Genes vs. Memes
Most readers have at least a rough idea of what genes are and how they work in biology. The types of genes that are prevalent in a population help determine how prosperous and accomplished that population will be. When breeding populations are small — as in isolated island populations for example — genetic drift occurs, leading to the loss of many gene variants so that the population is less genetically diverse over time.
Genetic drift can result in genetic traits being lost from a population or becoming widespread in a population without respect to the survival or reproductive value of the alleles involved. A random statistical effect, genetic drift can occur only in small, isolated populations in which the gene pool is small enough that chance events can change its makeup substantially. __ Britannica
Genetic drift is random, and is not related to natural selection. The gene variants that remain in the population after genetic drift will depend upon the gene variants in the population to begin with (founder effect).
The loss of genetic traits in the isolated population is the same as loss of genetic potential.
Memes and Memetic Drift
A meme is an idea or belief that tends to mutate and spread in a population (alongside many other memes) in a manner very much like the variable spread of biological genes in a population.
Memetic drift — the loss of memetic diversity — occurs in small isolated populations (hicks, hayseeds, etc), or in populations that are excessively controlled by top-down “meme enforcement” mechanisms (political correctness).
Genetic Drift vs. Memetic Drift
Genetic drift can lead to a severe loss of genetic diversity, to the point that a population cannot withstand strong biological or physical challenges. Such populations — lacking sufficient varieties of genetic tools to meet the challenge — tend to go extinct.
Memetic drift leads to a loss of conceptual and ideational diversity. Societies which progressively limit the conceptual diversity of their members will eventually weaken to outside conceptual or ideational challenges, to the point of being overwhelmed.
Ruling Classes and Genetic/Memetic Drift
Historically, it has often been the case that ruling classes of particular societies or civilisations have become inbred, leading to genetic drift and loss of gene variation along with concentration of unfavourable recessive genes. This was the case in 19th and early 20th century Europe, for example, right up to World War I.
Memetic drift from the inbreeding of ideas is common in any modern totalitarian society, and was described brilliantly in George Orwell’s famous masterpiece 1984.
In Orwell’s 1984, all information flow was controlled by the state — similar to the conditions under the Soviet Union or Mao’s China. Under such conditions of conceptual isolation and limitation, memetic drift is bound to occur — under the strong top-down influence of the state censors and concept-generators.
Memetic Drift and Control in the Modern World
In the modern “free world,” a subtler form of memetic limitation, drift, and control is taking place. University “speech codes” limit what students on campus can say and write (and consequently think). Similar de facto speech codes are harshly enforced by media, many departments of government, lower educational institutions, corporate offices (eg Google), and many other formal and informal social institutions.
Humans rarely “know what they don’t know” and are largely unaware of the ideas which they are being kept from thinking or knowing. In the memetically controlled and limited society, a “great black hole of ignorance and unthinking” grows progressively larger and larger, interfering with the society’s ability to solve problems or to set and reach meaningful goals.
Genetic Drift Can Doom a Small Space Colony
In any isolated space colony or “generation ship,” humans must be sure to include a large enough number of breeding pairs selected out of larger populations, to insure against genetic drift and the extinction threat.
A population of at least 10,000 breeding pairs is estimated to be the lower limit to avoid such an internal existential threat to the long term survival of the colony.
Memetic Drift Can Doom a Civilisation
The future potential of a human civilisation is limited by its problem-solving ability, by its inventive ingenuity, and by its ability to adapt to novel circumstances in a psychological and social way.
When conceptual diversity is curtailed — either by accident or design — civilisations and societies start sliding down a slippery slope toward a deep dark chasm of feeble-minded conceptual inbreeding.
All Ideologies Place Limits on “Allowed Concepts”
Ideologies are top-down dictated and prefabricated “philosophies plus action mechanisms.” The intent of an ideology is to change the world — or some significant part of it. Ideologies differ from philosophies in that ideologies are intrusive and action-oriented. Ideologies are almost always controlled by a central oligarchy of elites, who determine what actions and what ideas are permissible.
As the set of ideas and concepts are progressively limited under a particular ideology, the members of such an ideology become progressively more enfeebled when confronted with novel ideational challenges from outside the in-group.
We can see how easily ideologies embody “memetic warfare” to prevail against the outer worlds — the things that are “unsayable” and “unthinkable.” In the clash of ideologies, it is “fight or die.”
Freedom of Speech is a Novel Idea in the History of Man
Until the late 1700s, the concept of freedom of speech was almost entirely foreign to the worlds of men. But when freedom of speech — and the resulting grand expansion of memes — came about, the world itself began to shake and grow. Men became free to congregate, to speak, to work together openly with others of like mind. And science, technology, and the arts all expanded rapidly.
This rapid expansion of the world — and the great shifting of “winners and losers” — caused a great disturbance among elite classes of the world. Ever since the great expansion, the old traditional elites and their toadies have been trying to find ways to place a clamp over the excessively free-thinking and free-acting upstarts of the plebs, in order to restore themselves to the top of all hierarchies.
Pay Attention to Who Limits Speech and Ideas
One can easily identify these reactionary would-be despots by their speech and action. They openly push for severe restrictions on speech and action — even to the point of promoting “mandated speech” of specific kinds.
These people are the clear enemies of an abundant and expansive human future. What should we do about them? Certainly we should speak, campaign, and vote against them — regardless of their nominal political or religious affiliations. Sometimes in the political realm we are confronted with the lesser of two evils. Study them carefully to be sure you are selecting the “lesser” of the two.
Beyond speaking, writing, campaigning, and voting, what should be done to the particularly vile wannabe despots who clearly want to throw the rest of us in chains and fasten puppet-strings to our joints and heads? It is not clear in general what should be done, but certainly each case should be examined in its individual particulars.
Do not become sidetracked by racial, religious, or political antagonisms. This is not a race war, nor a religious war nor a war between nominal political affiliations. It is a war between those who promote and those who oppose an expansive and abundant human future.
Our enemies are those who are actively trying to handicap and limit us, in what we can say, do, think, own. They are those who would prevent us from joining with others who think like us, in promoting the freedoms and actions that would bring about an expansion and abundance of human meaning, fulfillment, and prosperity.
Think long and carefully. Make yourself as Dangerous as you can reasonably become. Make provisions for various futures while working actively for a better future.