The Evolution of Communication and Meme Power

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The Evolution of Communication and Meme Power
Terence McKenna

Ideologies have always been one of the hallmarks of humanity ever since the beginnings of our species. Generation after generation, these ideologies get improved and manipulated to mirror the evolutionary advancements of the time. With every generation, all these ideologies grow smarter, stronger, and more universally understandable. In the times of Ancient Greece, Plato put forth his theory of forms describing how every object has an essential and perfect aspect of itself that is embedded into the human; For example, if you observe two logs, you picture a perfect form of a log in which both of the imperfect logs being observed share similar qualities. Plato conceived this idea to explain how all things can be spread into categories via their forms. Aristotle then conceived the more empirical idea of placing things into categories based on their shared characteristics, forming the baseline for future thinkers. These ancient philosophers also spent much of their time trying to discover the truth of virtues like justice, courage, temperance, etc. and contemplating ideas like love, death, and the soul. Though many of the theories proposed around some of these subjects seem outlandish by today’s standards, these ancient philosophers could only operate with the technology and knowledge available to them.

 

All of the ideologies of ancient Greek philosophers were only available to a few select people at the time of being written. Though some big names in philosophy might have been well known around Athens, all of their teachings were probably only available to a select few who held respected positions within Greek culture. In the same way that the societies of the time stayed strictly culturally exclusive, so did their ideas. Societies slowly became more integrated as technology advances, and new opportunities for trade arose. The mass cultural integration of ideas that followed from the influx of trade allowed societies to interface and exchange all past and present knowledge. The manuscripts of all genres from all cultures were translated into more and more languages as the technology for printing became less expensive and more advanced. With each cultural boom of technology came the boom of information exchange between the cultures involved. The ideas put forth by the intellectuals of each culture were now able to be accessible to a way larger group of people both inside and outside their society.

 

The invention of radio-wave technology soon took the world by storm, and again exponentially increased the accessibility of ideas by switching the exchange of information over to a completely audible platform. Information and ideologies didn’t even have to be read anymore, now someone can absorb the information by merely listening. In the same way that the written word was limited by the established guidelines set by the writers of each genre, the radio was segmented up into digestible bits of information that made up the music, radio shows, and commercials that blare through every car’s speakers. Then came television which allowed the viewer to more easily understand the information because they have it visualized for them instead of having to visualize it themselves if they listened over the radio. Television, like all previous mediums before it, was shortly regulated after it’s release to the segment it’s broadcasting. When the internet was then integrated into society, anyone had access to broadcast information on any platform they want (text, then audio, and video after a few years of development) and have that information reach across countries and even continents. Then came the invention of a meme.

 

A meme in its most reduced form is an idea that’s picked up spread around through the chosen medium of the culture at the time. Ethnobotanist Terence Mckenna gives the example of Marxism as a meme, an idea that’s been picked up by many cultures and manipulated with each adoption. McKenna says these memes can pervade through many cultures or contexts, or die off depending on its significance to the human experience. He accurately predicted decades before its happening that memes would serve as an incredible tool for each individual to spread their message to a mass group of people; Media prior to the internet only allowed for a small group to broadcast their message, now everyone has the opportunity. He also accurately predicted how the tool of memes will be perverted by the most primal of human instincts, sex, and violence. McKenna says however that there is hope for memes to be properly utilized through the power of individual artistic expression. If the power of memes starts to work progressively and society drifts towards the next step in human communication, we may come close to the next steps in human evolution. One of Terence McKenna’s main themes that he always returned back to in any of his lectures was the idea that the future of human evolution would manifest itself through language, could humans evolve as a byproduct of some kind of advanced meme?

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