TD08 – More Kinds of Memes

Continuing on from the last lesson here are some more kinds of memes …

Killer memes

Some ideas, like ethnic or racial cleansing memes, wipe out the hosts of other ideas and destroy their ability to spread. Killer memes are good at attacking other memes like ‘mass production’ memes that can extinguish ‘craftsmanship’ memes.

I’ve written at length in Software For Your Brain about the killer meme, PTV, the Plato Truth Virus. I believe PTV to be the most dangerous of all killer memes. PTV-infected brains are crippled with the “I-am-right” and “you-are-wrong” viewpoint which has led to unspeakable horrors in wars, pogroms and mass human exterminations. It has been estimated that 26 million humans were killed due to PTV-infection in the last century.


Commonsense memes

Certain memes make so much sense that everybody spreads them around. Recently, in the hot Melbourne summer there were severe power shortages. Even though people would normally have used their air-conditioners and other appliances they were asked to cut back to avoid total blackout. They did so and the government was surprised at the high level of compliance.

Beware+Snakes_web-1Some commonsense memes like avoiding danger memes (esp. snakes and spiders) have made sense for so long that they may now be genetically programmed into our brains.


Unfair advantage memes

Some memes give the host an unfair advantage over those who don’t have the meme and so they spread. A new business strategy meme, like adding .com to your business name, may give a business an unfair advantage over those without it.

Of course, such memes may spread to a point where the advantage is no longer an advantage since everybody has adopted it, in which case that meme may die out or may just simply become a commonsense meme.

unconditional-guaranteeThe UMG meme is an unfair advantage meme. UMG means Unconditional Money-Back Guarantee. Any commercial offer that includes the UMG meme may have an unfair advantage over competing offers. The ‘Free meme’ is another example.

Dissonant memes

At any particular time each individual mind has its own memetic state which is based on the current balance of power of its memes. Whether or not the reception of new memes is successful depends on which memes are already established in a mind. Which new memes will thrive in that mind can depend on their dissonance with the current memes.

Every Xmas for 12 years I played Santa to a local pre-school class of 4-year-olds. The kids were nearly as excited as their doting parents who looked on from the back of the class with their video cameras. It was great fun and I tried to do something different each year. Each year we all sang along with a carol and one year I told the kids that Rudolph had come down with the flu and his famous red nose had temporarily changed colour. I then asked everyone to all join in and sing ‘Rudolph the Blue-Nosed Reindeer’.

billyBlueNoseThe kids loved it but many of the parents couldn’t bring themselves to sing along. Some looked horrified and seemed to be saying to themselves, “Is he allowed to do this?” Apparently, the ‘blue-nose meme’ was causing them too much cognitive dissonance.

Compatible memes

On the other hand, certain memes may be quite harmonious with the current memetic state of a host brain. Such memes are compatible and may easily find a welcoming home. As an example, if today I were run across a newspaper article on memes I would give it my immediate attention. Since I am writing about memes and am interested in the subject any ‘meme’ memes would be very compatible with my current memetic state.

repetition-1-300x300From time to time I train athletes using an adapted program called the School of Sports Thinking. A recent example was a young married couple who were having a slump–she was a Badminton player and he was a triathlete–and they were sent along for a chat. The skills we teach only work if you practise them.

We taught them the SOT brain software which includes the PRR meme which stands for Practice, Repetition, Rehearsal.

Within six months of training Michaela Smith became a Commonwealth Games Medallist for Badminton at Kuala Lumpur and her husband Shane became a Canadian Ironman at Penticton BC. For sports people the PRR meme is a compatible meme but I found that many business people do not appreciate practice and repetition.

Co-operative memes (memeplex)

Richard Dawkins in Unweaving the Rainbow describes co-operative memes

Memes, like genes, survive in the presence of certain other memes. A mind can become prepared, by the presence of certain memes, to be receptive to particular other memes. Just as a species gene pool becomes a cooperative cartel of genes, so a group of minds–a ‘culture’ a ‘tradition’–becomes a cooperative cartel of memes, a memeplex, as it has been called.

Some memes work much better together than alone. They co-operate. Two or more memes that work this way are also called a memeplex. The memeplex attracts compatible memes and wards off memes that are incompatible.

A business offer might be passed on if there’s a promise of a reward. Most of us have been spammed by email chain letters that not only promise good luck but also threaten bad luck if they are not passed on. These two memes co-operate with the chain letter meme and may increase the likelihood that the memeplex will be replicated.

A memeplex is a league of memes that work together as allies. They self-organise into a commune because their survival is maximised as part of the community.

X10_Thinking_The_Book.jpg2All the lessons from this course are part of the first Tutorial in my book The X10 Memeplex: Mulltiply Your Business By Ten (Prentice Hall, 2000).

‘Meme’ memes

When I first wrote this referring above to ‘meme’ memes I decided to do a quick WWW search (17/02/2000). Using the Alta Vista engine, a search for ‘meme’ found references on 543,750 web pages. Searching ‘memetics‘ found 25,796 references and for ‘Richard Dawkins‘ there were 33,521.

Compare this, for example, with ‘Edward de Bono‘ (11,071) and ‘lateral thinking‘ (9,149) which was coined ten years earlier than ‘meme’ in 1967 and we can see how successfully the meme of ‘meme’ is spreading in our culture at the present time.


Today (18/01/15), by way of comparison, I just googled the same searches again and got these results:

– ‘meme‘ found references on 238,000,000 web pages

– ‘memetics‘ found 309,000 references

– for ‘Richard Dawkins‘ there were 17,300,000.

– with ‘Edward de Bono‘ (1,480,000)

– ‘lateral thinking‘ is (1,890,000).

DFQ TD08 (Feedback Question):

Give another example, from these kinds of memes listed above, and say what kind of meme your example is?

190 thoughts on “TD08 – More Kinds of Memes

  1. Heavens Gate cult believed Jesus was on board a spaceship trailing behind Comet Hale-Bop. Marshall Applewhite the leader infected his followers with the killer meme that to leave the world and get on board the spaceship they would have to commit suicide.

    “If only he could have used his evil genius for niceness” – Maxwell Smart

  2. Sale meme and the price at 9.99 or 99.99 is an Impact meme . and also unfair advantage meme always attracting people to an establishment making them believe that they are saving by buying “more” in a sale

  3. The impact of memes on cognitive dissonance is fascinating.

    God, one of the oldest memes, works his/her way in or out of our minds often due to a shattered cognitive dissonance where our current beliefs are shaped into new ones. One moment you believe, something happens, the next you don’t. One moment you don’t believe, something happens, the next you do.

    These defining moments can be singular and very personal but often, especially due to crowd behaviour, they are pervasive and long-lasting.

    While as we age we can intellectually accept two opposite ideas in our mind, can we truly believe in them both?

  4. A meme that all newly graduated high school student should go to collage. This is a dangerous meme that causing a lot of problems for many young and not so young students here in the US. People are pushed to borrow heavily to finance their “education”. Unfortunately when they graduate there may or may not be any jobs visible to them. However they still have to pay back their student loans with interest.
    There are much better alternative such as apprenticeship and learning from a master.

    1. I agree with you 100% Kamyar. There are lots of alternatives, also less costly and more bespoke, than automatic college enrollment.

  5. A dissonant meme is sewerage recycling. The result is that instead of building a water recycling plant for a fraction of the cost the Victorian government spent millions on a desalination plant.

  6. ‘Pizza for dinner’ is a compatibility meme for computer programmers working late. Gets delivered and you can eat with one hand and continue typing with the other.

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