Sunday, March 3, 2013

Meme Wars (Part 3)

A war for mind share is going on around us.  Ideas struggle for territory in our brains.  In Part 3 of Meme Wars we continue our journey considering the war of memes that occurred when printing technology became common.

Meme WarsPart 1 - Part 2 - Part 3  - Part 4 - Part 5 – Part 6 – Part 7

Libraries held memes
Minds  Begin to Specialize

The secular world began to form as old minds were rediscovered.  A fight for control of minds was waged in books.  Facts and myths memes struggled for control of the human mind.

For many centuries it was possible to read all the books.  The total sum of human knowledge could be, and often was, put into individual brains.  With the advent of printing, knowledge accumulated.  Past voices piled up and libraries spread. 

With this revolution specialization in knowledge began to occur.  There was more information available than a single person could know.  The concept of knowledge experts was born. The number of professors, physicians, philosophers, and lawyers grew exponentially. 

People of wealth and power had greater access to new, growing piles of knowledge. 

Those with freedom and time to read could explore others ideas, while most occasionally continued their lives as they were and read newly translated Bibles.

Catholic and Protestant meme's competed for minds

Past Fights Future

Fictional ideas competed with factual ideas for access to people minds.  Old power bases created ideas that kept their power intact.  New discoveries by inquiring minds demonstrated that the old power bases were wrong. 

Memes about King’s power struggled with thoughts about individual freedom.  Memes about human rights struggled with beliefs about Church dogma.  New art forms emerged that threatened traditional moral values.  Old taboos on corpses struggled with dissection and forensics.

To traditionalist and conservatives of the Renaissance era the world seemed to shift from under their feet.  Old, assumed values, the very nature of what was right and good and proper came into question.  Books were burned that had profane, secular knowledge.  Inquisitions from the Church tried to stop new and threatening ideas. A violent reaction from the status quo, threatened to unseat new ideas and discovery.

Erasmus created a humanist meme
leading humans to seek new learning
Martin Luther advocated abolishing Church control of marriage.  Descartes said that wisdom could come from discoveries outside Church teaching.  Galileo pointed out that the earth went around the sun.   The first stock companies and international banks formed allowing money and power to be accumulated without church or king.

The progressives and liberals of this time saw new hope for the future.  They advocated changes to society that were shocking and disturbing.  New ideas led to understandings that transformed views of what a human life could be.  Seeing the old order as a threat to new possibilities, a war of new ideas was waged upon the old thoughts.

The concept that each person must perfect their mind and body while on earth in order to achieve salvation became popular.  This humanism drove individuals to seek excellence by learning all they could.  New learning threatened the established order.

Copernicus challenged conservative thought
showing earth wasn't the center 
Meanwhile established order and power saw each advance of ideas as a threat.  Many thought the world would end or society crumble as it changed in front of them.

These struggles often led to violence and strife wars between new and old lasted for generations.  Mankind resorted to terrible actions to enforce their world views upon the other.  Religious wars between Catholics (old bible conservatives) and Protestants (new bible liberals) killed huge numbers of people and ruined many more lives.

Eventually a truce between conservatives and liberals evolved, allowing localities to identify with their own ideologies.  Parts of Europe remained largely traditional, adapting some new ideas where it did not threaten church or king.  North-western Europe adapted the new ideas and prospered until its culture spread around the world.  However, spasms of violence continued until the French Revolution finally over threw the conservative powers continent wide and the modern age brought a new kind of nation states into existence.

Meme’s Meet Reality

Some new ideas were not factual and failed or brought great disaster upon societies. 

Combining memes of progress and king
Conquistadors brought down civilizations
Conquistadors thought to grab wealth for personal gain and destroyed civilizations, ruining centuries of development and diversity.  Slavery, almost unknown in medieval times, restarted allowing people to become property.  Frequent, violent political upheaval in emergent city states caused populations to live in terror for decades. 

Many new ideas were factual and changed the world for the better.

The seeds of the scientific revolution where planted and fertilized by wide spread transfer of thoughts between minds.  Our sharing of knowledge about anatomy allowed more people to survive.  Improved farming techniques disseminated holding back famine.  Novels and plays could be performed and enjoyed far from their authors, by printing the words and actions into books.

Those ideas that aligned with the factual reality that existed did well.  Other memes that did not, slowly or rapidly failed.  The competition between ideas was fought on a battleground of reality and myth.  Ideas that succeeded tended to be based on facts.  Ideas that failed were often believed fictions.

In part 4 of Meme Wars we begin our journey into our current information revolution.

Meme WarsPart 1 - Part 2 - Part 3  - Part 4 - Part 5 – Part 6 – Part 7

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