Ideas can change the world. Information and ideas used to spread only through religion, schools, and media. But the internet changed everything. Now, memetics are the future of information.
What Are Memetics?
Memetics is a theory of information, first described in Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene. A “meme” – I’m sure you’ve heard the term – is an idea, belief, or behavior, stored in the brain. You’ve probably seen the term used on Twitter, Instagram or elsewhere to refer to images, videos, etc. For our purposes, we’ll agree that memes are units of information.
The most important takeaway from memetics is that these units of information are independent of their hosts, are easily copied and modified, and can be spread. The internet has removed all barriers to communication. Memes multiply rapidly. Memes spread rapidly. Memes are free, and cannot be controlled by any central authority in the information age.
Going Viral: The Power Of Memetics
Think of memes as viruses. We are not concerned with how true any unit of information is, because the truth does not necessarily spread. The most successful virus is one that infects everyone. In the same way, the most effective meme is the one that is seen by everyone. Memetics concerns itself with how successful a meme is – what information gets spread the most?
How does a virus spread? It infects the host, using it to find new hosts to infect. Memes spread virulently – hence the phrase “going viral”. The internet, and social media, give each and every one of us the ability to spread information. The more effective the meme, the more it is shared.
Memes are units of information. Information is power. The more effective a meme is, the more it spreads. The more it spreads, the more people are exposed to that information. The power of a meme is equivalent to its virulence.
The Future Of Information
Memes have always existed. Every thought, idea, belief, emotion – all units of information are memetic and can be copied and stored as such. Our brains have always stored and processed information as memes. In the past, humans had limited access to information sources. The average person learned from their family and community, from whatever education they had, from their religious group, and from the media monolith. The powerful controlled the spread of information. Information you were exposed to was not necessarily the most viral – it was what those in control of information allowed you to see.
With the internet, now information is free. Free to consume, free to dissect, free to share, free to publish. There are no more barriers to the spread of information. With no barriers, there is nothing to stop a powerful and virulent meme from spreading the world over.
Memes are the future of information. They don’t have to be right, or true, or funny. All they have to do is spread.