Mimetic Pathologies

Culture imbues us with ideas and mental models that help us make sense of the world. To survive, they need to be worth passing from person to person. The success of these memes may be attributable to utility, either because they accurately describe reality or because they motivate us to behave in well-adapted ways. Some may survive because they happen to tickle some quirk of our instincts or existing worldview, even though they are neither useful or productive.

I am fascinated by the memes that are widespread despite being dangerously wrong. Even if we overcome our cognitive biases, our ideologies will sometimes lead us astray.

  • Duality (especially Cartesian mind/body but also Platonic theory of form)

  • pure separation/distinction (yet, “difference” for digitalization is so valuable)

  • Zero-sum social measures

  • Pure meritocracy

  • eternity

  • limitless resources (broadacre) and manifest destiny

  • The invisible hand

  • Nature vs Nurture (overlooking the strange loops of materialist free will)

  • Knowledge and eyewitness recall

  • “Potential” as a moral good (the potential of the white boy in college accused of rape, the sacred life of an “unborn baby” embryo or fetus, the limited potential of “savages” in not-fully-industrialized societies)

  • Financialization - abstracting economic activity from the allocation of capital

  • Average

  • Individualism