Category Archives: memetics

Hanzi Freinacht on effective value memes

The author of the metamodern treatise Nordic Ideology. From this interview:

“I’d like to say then about effective value meme that a lot of people are familiar with something quite similar, namely value memes from the spiral dynamics thinking. And it’s not just in the spiral dynamics framework, it’s all over adult development psychology really, that people have noticed, and it’s not just actually in adult development psychology, it’s also in anthropology. Those anthropologists that still or again start believing in the stage development and the evolution of stages of societies. They notice that there is a pattern here. They notice that people in smaller societies and farther back in history tend to believe more in magic and rituals and rights, for instance, in spirits, and things go on from there to larger and larger core principles or universal stories or narratives and perhaps the gods, or perhaps one God over all gods, which unify many people, many perspectives, and so on, and find one higher truth, the truth higher than any person.
“And then people go on from there noticing that, “Hey, there are many visions of this one God, there are many visions of objective reality. And then in modern society, even that objective reality seems to break down under the weight of so many perspectives. Some people start to wondering into what’s called post-modern perspectives and ideas. So these things align anthropology, history, psychology and personality. They align around some kind of stages which are recognizable. And even in any society, people aren’t just of one stage that correspond to that kind of society. Rather, you can see on the one hand, that people have learned a certain code or demeanor or worldview from the society that we’ve been brought up in. But at the same time, we also develop differently as human beings, as persons. Some people never really grasp the society and the narratives we’re in and go back to ways of grasping the world which would have resonated more with earlier societies.
“Others go on and pick up more conventional views and some even start to experiment with post-conventional views, which may intuit, perhaps, societies of the future or future forms of human life and life philosophies. So an example would be that in late medieval times, there were some intuitions of the renaissance and modernity. For instance, Roger Bacon, this monk was before his time in, I believe, may have been the late 13th century. And he intuited that we will study nature and there will be wagons that roll without horses. And there will be machines flying in the air and boats made of metal traversing the sea with no sails, and so on. He didn’t really know about any of the technology or couldn’t guess on it, but he was before his time. He was thinking already according to, well, according to what, and there it is, a value meme which corresponded to a society after his own. He was before his time in that developmental sense.
“So in any population, let’s say you’re in Switzerland, you’re going to have some kind of a normal distribution that’s not exactly a normal distribution, but something along those lines with some people having simpler worldviews and effective value memes that come before, that would have resonated with earlier societies. A large bulk of people who resonate with what’s conventionally Swiss in the 2020s, for instance, and then a minority of people who already are hooked on to some kind of cultural resonance which perhaps is more of what is going to emerge or emerging already. And I call these then, effective value meme because the theory here I’m commenting upon is called spiral dynamics and it has these color codes for these different value memes.
“So you can have traditional values, you can have modern values, you can have postmodern values. Traditional values would be more authoritarian and you believe in maybe one God, one truth, one religion. Modern values would be perhaps more achiever-oriented and have to do with business and democracy and, well, a materialist reductionist world view for instance. And postmodern values would be seeing the world more relationally and having more egalitarian views and wanting to soften the hard and harsh sides and destructive sides of modern life and society. So the problem I noticed with this developmental view was that people seem to fit in some ways within these categories and in others, they didn’t. So some people were complex thinkers, but maybe spiritually relatively flat. Some people have profound emotional and spiritual depths, but they’re not necessarily super smart. Some people are very learned in terms of all the progressive ideas out there, but understand them in flattened ways so they’re reduced to cliches, and so on.
“There appear to be at least four dimensions then, that put together is not necessarily a value meme that is recognizable as such, but if you put them together there is still a pattern that is vaguely recognizable, and that’s why I call them effective value meme. In effect, this person will reproduce the values of modern society. Why? Well, because they are at a certain, you mentioned four dimensions. They are at a certain level of complexity in terms of their thinking. They have a certain worldview which they have imbued from our surroundings. They have a certain level of introspective individuation or divination as a human being, knowing their own emotions, and so on, and defining their own self and their own life philosophy. And they may have a certain level of subjective states or happiness which facilitate this kind of life and participation in these kinds of values.”

Hanzi Freinacht on Nordic Ideology

We’ve briefly discussed metamodernism before. Hanzi has written two books on the subject. In this interview he discusses his latest book Nordic Ideology. There’s also a transcript available if you prefer reading. The blurb:

“Hanzi Freinacht, political philosopher, historian, sociologist, & author talks with Jim about effective value memes, cultural code, what it means to have high depth, dynamics of cognitive complexity, the changeability of culture & systems, social engineering, compulsion vs seduction, prioritizing subjective states, cultural attractor points & bad attractors, game acceptance vs denial & how they impact game change, relative utopias, a brief overview of Hanzi’s six types of politics, and more.”

Winter 2020 discussion prompts

  • What is humanity’s situation with respect to surviving long-term with a good quality of life? (Frame the core opportunities and obstacles.)
  • What attributes of our evolved, experientially programmed brains contribute to this situation? (What are the potential leverage points for positive change within our body-brain-mind system?)
  • What courses of research and action (including currently available systems, tools, and practices and current and possible lines of R&D) have the potential to improve our (and the planetary life system’s) near- and long-term prospects?

Following is a list of (only some!) of the resources some of us have consumed and discussed online, in emails, or face-to-face in 2019. Sample a few to jog your thoughts and provoke deeper dives. Please add your own additional references in the comments below this post. For each, give a short (one line is fine) description, if possible.

New scientific model can predict moral and political development

According to this study in Nature Human Behavior, in time frames about fairness and preventing harm triumph over those about loyalty, purity and authority. The latter might succeed temporarily, like now in the US, but the more the former frames are strongly and repeatedly reinforced the quicker the results. Let’s keep up our passionate frames, for this research supports that we will overcome the dark forces that have a temporary hold on our government. Also see Kohlberg‘s moral stages, showing that the former frames are more developed that the latter set.

“Their conclusion is that the key characteristic of opinions that gain ground is that they are supported by arguments about what is fair and what does not cause harm to others. […] Opinions based on other classical grounds used to determine right and wrong actions—loyalty, authority, purity, religion—can gain support temporarily, but over time, opinions based on these arguments lose support all over the political spectrum. The stronger the connection an opinion has to arguments about fairness and harm, the greater the probability that it will gain ground in public opinion. Also, the stronger the connection is, the faster the change will come.”

40 year update on memes

From this piece:

“There is not one, but at least four, hereditary systems recognized by biologists today. Eva Jablonka and Marion Lamb lay this out clearly in their 2006 book, Evolution in Four Dimensions, as they walk through the research literature on genetics, epigenetics, behavioral repertoires, and symbolic culture as four distinct pathways where traits are ‘heritable’ in appropriately defined fashion.”

“Specifically, I am thinking of three areas where significant progress has been made during the last forty years: the birth of complexity science in the early 1980’s, developments in the study of human conceptualization and cognitive linguistics since the mid-70’s, and the explosion of digital media in the age of personal computers and later via the internet.”

“Applied to meme theory, this body of tools and techniques [cognitive linguistics] demonstrates that researchers across many fields have found value in the perspective that culture can be studied as information patterns that arise in a variety of social settings routinely and with modular elements that are readily discernible in each new instance. The claim that information patterns do not replicate is contradicted by the evidence for image-schematic structures.”

The agency of objects

An interesting take on the agency of artifacts in light of the discussion of memes and temes. From Sinha, S. (2015). “Language and other artifacts: Socio-cultural dynamics of niche construction.” Frontiers in Psychology.

“If (as I have argued) symbolic cognitive artifacts have the effect of changing both world and mind, is it enough to think of them as mere ‘tools’ for the realization of human deliberative intention, or are they themselves agents? This question would be effectively precluded by some definitions of agency […] In emphasizing the distinction, and contrasting agents with artifacts, it fails to engage with the complex network of mediation of distinctly human, social agency by artifactual means. It is precisely the importance of this network for both cognitive and social theory that Latour highlights by introducing the concept of ‘interobjectivity.’ […] Symbolic cognitive artifacts are not just repositories, the are also agents of change. […] We can argue that the agency is (at least until now) ultimately dependent on human agency, without which artifactual agency would neither exist nor have effect. But it would be wrong to think of artifactual agency as merely derivative.”