Tuesday, September 14, 2004


Truth Laid Bear did a post on Memes a couple of years ago and mentioned a book by John Barnes called Kaleidoscope Century. It's not a very big book but it's something that stuck in the back of my head like peanut butter. A post-apocalyptical novel that takes place in the very near future and ends well into the following century. It does a perfect job of describing what would happen if terrorists got out of control and the affects of what it has on the world. The main character of this story is one of the bad guys who is just a pawn in some greater game. He and the people that are part of his "group" take down the heads of government, religious leaders, doctors, scientists, anybody that looked like they mattered or looked like they could have a chance to bring order (sort of like the insurgents are doing in Iraq right now). Their basic plan is to go around and cause chaos. The original reasons for doing this have all been lost, the governments and ideals that started it don't even exist anymore, they take bounties offered by opposing parties going back and forth across lines. If no money was offered they did it for just the chaos it caused. Sometimes just doing it for fun. Everything but full out nuclear war goes on and the book gives a grim prognosis for what is possible for the human race. Mr. Barnes catches the raw intensity of what humanity is capable of at it's worst. Anybody thinks that we shouldn't stomp out terrorists should read this book; it will give you an idea what would happen when the rule of law is lost. I'm not preaching a point by saying that we're solving the problem the right way but this book gives you a vision of what would happen if we didn't do anything. I warn you it's not a nice or pretty book and I still get dreams of living in that world because it's not too far of a jump to imagine being there.

The part of the book that TLB's post talks about an idea that happens about midway through the book. In the book, Memes are super intelligent computer virus's that evolved to a point where they can hop back and forth between humans and computers. These meme's spread and eventually every one is running a meme in his wetware. Once again it's a war of which meme should be running the world. This book hits you with such a plethora of bad things that could happen that you'll head will be reeling for quite a while.

Today we have memes but they're mostly just ideas after getting repeated so many times most people know them, it doesn't matter weather they're true or not. Like a song that you can't get out of your head they'll go around for a while till it dies out. If you're like me you'll notice them all over the blogsphere, some are bigger then others. The life cycle of a blog meme is usually like this. On person tells a story that is important to him or her that can either be fact or fiction. Other bloggers read it and like it or hate it. They comment and sometimes leave trackbacks, some write about it on their blogs, some copy it and other bloggers that follow those blogs write about them writing about it, political people get polarized around the story, either arguing for or against and saying that it's true or can't be true. If it touches a subject that big media is paying attention to, they pick up the story, rarely mentioning where it came from and retell it in their own words usually misplacing facts and people but giving it a quasi-factual status because they told it. Then after it has made their rounds someone investigates the story all the way back to the source only to find out that it's real or total fiction (urban myth). Usually ends up being a measure of both. At any time in this process the meme can die, either from lack of attention, someone telling the truth about it or some big event overshadows it plus there will always be someone out there that will believe it's true no matter what anyone says including the author.

For a long time before the Internet the US had a very successful Meme going called the American Dream. The big PX in the sky. A meme that most of the world wanted to be part of but is now is now showing signs of wear and getting tattered around the edges, sort of like Disneyland. The world is shrinking and everybody is starting to realize that the American Dream isn't the same thing as it was 20 years ago; we really don't live in this Baywatch world. 9/11 pushed us further into the worldwide spotlight; showing that life here isn't perfect and we aren't all the shiny happy people Hollywood portrayed us as being. The waves from that event are still reverberating through out the world. We've been at war since then and everyone is wondering what our next move is going to be. While no one knows what's really going on in the higher reaches of our government, ground level any one with a computer and Internet access has a peeping tom's view right into our private bedrooms and closets. The worldview is changing daily thanks to this and the spread of technology and who knows where it's going to take us? The cat has been let out of the bag and nothing is ever going to be the same.

Hopefully it's not the world that John Barnes has outlined.

(btw, thanks Ted for the save!)

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