Susan Blackmore's avatar image.

Author of The Meme Machine and explorer of consciousness.

My name is Susan Blackmore, I am a psychologist, writer and lecturer, and author of books on OBEs, parapsychology, memes, Zen and consciousness.

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  • Is a meme like wheat?

    Quote from: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari – review

    It's a neat thought that "we did not domesticate wheat. It domesticated us." There was, Harari says, "a Faustian bargain between humans and grains" in which our species "cast off its intimate symbiosis with nature and sprinted towards greed and alienation". It was a bad bargain: "the agricultural revolution was history's biggest fraud". More often than not it brought a worse diet, longer hours of work, greater risk of starvation, crowded living conditions, greatly increased susceptibility to disease, new forms of insecurity and uglier forms of hierarchy. Harari thinks we may have been better off in the stone age.

    Susan Blackmore's avatar image.

    He is not alone. Jared Diamond and many others have explored the effects of domesticating wheat and other plants and animals; and those effects are generally considered to have made life pretty miserable for people who otherwise would be living the relatively easy life of hunting and gathering.And yes. The cultivation of wheat was a meme - or rather a whole lot of co-existing memes, otherwise known as a memeplex or co-adapted meme complex. Probably the domestication began more or less by accident but at some point people would have started copying how other people collected the grains and sowed them in the ground and processed the resulting plants. The interesting question is why these memes were so successful if they made life so awful. The answer comes from thinking about it from the meme's eye view rather than from the human point of view. These memes were able to spread because people saw them as providing more food and more goods that they wanted. So they copied the people who had them. And the people who had them had more children and spread the memes on to them, and so on. This is just one wonderfully powerful example of how the interests of the memes can conflict with our own interests.Might a modern equivalent be smart phones and constant Internet access? People want them, of course, but do they make us happier?

    Gerard Lelieveld's avatar image.

    Funny I saw this sticker today on a street pole: "Go offline and meet real people" it read. But I just met Jo, I saw her from behind and knew it was Jo in an instant. I told her about my plan of holding a barbecue on a fire made with the books of our most famous writer Arnon Grunberg and record it for YouTube on the Mr. Complot channel of a friend of ours. And that I was looking for second hand stores, more second hand stores to buy more books. But she couldn't help, in fact she hardly reacted. Jo is schizophrenic you see (clozapine 500 mg dd, because 600 mg gave her bloody convulsions), and doesn't have much conversation. I told her she makes beautiful collages, "make more!" and cycled away.

    My own intellectual needs are better fulfilled typing to you online if you don't mind, although I know you are very busy and your tea cup must be overflowing already. "Stop pouring your memes!" I hear you call from your Zafu... (to be continued - on some webpage)