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Meme Idea Viruses and How to Use Them

Discover how 'walking in another's moccasins' through identifying, defining, and experiencing their memes can expand your mind, develop your creativity and unleash your power to innovate profitably...

Meme Idea Viruses and how to use themMeme idea viruses are ideas that replicate and spread in popularity by a viral-like, contagious communication from one host being to another. This article explores how you can learn to utilise the concept of the meme idea virus to not only become a more creative and wise human being, but also be more effective and profitable in your businesses, projects and relationships.

The concept of the Meme, or idea virus, is a thought provoking metaphor and a useful concept for any creative person wishing to share their ideas, thoughts, beliefs or philosophies with others. The scientist, Richard Dawkins, introduced the Meme in 1976 through his book, The Selfish Gene. Thirty years later the validity of the concept is still being argued over. But for practical purposes, one can assume it as a working idea and use it practically to spread your own ideas. It is also a concept that can be worked into a very enlightening creative thinking exercise that will help with your lateral thinking and ability to see things differently.

Here is how the Wikipedia online encyclopedia defines a Meme:

The term "meme" labels a theoretical concept introduced in 1976 by Richard Dawkins, and refers to any unit of cultural information which one mind transmits (verbally or by demonstration) to another mind. Examples might include thoughts, concepts, ideas, theories, opinions, beliefs, practices, habits, songs, dances and moods. Different definitions of meme generally have in common, very roughly, that a meme consists of some sort of a self-propagating unit of cultural evolution having an analogous resemblance to the gene (the unit of genetic information).

For the full Wikipedia explanation of MEME, click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meme

How to be an Idea Cowboy
So, let's begin by seeing how we can throw a lassoo around a wild bucking idea, yank it to the ground, and stamp it with our hot brand that reads "MEME". Once we identify a meme, we can move it around in our mind, classify it, explore it and find out what it is like to experience that idea meme first hand. Exploring multiple memes, and particularly opposing or 'warring' memes, is a tremendous way to lever open your mind and let more creative light inside.

The world is full of meme viruses. Let's look briefly at some traditional and fundamental ones.

The Gender Idea Virus
There is the male, and the female, idea virus. Associated with the male idea virus are stereotypical thoughts such as men are stronger, prefer the color blue, are more aggressive and ambitious and all the rest. We know them well. On the other hand, the female idea virus is that women are more submissive, like pink and pretty things, are gentler, more emotional and more family orientated. In modern times, many people have cured themselves of these 'traditional' idea viruses, and they've busted free of the narrow precepts of those particular memes. The remnants of those meme idea viruses live on in people unwilling to explore beyond them. And the gender idea virus itself seems to be fighting for its survival in pockets of resistance around the world. It is also perpetuated by marketers who know that there is money to be made from pitching to the infected.

The God Meme versus the Agnostic Meme
Whichever way you look at it, these two warring memes are prevalent in our society. The God Meme, at it's simplest level, states that there is a God, a Creator, or an Infinite (and responsive) Intelligence. The Agnostic Meme, at its simplest level, says that there is no God, that life is the result of specific chemical reactions and processes that can be studied and explained (and re-explained as human science and knowledge expands and improves). Most people in the world exhibit the symptoms of one or other of these meme idea viruses, or a strain of either one. In modern societies, most people are infected by both of these idea viruses, and the ideas battle it out within the 'ideaosphere' or mind, and are interchangeably dominant according to the prevailing conditions being experienced.

It is interesting to note that the word 'God', and associated concept of God, is an idea. And that idea was learnt from another human being who told you about it. Thus spreading that idea to your mind. What would your life be like, and what would your mind be like, if there was no idea of God, no word for it, and you had never been told about it?

It is also interesting to note that there could be no Agnostic, if there was no idea of God. The Agnostic meme is related to and the result of the God meme. They are in some ways interdependent as ideas, defined by their opposition to one another.

Idea Contagion and How to Avoid It
If I have a brilliant idea, "the most creative idea that was ever thunk", but I don't tell anyone about it and I leave no record of it, the idea will die with me. Creative ideas only live and find their outlet in the minds of human beings. So ideas need to be shared if they are to spread and become stronger and more popular. The inventor Thomas Edison was canny enough to know that he had to educate the public to his latest and greatest ideas. He had to 'infect' them with the idea and get them thinking along the same lines as he was. Doing that created a market of people who understood his idea and wanted to buy it!

The trouble is there are millions of ideas out there in the ideaosphere -- and they are all fighting for your attention and some space in your consciousness. And these ideas, and their hosts, have evolved ways to sneak into your mind unnoticed. Like weeds in your garden, they take root and take over before you know it. But the very concept of the meme idea virus gives you a key for curing contagion and curing yourself of the worse symptoms of idea viruses. By looking for idea viruses in your mind and in your society, and labelling them (defining them), you create a mental quarantine space of awareness. Once your mind has identified an idea virus it can see it for what it is. And that is 90% of the cure.

Idea Viruses are simply Brain Software
Somewhere out there in the ideaosphere, there might be a theoretical trillionaire called... ahem... Gill Bates, whose company "Memesoft" designed the software that allows memes to run in our minds as "truth" or "reality". How he must be laughing. A worldful of users, each of whom mistake the virtual reality memes for reality.

Let's start to think of meme idea viruses as software programs that play in our minds. When you load a computer game onto your PC or Mac, and start to play it you get totally involved, don't you? You even totally identify with the little characters that you move through the game worlds. You can tell you are doing this when you find yourself saying things like, "Aw shoot! I got killed!" (instead of saying that SuperMario got killed). Usually at some point, your consciousness surfaces from the game and you're back in your room and you know it's only a game, only software playing on your PC.

I want you to develop exactly the same appreciation for the idea viruses that you discover in your life (including this one). Just think of them as software experiences that you load onto your brain. Notice how you get identified with them, and how, during the game, you are completely involved in them. But with this new awareness that they are just idea programs, you will be free to step back out of the idea -- you won't get lost in it forever. And you will be able to interchange idea meme software so that you can try out other ideas.

Blockbuster of Memes
I still get my DVDs from Blockbuster, but now they send them to me through the mail. I just go online and choose the movies that I want to see. If I feel like watching a romance, I got to the Romance section and see what's on offer. If I want Action or Martial Arts, I can pick movies from those categories too. There are all kinds of categories I could choose from, everything from Educational to Horror, depending on what appeals to me at the time and who will be watching it with me. It's a great system of getting the entertainment experience that I want.

The WORLD is the Blockbuster of meme idea virus software programs. Unlike Blockbuster, the world of idea viruses is not so obviously organised. At least, not at the beginning. However, once you employ the concept of the memetic idea virus, and look around at your life and start to identify idea viruses, then you start to identify categories of ideas. And once you have done that, it is much easier to Google-ize for information on that idea category, and help to clarify and further define specific memes. As with everything in life, you don't know it is there until you identify it, count it, measure it, weight it, classify it, label it. Identifying memes is the first step to immunity from them. With immunity, you are free to employ that meme if it serves you. You are no longer the victim of that meme. You use it rather than it using you.

Meme Spotting Benefits
By learning about Memes, and becoming familiar with the way ideas "seem to take on a life of their own", you become adept at spotting the idea viruses in your mind. When you mentally quarantine an idea virus, you can examine it like a scientist and see it for what it is. This gives you perspective. And perspective gives you knowledge and wisdom, because you have a bigger picture than you did before. By defining a meme it becomes defined in your mind. It stands out and is easier to identify. It can't hide or masquerade so easily. It can't manipulate you without you being conscious of it's manipulating ways.

Defining a meme is like drawing a border around it, or putting it in a box. You may not be able to encapsulate the whole idea, but at least you can start from where you are. You must, of course, beware of judging new ideas too hastily. Before you can really define an idea virus, you must infect yourself with it and experience the symptoms for yourself -- all the while retaining the mental construct that this is merely another software experience that you are running.

Being familiar with memes helps you to understand and be tolerant of other people who are infected by memes that perhaps you disagree with. By "trying on" different memes, and playing different brain software programs, you know the nature of memes. Playing lots of memes in your mind gives you a wider range of choices and options; there are simply more avenues of thought that you know you can go down. This expands your mind, and creates greater neural networks for your creativity to flow down. You have more points of reference for newer and better ideas to spark from. And when you give birth to newer, more creative, more entertaining ideas, you will have a far greater understanding of how best to launch your own idea virus, for the service and betterment of the world, and/or the lining of your pocket!

This article will be continued soon with a discussion of how to create your own idea viruses for fun and profit!

Bookmark this page and return soon!

Got Feedback? I'd love to hear from YOU! Email me: wily[at]wilywalnut.com

Meme Resources:

Meme Idea VirusesWikipedia definition of Meme

Meme Central -- Memes, Memetics, and Mind Virus Resources

The World of Richard Dawkins: unofficial site about the creator of the "Meme" concept.

Viruses of the Mind - "The haven all memes depend on reaching is the human mind, but a human mind is itself an artifact created when memes restructure...."

Christianity Meme - "These pages espouse a point of view about religions in general, but Christianity in particular....This site is unabashedly against the Christianity Meme."

Church of Virus - Wonderful lexicon of memetic terminology and definitions.

The pseudoscience of memes - a review of the book, Thought Contagion, that pulls holes in the whole meme concept. Good for some balance!

IdeaVirus - Seth Godin's best-selling book on how to release your own meme idea virus.

The Concept Factor - highly recommended article by a true creative genius, Robert Fritz, who writes, "Once you are free of having to believe in anything, you are free to believe in anything you choose if you happen to want to." Read it!

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