more…

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10 Responses to The CAGW Memeplex; a cultural creature

  1. Martin Clark says:

    Thanks – very interesting.
    I have long been regarded as a heretic in my profession (town & regional planning) due to my annoying habit of drawing attention to the many shibboleths that the profession is subject to, and, to make matters worse, I’m a climate skeptic. Does this limit my ability to earn a living? No. I’m trying to take it easy but am still swamped with work. People seek my help because I am not a servant of either meme.
    I picked up on your 12 characteristics of religions and decided I’d better start by checking my own against this (I am a Baha’i).
    1) The religion is exclusive, members cannot belong to other religions (which are defined as false).
    Correct to a degree, except it is not permissible to define other religions as false.
    2) The religion supports a formal priesthood.
    False. Authority is vested in elected assemblies. Individuals do not have authority.
    3) The religion‟s principles are encouraged / enforced (orthodoxy).
    Well, they are stated, and mostly encouraged. Most are transcendent criteria, eg science and religion are one, independent investigation of truth … difficult for some to follow, impossible to “enforce”.
    4) The religion‟s narrative presents a universal peril, avoidable, for adherents at least, only by full belief and promotion of the religion.
    No. Perils exist, of course. Human destiny evolves. That’s what it has done and will continue to do.
    5) Believers are encouraged to self-identify with the religion‟s principles.
    Er … yes. Is that a problem?
    6) Believers have a superior status over non-believers.
    No. This is actually prohibited.
    7) Believers win praise for spreading the word and making conversions of others.
    8) Believers are offered rewards (e.g. the above salvation) and enlightenment; if not in this life or incarnation, then „the next‟.
    Not really – far more open-ended.
    9) Believers are offered simplification. Faith is promoted over inquiry: faith in arbitrary texts / persons / principles (be these in reality good, bad or indifferent regarding current circumstances).
    It may be the case that some adherents seek simplification, but the “message” is basically the opposite. Humanity has reached maturity. Imitation is no longer condoned.
    10) The religion imposes guilt on poor conformers.
    In some instances possibly.
    11) The religion‟s communal interests take precedence over the interests of any individual believer (the import and urgency of number 4 being used to support this).
    Up to a point, and where possible, but number 4 doesn’t support this.
    12) The religion may turn a blind eye to, or even actively encourage, persecution of individuals from competing religions.
    Again, this is prohibited.

  2. andywest2012 says:

    Hi Martin,

    Thanks for dropping by. You have my sympathy re shibboleths and skepticism. It takes courage to remain independent and speak the truth as you see it against the pressure of peers and arbitrary consensus.

    I came across the Baha’i faith when doing research for a novel once a few years back, so I know the roots (a splinter group of a splinter group of Twelver Shi’ites circa late 19th century), but not too much else. Never thought I’d meet (so to speak) someone from that faith.

    The template may be a bit generic and clumsy regarding any specific religion, and biassed towards western / christian faith, but I have to say that from your very forthcoming answers the Baha’i faith seems extremely mature (in the best sense, i.e. of understanding and tolerance etc) and pretty laid back compared to most others. The absence of a firm salvation contract is very interesting. Perhaps all this has armed you well for the perception of more aggressive regimes, like climate change alarm.

    I’m not religious myself, but I have to say from limited data you supply, the Baha’i faith would seem like a better prospect than any others I’ve come across, if one required a route to a deity.

    Glad you found the work interesting and appreciate your feedback,
    Cheers, Andy

  3. Stuart B says:

    OK Andy, I am checking in here prior to diving into your essay, plus the pointers outwards. This is entirely new to me as an established area of study. I am hoping that eventually I will feel I know enough about it to make intelligent comments. That may be some time away. I was myself raised in the paradoxical and frustratingly baffling discipline of Experimental Psychology, with a strong presumption in favour of psychological reductionism. (I still capitalise it, it seems that significant to me). At the boundary between science and philosophy, I always felt that, aside the specific and sometimes highly provisional body of knowledge accumulated by a very ‘young’ science, the lasting impact on my own condition was a certain cheerfulness in the face of ignorance and uncertainty. Maybe even that these conditions are perennial, inevitable, and more pervasive than we like to think. I am interested in explanation, plausibility, deniability and the scientific project. I am currently wondering whether systematic intellectual endeavour is comprehensible via memetics. I am also interested in whether memetics and its outputs are to be understood or evaluated within any prior intellectual framework, or is it sufficiently novel and powerful to require a correspondingly innovative critique. You can see I’m struggling here…
    Anyway, I will try to understand what you are presenting, and hope to come back with something worth saying.

    Stuart B
    (on Judith Curry, sab)

  4. andywest2012 says:

    Hi Stuart,

    thanks for dropping by and for your feedback. Due mainly to my time restrictions there isn’t actually a great deal of posting or interaction on this site, and most is devoted to my other passion of writing science fiction. But any comment is certainly appreciated :)

    Memetics is a young and so somewhat still contested science which has already had some ups and downs, but should most definitely be viewed within the wider (and older) discipline of ‘cultural evolution’. The latter for instance sets a baseline for Darwinian processes within cultural trends, whether weaker or stronger, in which there seems high confidence with or without memetics as the more specific mechanism. In fact you may be well-armed to enter this area; it seems to me (from admittedly only a slice of a very large literature) that a weak point with all cultural evolutionary theories is that we don’t really know what is happening deep in the pysche, where macro cultural influences turn into some level of personal belief and action. So maybe you’ll be able to fill-in the missing bricks ;)

    I probably won’t get much or any time for blogging over the next 3 weeks, but hope you enjoy the reading.


  5. Michael 2 says:

    I finished reading your lengthy PDF article on meme complexes last night, or more precisely this morning at 0100. It is exceptionally well written but seems to be more persuasive than needed; perhaps a meme-about-memes trying to replicate. A meta-meme!

    As it covers a lot of ground I suppose a few comments on specific items of interest in no particular order and not by way of suggesting I know any bit of this more than you.

    The first thing that comes to mind is the concept of “attractors”, or to use the language of cell biology, “receptors” — in the case of cells, patterns of proteins whose polar molecules will “dock” only with very specific other proteins. This also has application in GPS, Global Positioning System.

    I suggest that a libertarian mind either has (1) fewer receptors or (2) they are already “docked”. Once docked the energy required to undock is substantially higher; rather like a magnet sticking to a refrigerator door. It takes very little energy to attach and quite a lot to detach. In the world of ideas, the same phenomenon exists — whoever first gets in the door when a receptor is available is likely to be permanently attached. That is why dogmas aim for children.

    So anyway, about these attractors. I believe humans are born with receptors; some will spend a lifetime trying to find the thing that attaches perfectly while others have no idea about it and try, and discard, ideas seemingly at random. Because youth have not attached to ideas, they tend to attach to the first thing that comes along that is ALMOST what they are looking for — security and purpose in life — the stuff from which the left wing is made UNLESS you are living in the Wild Wild West in which case security and purpose comes from firearms and hunting.

    I suspect Carl Jung sensed the existence of these receptors and called the things that hook into them “archetypes”. I am fairly sure I don’t have understanding in the way he intended but I consider psychologists to be thoughtful but hardly dogmatic, it is not mathematics where everyone gets the same answers to the same problem.

    These preference mechanisms can be highly specific and operating below conscious awareness. I go to a store for shirts and ties, and it is interesting to me that two neckties that seem nearly identical, one is awesome and the other is not interesting to me. I have no idea why one appeals and the other does not; a combination of color and pattern “fits” into a receptor — so how and when did that receptor come into existence? It is doubtless cultural, maybe even genetic. Anyway, one’s choice of religion is going to be similarly fine-tuned. When I visit the graves of my ancestors and their family members in Minnesota, I am reminded that a small schism among Lutherans divided a husband and wife — he is in one cemetery and his wife is in the other less than a mile away; both churches were nearly identical but divided over a single issue of such small consequence that eventually they put such minor differences aside — but not before it split some families so important it seemed at the time.

    I suggest also “deja vu” for consideration in this meme complex. When an idea or observation fits a receptor exactly, the “snap” of that magnet hitting steel (figuratively speaking), the perfect fit of idea into receptor suggests that you’ve done this before even though you are reasonably certain that it is impossible. This is experienced somewhat regularly in highly proselyting religions such as Mormonism. This religion doesn’t try all that hard to convert people since people don’t stay converted. Rather it tries to find people for whom the meme fits naturally like they were waiting for it to come along.

    This is also true for non-proselyting religions such as Buddhism. The people for whom it is a good fit don’t need to be coerced into it; the ideas “snap” into place naturally.

    Assuming therefore that the climate religion (the parts that resemble a religion) is like any other, it will “snap” into place in some people and to them seem correct, true, and obvious with no furtther evidence or persuasion needed; whereas for others it just isn’t “right” no matter how much scientific evidence you throw at them.

  6. andywest2012 says:

    Hi Michael, thanks for your various comments and for ploughing through so much of my material. Haven’t got time to reply properly just now, but will do when I get a moment :)

  7. Michael 2 says:

    A reader on another blog suggested strongly to destroy wrong ideas (about climate, but it could be about anything represented only by an idea). I countered, saying that it is not possible to destroy an idea or a meme; you can only replace them with something that displaces the old one. An example of this is the limited success of proselyting atheism — it isn’t a meme per se, it tries to displace a meme with nothing to replace it. That is why it fails; it fails “Pascal’s Wager”.

    But climatism is a proper “ism” complete with beliefs, obligations, heirarchy, priesthood; thus it can and does displace traditional religions for many people IF the new meme is “stronger” than the old one or leverages a weakness in the old one. But whether leveraging a weakness accomplishes a major paradigm shift or replacement of the entire meme-complex depends on whether the parts of the existing meme complex are “severable” or the whole thing must be taken as a package deal, all or nothing. People that are inherently black and white, all or nothing personalities (seems to be a small majority), are probably more vulnerable to mass replacement of the entire meme-complex whereas people like me that can detach specific memes more easily are less likely to be committed to the entire package, and yet at the same time more resistant or immune to wholesale attempts to replace a religion or culture. I think that is the essence of “conservative”, I conserve things, especially culture and the meaning of words.

    Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBTI) suggests that people are not distributed over all of the infinite possibilities; that some positive feedbacks exist that “snap” a person into one alignment or another. This also suggests that meme complexes will be similarly aligned to these same positive feedbacks, or as you call them, “attractors”. Meme complexes CAN only be aligned in certain ways. Socialism, for instance, can only be implemented correctly one way with some nuances of course. if people have liberty to choose in and out, then it isn’t socialism. If one person can excel and get more because of it, that’s not socialism. It can have no other gods before it, hence socialism is a secular religion. Private property cannot exist, parents should not raise their own children, and so on. The meme complex is well defined with strong attractors. Once you venture near its influence, it is very easy to get sucked into it. CAGW I think is sort of like a solar system in this galaxy — CAGW has many memes, they orbit CAGW, but CAGW itself is in orbit around Socialism: Utopia!

    If that is a thesis, then the antithesis is “Liberty”. It also is a galaxy, with solar systems of meme complexes each with its little memes in orbit. The United States followed this meme complex for its first 100 years, not universally held of course. It does not work very well to mix-and-match memes, some from this and some from that.

    As you or someone pointed out; all life on Earth is eventually doomed. Life must leave this planet and migrate, colonise elsewhere; even if the entire life cycle of Earth exists solely to accomplish that one goal, like the life purpose of a mushroom. Utopian socialism dooms that idea; for we are not all equal, wealth and purpose must be concentrated. To spread wealth and purpose uniformly across all 7 billion people merely seeks an “average” of all mankind with no global purpose either in mind or possible.

  8. Michael 2 says:

    In a previous comment I mentioned “GPS” in the context of affinity for certain ideas or belief systems, meme-complexes. As you may know, all satellites are transmitting on the same frequency. If you were to listen to it you would hear white noise.

    The noise seems random but it isn’t. If you “slide” a pattern along the noise, the strength will suddenly increase if the pattern matches its counterpart hiding in the noise. It really is amazing how this can work. Each satellite transmits a pattern of 1’s and -1’s that are not easily mistaken for any other satellite despite phase changes. You simply multiply the pattern to the noise — 1 times 1 is 1, -1 times -1 is also 1, sum the 50 or so bits and a perfect match is going to give you an amplitude of 50. With that much integration, any other pattern will give you about a 1 or completely cancel if you are lucky. So this peaking will be sharp and indicate (1) you have found a particular satellite and (2) you also are “phase locked” and can start using the timing to calculate your location on Earth.

    GPS depends on every receiver having in-built recognition patterns.

    Memetic noise is enormous but it isn’t really noise, it is just a large number of competing memes. I would expect to see a uniform distribution of all ideas but that isn’t what I see; as you mentioned, some “attractors” exist, things humans are born with that help each discover and lock onto its preferred source.

    “Tabla Rasa” philosophy is that humans are born identical and equal, and that all preferences subsequently manifest can be traced to environment and culture. To me this is an absurd idea since if it were so, no variation would exist anywhere, long ago having established THE way for humans to be, think, act and so on; rather than this all being a wishful utopian nightmare or dream.

    I was raised without religion and without going to church, and yet I chose one because it matched what I already knew and believed. It is “phase locked”. A person without knowledge, or claiming knowledge cannot exist when plainly it can because it does, cannot displace a knowledge meme.

    At any rate, I am suggesting that some people — but obviously not all or even very many — are born with recognizers for certain things. In the realm of religion this is expressed by the phrase “my sheep know my voice” suggesting rather strongly that other sheep exist that do not know his voice. I take it to mean I don’t need to do the impossible — convert someone to a belief system they do not already possess, or away from a belief system they DO possess.

    That is why I find highly passionate arguments on WUWT to be mildly amusing. It is one thing to “lay out a belief system” and let people who have an affinity for it latch onto the idea; but failure follows persons that try really hard, by word alone, to (figuratively) rip your magnet off the refrigerator door or your mind and substitute their magnet.

  9. andywest2012 says:

    Hi Michael, you have a lot of interesting thoughts here. First of all I think you’re spot on that a short and punchy version of the CAGW Memeplex is needed; I was laying out the full case first, with evidence, as my kind of reference layer. Very useful indeed for the many questions that people ask, and so likely still very needed to point folks to for depth. But a highly distilled version is needed too, not least because few people are going to plough through such a large work, but also to access a wider audience who may not be too familiar with the domains of either climate or memetics. Have thought about tackling this for a long time, but time is precisely my problem, not enough of it! And would be quite a challenging task. Shaping complex views for easy digestion, yet not in a way that allows them to be dismissed as trivial, is always challenging 0:

    Your concept of pre-disposition to certain themes (which ‘snap’ into place in your terms), has much merit I think. Some folks certainly seem more vulnerable than others to cultural influence. But I don’t think ‘the Libertarian mind’ as you call it, is any more vulnerable then ‘the Conservative mind’ in this respect. At different eras or civilisations, different cultures hold more sway than others, and many cultures now forgotten pre-dated current cultural swings to left or right wing as we now perceive these, and various religions still have their own big share of the ‘cultural market’ for instance. I’m not sure there even is a concept of a Libertarian mind or Conservative mind. If you swapped a batch of newborns from stauchy Libertarian families for newborns from staunchly Conservative families, I’m willing to bet that on average the babies would grow up following the politics of their cultural parents, not their biological ones (I propose a batch, because of course just on principle some rebel youngsters will follow the opposite of whatever their parents do!) This thought experiment says the mind is in fact a clean slate, and the political adult therefore a product of cultural immersion only. This doesnt demean any biological intelligence, and via cultural / genetic co-evolution some folks may indeed be more vulnerable to cultural takeover (less skepticism than others), but *which* culture takes them over will likely be a function of their early path through life.

    Regarding how hard it is to persuade someone away from their culture, you are right about that too, typically it is *very* hard. But this is a function of the defence mechanisms in the culture, which via guilt or fear or inspiration or all of these and more, tend to maintain loyalty levels across adherents. Likely a few will be more persuadable than others, but any culture worth the name wouldn’t be a culture if it couldn’t hang on to the majority of its followers :)

    Agree too that you can’t just exterminate a culture and its memes from a standing start. You very much need to attempt to evolve a culture to a better place, and if that better place is not also represented by easily transmissible memes, you are likely going to lose. I don’t much like that conclusion, but it is what it is. And indeed climatism is a proper ‘ism’ as you say, with all the paraphanalia that entails. I think that takes me back to where I started; if I can’t package the CAGW memeplex concept as a meme in itself, it will likely never catch on against the avalanche of emotive catastrophe memes from CAGW itself. Whether it is in psychology or climate science, it seems that getting out of bias and back to proper method doesn’t seem to be a strongh enough reason in itself. Folks seem to need *inspiring* back to proper method, in a way that outbids or dismantles the emotive appeal of cultures like CAGW, perhaps in a similar fashion that the bid for the moon or huge breakthroughs in medicine have done in the past.

    Thanks again for reading and for your thoughts.

  10. Michael 2 says:

    “emotive catastrophe memes from CAGW itself. ”

    Yes, that is another subtopic I had meant to go into and I hope I can keep the thought in mind while I articulate it.

    The battery of human behavior is in the amygdala, or limbic system (or both or they might mean the same thing). It has some “shortcuts” to sensory inputs; these systems (fight-or-flight) have simple recognizers and operate below consciousness. Because of that, triggers cannot be easily identified or ignored.

    Danger is the most immediately recognized stimulus; followed by meeting desires. You can postpone meeting a desire but you’d better not pospone escaping from, or eliminating, danger. Humans are wired to recognize certain dangers — bright yellow insects, snakes, things like that. Your sense of smell is also under appreciated as a trigger for the amygdala; good scents, dangerous or unpleasant scents. Why is “fart” not often on the shelves at Macy’s as a perfume? It is almost universally unpleasant; hydrogen sulfide is toxic at large doses and also a signifier of dangerous food (spoiled). It is universal and need not be “taught” or part of any culture.

    Much research has been conducted on “tabla rasa”, infant research, where infants in particular cannot have learned anything culturally but very definitely respond to certain auditory and visual cues of threat or safety. This research is somewhat not politically correct since it flies in the face of “all men were created equal” which is a foundation principle of socialism; if indeed all people are created equal and become disequal only because of cultural forces, then it is reasonable to correct those forces to achieve equality — hopefully a “high” equality rather than just lowering the bar which appears to be more the case.

    But consider your own research — the conclusion you draw is that humans might not have ANY free will, and others arrive there too although it is speculative and depends a bit on what one means by the phrase. Certainly I can go to Baskin-Robbins and choose my flavors; but can you predict what I will choose?

    As you are a science fiction writer, you are also probably a reader, but maybe not so much as to avoid inadvertent contamination or borrowing others’ ideas; not that there’s any harm in taking an idea and expanding upon it. Anyway, to my mind comes Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series and Hari Seldon — mathematically predicting human behavior. Collectively it works reasonably well, individually very much not so as exemplified by his character the “Mule”.

    I believe that it is not binary, exclusive, either-or. The cerebral cortex can *modify* the urge to eat ice cream but it does not create the urge itself. Choosing any kind of ice cream is probably a middle layer blending inputs for heat (I want cold), thirst (ice cream is wet), blood sugar, taste, instant gratification spells “ice cream” but you don’t THINK all that.

    Under that is “hunger” for something, and most any mother can tell you when she’s pregnant she is hungry for something very specific as if the fetus is choosing what it wants Mother to eat, with a feedback mechanism that if Mother chooses incorrectly she will be sick. So even the vagus nerve, if I remember right, has some small say in the matter.

    Carl Jung was exploring some of these things he believed, as I do, are already existing, the middle layer of preferences — below conscious thought but above instinctive drives. It is that class of thing “you’ll know it when you see it” but until you see it you really don’t have a clue other than there’s something missing in your life but you don’t know what; and two hundred people have suggested things to you until you are ready to scream.

    For me the big “click” was going to Alaska and seeing eagles everywhere. Unbelievable. The emotional impact was profound and highly irrational so I spent some years trying to figure it out. I was raised in the desert; no eagles. The short answer is I never did find out what is so special about it although it is possible I had some interaction with one nesting nearby in Canada at my grandmother’s retreat. More particularly it is an archetype and is one of four or so worldwide archtypes — Iceland’s seal has a dragon, an eagle, an ox, and a giant (man). I suspect these were actually the four beasts of God’s throne but icelanders had no idea what is a lion so substituted for a dragon. That’s my guess anyway.

    At any rate, something marvelous happened — I suddenly remembered being 8 years old, and everything up to 8 years old, and I realized that from 8 to 22 years of age was recorded on a virtual person, an avatar, which just like a virtual computer has no idea of the existence of its host and thinks it is “me”. The event was probably the divorce of my parents which at the time seemed to have had no consequence. In computer language I “forked” my personality with one in suspended animation and the other went through the remaining years of school without the slightest idea that a substantial part of me was not developing. A clue should have been my excessive “geek”, Spock-like rationality.

    An episode of the old Star Trek deals with that very thing; Kirk is split into rational Kirk and emotional Kirk, and the emotional Kirk does not want to be merged back since he thinks he is going to die.

    Anyway, however it happend this archtype was a key that forced merging of my left and right personalities, each half having completely distinct and somewhat opposing meme complexes or cultures or value systems. It was a roller coaster ride that in some ways wasn’t very pleasant and yet the result is that I feel I am much more “whole” than I was before. What I wish I knew is how it is that this particular symbol, archetype or image had that kind of power; sort of a “master key”.

    Now then in the realm of propaganda, it is very much the case that you identify and target these “keys” — they aren’t memes yet, that’s an idea, these things are archetypes and work below the layer that memes occupy. Archetypes feed straight into the amygdala, and “cute” works really well, even on infants.

    So, take something cute, kill it, and watch the sympathy bubble up. Then steer that energy and THAT is what memes work on and steer, choosing the flavor of ice cream.

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