The Illusion of Depth: PSYOPS/IO paper on Memetic "theory"

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The Illusion of Depth: PSYOPS/IO paper on Memetic "theory"

Postby Wombaticus Rex » Tue Aug 13, 2013 1:57 pm

Via: http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/ap ... operations

I love me some post-modern reification! This was a gem. If IO/PSYOPS are getting into this kind of horseshit, it will be a bonanza for contractors -- there's no way to really hold people accountable or even get meaningful measurements working with a "theory" this vapid.

Applications of the Memetic Perspective in Inform and Influence Operations

Erick Waage

The purpose of this article is to create awareness of the memetic perspective and postulate its potential applications in Inform and Influence Activities (IIA). The concept of memetics parallels that of Biological Evolution (BE) in process, however, where BE passes genes, the memetic process passes packets of information or culture called memes. Most BE practitioners assert that if you have the rudiments of genetic variation, selection, and heredity then one must have evolution. One can apply this same evolutionary algorithm and other BE characteristics to the transmission of memes.[ii] Memetic Theory can potentially provide mathematical modeling tools and concepts to assist Information Operations (IO) officers when conducting IIA. To better understand the potential applications of Memetic Theory, one must first understand its history and characteristics.

First conceptualized in his 1976 book, The Selfish Gene, zoologist Richard Dawkins theorized that, much like the transmission of genetic information from parent to child or from a virus to its host, thoughts, ideas, and culture are replicated and transmitted from one mind to another using a process similar to that of BE. He named the unit of transmitted information “meme”.[iii]

We need a name for the new replicator, a noun that conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation. ‘Mimeme’ comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like ‘gene’. I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme. ... Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation.[iv]

Memetics, therefore, is the proposed science that studies the replication, evolution, and diffusion of memes into a population, with replication being the key element to the concept.

Following Dawkins’ model, a replicator, either a gene or a meme, is a “system that is able to make copies of itself, typically with the help of some other system”.[v] So, a meme, or unit of information, acts as a replicator when it is communicated or imitated from one mind, or host, to another. Further, in accordance with Dawkins, effective replicators should possess three characteristics: longevity, fecundity, and copying-fidelity. Longevity is valuable in that the longer a replicator remains active, the more imitations or copies can be made of it. Next, a replicator’s fecundity is important as a faster rate of copying translates into a more extensive dispersion. Lastly, copy-fidelity means the more exact an imitation is to its replicator, the more likely the imitation will remain accurate after several iterations of copying.[vi] With the latter three characteristics in mind, one must now look to the stages of the replication loop to gain further insight into Memetic Theory.

Building on Dawkins’ work, Francis Heylighen and Klaas Chielens conjectured on the dynamics of meme replication and spread stating that to replicate successfully a meme must pass through four subsequent gates in its life-cycle, which consist of: assimilation, retention, expression, and transmission. The first stage, assimilation, begins with the “infection” of the carrier or host of the meme, and is followed by the second stage, retention, in which the host maintains possession of the meme. The third stage, expression, is the shaping and selecting of the meme from the host’s memory into a comprehensible unit of information, i.e. language, writing, painting, ect. The final stage is the transmission or communication of the meme, via a chosen conduit, from the host to one or more individuals.[vii] With this general conceptual understanding of Memetic Theory and the memetic life-cycle or replication loop one can, using computational models, predict memetic patterns such as, but not limited, to memetic fitness. According to Heylighen and Chielens, fitness is the “overall success rate of a replicator, as determined by its degree of adaptation to its environment, and the three requirements of longevity, fecundity and copying-fidelity”.[viii] Using a meme as the replicator, below one can express memetic fitness, F, as a function applying the memetic life-cycle with assimilation A, retention R, expression E, and transmission T.

F(m) = A(m).R(m).E(m).T(m)

A, being the number of memes assimilated by a host, is greater than or equal to one. R, equaling the proportion of memes retained to memory by a host, is less than or equal to one. E representing the number of times a meme is expressed to a host and, lastly, T equating to the number of potential new hosts the meme is expressed to.[ix] A, R, E, and T cannot individually equal zero, otherwise the product and the meme’s fitness will be zero. IO officers can potentially apply such mathematical models, and certainly the memetic perspective, to IIA in a multitude of ways.

Memetic fitness is paramount when synchronizing our themes, messages, and talking points. Most IIA professionals no doubt prefer the information they transmit to their target audiences to possess longevity, fecundity, and copy-fidelity. For example, the memetic fitness function, F(m), can potentially provide IO officers one of many potential mathematical modeling tools to weigh and value the memes they desire to leverage against the audience, adversary, or enemy decision-maker they wish to inform or influence. However, the IO officer would have to assess and identify the values of A, R, E, and T. Determining the meme’s fitness would provide the IO officer with some measure of prediction for the overall success rate of the meme prior to transmission. To assist in the meme or message design process, he or she would then be able to compare the effectiveness of different memes and mediums against each other given his or her unique information environment. Besides the modeling applications identified by this example, the concepts presented in Memetic Theory can assist in constructing IIA in the cognitive dimension.

Though Memetic Theory has a place at the Strategic and Operational levels of war, tactically, to assist in conceptual framing, IO officers can apply the principles of Memetic Theory when crafting themes, messages, and talking points in IIA. For example, concerning measures of performance (MOP), one might determine that a target failed to retain the meme because the handbill or medium for transmitting the message did not thoroughly express the meme. Alternatively, concerning measures of effectiveness (MOE) an IO officer might determine that the copy-fidelity of a meme delivered by his or her commander to the local clergy at a senior leader engagement was poorly translated culturally, resulting in the clergyman issuing an inaccurate meme to his congregation and community.[x] Analysis of MOPs and MOEs are just two examples of the many potential applications gained from the memetic perspective when conceptually framing IIA. Despite the above examples of memetic applications to IIA, there still remains much to be done in the field of Memetic Theory.

Some argue that there is little empirical data to support Memetic Theory, and that without such data memetics is rather a method of thinking than a formal scientific field of study. This viewpoint is somewhat justified, however, this multifaceted and ever evolving field continues to tread forward in its development. Although there have been several empirical studies of meme propagation conducted, there is still little consensus on the memetic selection criteria or holistic collection of characteristics that makes memes successful. A commonly agreed upon set of criteria would enable researchers and scientists to weigh and measure various memes and create a scientific method for predicting future memetic behavior.[xi] So, researchers continue to develop and socialize ontologically-based criteria which they could potentially use in further analysis of memetics. Further, reassuringly, no studies have yet to falsify Memetic Theory.[xii] Many organizations, such as the Global Brain Institute, which is a composite of influential futurists, cognitive scientists, Artificial Intelligence genii, and graph computing professionals, continue to put forth the intellectual horsepower required to expand the field into a formal science. Regardless of current empirical support, Memetic Theory offers a non-traditional cognitive framing tool that IO officers can use to better understand and conduct IIA.

As the Army pivots towards operational design as an approach to solving complex problem sets on present and future battlefields, it remains in our best interest to keep abreast of emerging thought; especially thought that is wedded to technologies and ways of thinking that are evolving at an accelerated pace.[xiii] IO officers can leverage and apply the mathematical models and the cognitive structure of Memetic Theory to assist in framing their information environment, their information-related problems, and ways and means of solving their information-related problems. Though not the quintessential "Silver Bullet" of Information-related problems, interested military leaders should self-educate themselves on Memetic Theory and, pending their desired effects, mathematically and conceptually design advantageous and friendly memes while deconstructing detrimental or adversarial memes in accordance with IIA.

End Notes

[i] Susan Blackmore, Susan Blackmore: Memes and “Temes”, 2008, TED Talks.

[ii] Daniel Dennett, Is Evolution an Algorithmic Process, 1998, Washington State University, Danze Lecture Series.

[iii] Richard Dawkins, “The Selfish Meme.” (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1976), 192.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Francis Heylighen and Klaas Chielens, “Cultural Evolution and Memetics.” Encyclopedia of Complexity and System Science (2008): 5.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Ibid. 10-11.

[viii] Ibid. 2.

[ix] Ibid. 12.

[x] Department of the Army, JP 3-13, Inform and Influence Activities. (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, January 2013), 7-2 to 7-4.

[xi] Heylighen, “Cultural Evolution and Memetics,”4, 22.

[xii] Ibid. 21.

[xiii] Department of the Army, ADRP 3-0, Unified Land Operations. (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, May 2012), 4-1 to 4-3.


c/f: Mathematics as Propaganda
http://www.skilluminati.com/research/en ... ropaganda/
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Re: The Illusion of Depth: PSYOPS/IO paper on Memetic "theor

Postby DrEvil » Tue Aug 13, 2013 4:07 pm

I just had a headache with pictures:

Wouldn't conspiracy culture be a perfect testing ground for memetics? It would act as a "safe" environment to test and compare constructed memes, figuring out what works and not, and there's little-to no danger of the memes escaping into the general population. :)
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Re: The Illusion of Depth: PSYOPS/IO paper on Memetic "theor

Postby Wombaticus Rex » Tue Aug 13, 2013 4:36 pm

...well, except you've have to control Hollywood to keep the really viable pathogens from getting turned into popular entertainOH SHIT WAIT A SECOND...

Dr. Evil, have you read Kerry Thornley's "Confessions" ?

Brother-in-law seemed to have devoted an unusual amount of thought
to what "people," the membership of the general public, do and do
not like. In that respect his intuition seems to have been keenly
informed.

Among observations typical of his consciousness of public will was
a statement he made many times: "You know, Kerry, the general
public becomes very excited about things for a short interval, but
it has a very brief attention span. Emotions don't run high about
anything for long."

"Yeah, one of my teachers in high school used to tell us that a
Greek philosopher once said, 'The wrath of the people is great,
but their memory is short.'"

From that and similar comments I gathered vaguely that he was
already looking forward to a day when it would be safe for the
assassins to win public acceptance.

"Kerry, did you ever notice how people just love to eavesdrop?"

"That's why books about writing say it is always a good bet to
open a story with dialogue."

"What about the idea of building a whole political movement on
that idea -- that people love to spy on the lives of others. Would
it grow fast or wouldn't it?"

"Sounds to me like it would work."

"Have you ever thought much about the possibilities of electronic
politics? You know, you should."

"I keep telling him he should read more science-fiction," Slim
contributed, speaking to Brother-in-law and looking at me. "Open
up that narrow one-track mind of his with those horse-blinders on
both sides, but he don't want to hear that."

"Science fiction bores me," I complained in reply. "I like to read
relevant stuff about politics in fiction or non-fiction. Escapist
literature isn't my bag."

"But, but, but, but, but..." Slim said in typical fashion when he
wanted to point out to anyone that they were ignoring something.

Brother-in-law chimed in with, "Kerry, they can actually design
secret governments based upon clandestine electronic
communications. That's dealt with in some of the science-fiction
Slim is talking about and it is also going to happen in the real
world. Someday there will be individuals with microphones planted
in their heads so that many people can hear what is going on in
their lives. And they will be the centers of invisible
governments, that everyone equipped to listen will belong to --
like big houses with one person at the center of every one of
them. What do you think of that idea?"

I thought it both bizarre and impossible, but I did not want to
say as much to them. "Yeah, that sounds like a pretty clever way
to resist the government."
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Re: The Illusion of Depth: PSYOPS/IO paper on Memetic "theor

Postby DrEvil » Wed Aug 14, 2013 12:42 pm

Haven't read him, no. But that quote sure makes it tempting. :thumbsup

Most of my info on memetics comes via Principia Cybernetica: http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/
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Re: The Illusion of Depth: PSYOPS/IO paper on Memetic "theor

Postby tazmic » Wed Aug 14, 2013 1:24 pm

First conceptualized in his 1976 book, The Selfish Gene, zoologist Richard Dawkins theorized that, much like the transmission of genetic information from parent to child or from a virus to its host, thoughts, ideas, and culture are replicated and transmitted from one mind to another using a process similar to that of BE. He named the unit of transmitted information “meme”.

It's a common meme, that Dawkins first thought of the idea, of the meme.

But was he really the site of its first conception?

ARTHUR KOESTLER : The Sleepwalkers - A history of man's changing vision of the Universe (1959)

Epilogue
1. The Pitfalls of Mental Evolution

WE are in the habit of visualizing man's political and social history as a wild zig-zag which alternates between progress and disaster, but the history of science as a steady, cumulative process, represented by a continuously rising curve, where each epoch adds some new item of knowledge to the legacy of the past, making the temple of science grow brick by brick to ever greater height. Or alternately, we think in terms of "organic" growth from the magic-ridden, myth-addicted infancy of civilization through various stages of adolescence, to detached, rational maturity.

In fact, we have seen that this progress was neither "continuous" nor "organic". The philosophy of nature evolved by occasional leaps and bounds alternating with delusional pursuits, culs-de-sac, regressions, periods of blindness and amnesia. The great discoveries which determined its course were sometimes the unexpected by-products of a chase after quite different hares. At other times, the process of discovery consisted merely in the cleaning away of the rubbish that blocked the path, or in the rearranging of existing items of knowledge in a different pattern. The mad clockwork of epicycles was kept going for two thousand years; and Europe knew less geometry in the fifteenth century than in Archimedes' time.

If progress had been continuous and organic, all that we know, for instance, about the theory of numbers, or analytical geometry, should have been discovered within a few generations after Euclid. For this development did not depend on technological advances or the taming of nature: the whole corpus of mathematics is potentially there in the ten billion neurons of the computing machine inside the human skull. Yet the brain is supposed to have remained anatomically stable for something like a hundred thousand years. The jerky and basically irrational progress of knowledge is probably related to the fact that evolution had endowed homo sapiens with an organ which he was unable to put to proper use. Neurologists have estimated that even at the present stage we are only using two or three per cent of the potentialities of its built-in "circuits". The history of discovery is, from this point of view, one of random penetrations into the uncharted Arabias in the convolutions of the human brain.

This is a very curious paradox indeed. The senses and organs of all species evolve (via mutation and selection as we suppose), according to adaptative needs; and novelties in anatomical structure are by and large determined by those needs. Nature meets its customers' requirements by providing longer necks to graze off the top of trees, harder hooves and teeth to cope with the coarse grass of the drying steppes; by shrinking the smellbrain and enlarging the visual cortex of birds, arboreals, and bipeds as they slowly raise their heads above ground. But it is entirely unprecedented that nature should endow a species with an extremely complex luxury organ far exceeding its actual and immediate needs, which the species will take millennia to learn to put to proper use – if it ever does.

Evolution is supposed to cater for adaptative demands; in this case the goods delivered anticipated the demand by a time-stretch of geological magnitude. The habits and learning potentialities of all species are fixed within the narrow limits which the structure of its nervous system and organs permits; those of homo sapiens seem unlimited precisely because the possible uses of that evolutionary novelty in his skull were quite out of proportion with the demands of his natural environment.

Since evolutionary genetics is unable to account for the fact that a biologically more or less stable race should mentally evolve from cave-dwellers to spacemen, we can only conclude that the term "mental evolution" is more than a metaphor; and that it refers to a process in which some factors operate to which as yet we have not got a clue. All we know is that mental evolution cannot be understood either as a cumulative, linear process, or as a case of "organic growth" comparable to the maturing of the individual; and that it would perhaps be better to consider it in the light of biological evolution, of which it is a continuation.

It would indeed seem more expedient to treat the history of thought in terms borrowed from biology (even if they can yield no more than analogies) than in terms of an arithmetical progression. "Intellectual progress" has, as it were, linear associations – a continuous curve, a steadily rising water level; whereas "evolution" is known to be a wasteful, fumbling process characterized by sudden mutations of unknown cause, by the slow grinding of selection, and by the dead-ends of overspecialization and rigid inadaptability. "Progress" can by definition never go wrong; evolution constantly does; and so does the evolution of ideas, including those of "exact science". New ideas are thrown up spontaneously like mutations; the vast majority of them are useless crank theories, the equivalent of biological freaks without survival-value. There is a constant struggle for survival between competing theories in every branch of the history of thought. The process of "natural selection", too, has its equivalent in mental evolution: among the multitude of new concepts which emerge only those survive which are well adapted to the period's intellectual milieu. A new theoretical concept will live or die according to whether it can come to terms with this environment; its survival value depends on its capacity to yield results. When we call ideas "fertile" or "sterile", we are unconsciously guided by biological analogy.

The struggle between the Ptolemaic, Tychonic and Copernican systems, or between the Cartesian and Newtonian views of gravity, was decided by those criteria. Moreover, we find in the history of ideas mutations which do not seem to correspond to any obvious need, and at first sight appear as mere playful whimsies – such as Appollonius' work on conic sections, or the non-Euclidian geometries, whose practical value became apparent only later. Conversely, there are organs which have lost their purpose and are yet carried over as an evolutionary legacy: modern science is full of appendices and rudimentary monkey-tails.

There occur in biological evolution periods of crisis and transition when there is a rapid, almost explosive branching out in all directions, often resulting in a radical change in the dominant trend of development. The same kind of thing seems to have happened in the evolution of thought at critical periods like the sixth century B.C. or the seventeenth A.D. After these stages of "adaptative radiations", when the species is plastic and malleable, there usually follow periods of stabilization and specialization along the new lines – which again often lead into dead ends of rigid over-specialization. When we look back at the grotesque decline of Aristotelian scholasticism, or the blinkered singlemindedness of Ptolemaic astronomy, we are reminded of the fate of those "orthodox" marsupials, like the koala, who changed from tree-climbers into tree-clingers. Their hands and feet turned into hooks, their fingers no longer served to pluck fruit and explore objects but degenerated into curved claws with the sole purpose of fixing the animal to the bark of the tree to which it hangs on for dear life.

To quote a last analogy, we find "faulty linkages" in evolution which remind one of certain ideological mésalliances. The central nerve chain of an invertebrate such as the lobster runs beneath its alimentary canal, whereas the main portion of its rudimentary brain is placed above it, in its forehead. In other words, the lobster's gullet, from mouth to stomach, has to pass through the midst of its brain ganglia. If its brain were to expand – and expand it must if the lobster is to grow in wisdom – its gullet would be squeezed and it would starve. In spiders and scorpions something like this did actually happen: their brain mass has so compressed their alimentary tube that only fluid food can pass through: they had to become blood-suckers. Mutatis mutandis, something on these lines happened when the stranglehold of Neoplatonism prevented man from taking in any solid empirical food for thought, and forced him to feed throughout the Dark Ages on a liquid diet of other-worldliness. And did not the stranglehold of mechanistic materialism in the nineteenth century produce the opposite effect, spiritual starvation? In the first case, religion had entered into a misalliance with a nature-rejecting ideology; in the second, science became allied to an arid philosophy. Or again, the stranglehold of the dogma of uniform motion in perfect circles turned the Copernican system into a kind of crustacean ideology. The analogies may seem far-fetched, which indeed they are, but all they are meant to demonstrate is the fact that such faulty linkages of a self-defeating nature occur in the realms of both biological and mental evolution.
"It ever was, and is, and shall be, ever-living fire, in measures being kindled and in measures going out." - Heraclitus

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Re: The Illusion of Depth: PSYOPS/IO paper on Memetic "theor

Postby JackRiddler » Thu Aug 15, 2013 1:05 am

Yeah, that's high-level horseshit. Meaning, above all, the pretense that this will be usefully quantified, especially with the "stages" so neatly delineated. Oh, with sufficient fudge factor and by defining the measures in advance it will be reproducible enough to create an illusion of validity and relevance to reality so that it actually wins the contracts, as you say. Where was that thread about Pentagon doing metaphor studies, by the way? It had some funny commentary on the irony of it - a bureaucracy aspiring to literary command. You must have been the OP for that, no?

Also, RI is not just going to be a laboratory for study. Hell, we can be producers too. Bring on the MIC money! (This reminds me: there was some kind of life cycle of "retro" that was surely posted here once. Anyone remember?)
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Re: The Illusion of Depth: PSYOPS/IO paper on Memetic "theor

Postby Hammer of Los » Thu Aug 15, 2013 4:30 am

...

Arthur Koestler was a genius, Dawkins is a low grade moron.

I did rather like this quote from the Wombat's post above;

... (T)hey can actually design secret
governments based upon clandestine electronic
communications. That's dealt with in some of the science-fiction
Slim is talking about and it is also going to happen in the real
world. Someday there will be individuals with microphones planted
in their heads so that many people can hear what is going on in
their lives. And they will be the centers of invisible
governments, that everyone equipped to listen will belong to --
like big houses with one person at the center of every one of
them. What do you think of that idea?"

I thought it both bizarre and impossible, but I did not want to
say as much to them. "Yeah, that sounds like a pretty clever way
to resist the government."


...
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