How do Rumor Mills get started? How does that vicious machine take the truth and re-grind it into false consumption by the masses?
The sculpture you see below, believe it or not, was created to honor those that died in the World Trade Center airplane bombing on September 11, 2001. The fact that many people leapt out of the burning buildings to escape the fire in the sky to quickly find their deaths on the ground below was lost on the artist.
In a brilliant interview with Wired, SuperGenius Susan Blackmore reveals how we are no longer in control of our memes:
You can in the early stages of a new meme drag it back and stop it. If you know that only two or three other people know something you can stop them from spreading it. Or if a book has been written, you can burn the paper that it’s written on. But once a meme has been let loose in the population, you can’t take it back.
What culture is doing, what the memesphere is doing, is taking a human being and infecting it with masses of new information and exploiting its tendencies. We are being turned from ordinary old-fashioned meme machines into what I call “teme” machines — machines for copying technological information, spreading photos and printed words and digital files.
We can choose to turn our computer off if we want to (stop from absorbing and spreading some memes). But we as a species are not in control of the internet. We are not in control of the growth of new media. And we are getting less and less able to control what goes on out there.
What I believe is happening now is that true teme machines are arriving — that is, machines that copy and produce variations and then select. That’s what you need for an evolutionary process; that’s natural selection.
Up until very recently in the world of memes, humans did all the varying and selecting. We had machines that copied — photocopiers, printing presses — but only very recently do we have artificial machines that also produce the variations, for example (software that) mixes up ideas and produces an essay or neural networks that produce new music and do the selecting. There are machines that will choose which music you listen to. It’s all shifting that way because evolution by natural selection is inevitable. There’s a shift to the machines doing all of that.
We’re not there yet. But once we’re there, there’s going to be evolution of memes out there that is totally out of our control.
If what Blackmore argues is coming true — how fast will the “malicious meme” come into being to infect, and destroy, the mind and body?
How soon will the “malicious meme” be militarized for use as the ultimate Weapon of Mass Destruction?