Eikonal Blog


Memetic diseases

Mass hysteria

  • “The Dark Side of the Placebo Effect: When Intense Belief Kills” by Alexis Madrigal (the Atlantic; 2011.09.14) – http://www.theatlantic.com/life/archive/2011/09/the-dark-side-of-the-placebo-effect-when-intense-belief-kills/245065/
      While people of all cultures experience sleep paralysis in similar ways, the specific form and intensity it takes varies from one group to the next …
      They died in their sleep one by one, thousands of miles from home. Their median age was 33. All but one — 116 of the 117 — were healthy men. Immigrants from southeast Asia, you could count the time most had spent on American soil in just months. At the peak of the deaths in the early 1980s, the death rate from this mysterious problem among the Hmong ethnic group was equivalent to the top five natural causes of death for other American men in their age group.

      Something was killing Hmong men in their sleep, and no one could figure out what it was. There was no obvious cause of death. None of them had been sick, physically. The men weren’t clustered all that tightly, geographically speaking. They were united by dislocation from Laos and a shared culture, but little else. Even House would have been stumped.

      Doctors gave the problem a name, the kind that reeks of defeat, a dragon label on the edge of the known medical world: Sudden Unexpected Nocturnal Death Syndrome. SUNDS. It didn’t do much in terms of diagnosis or treatment, but it was easier to track the periodic conferences dedicated to understanding the problem.

  • “What’s Causing ‘Mass Faintings’ at Cambodian Factories?” by Andrew Marshall (Time > World; 2011.09.20) – http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2093516,00.html
      … In the past three months, at least 1,200 workers at seven garment and shoe factories have reported feeling dizzy, nauseated, exhausted or short of breath, and hundreds have been briefly hospitalized. No definitive explanation has yet been given for these so-called mass faintings. One baffled reporter described them as “unique to Cambodia.” (Read how companies are abandoning Chinese factories in search of cheaper options.)
      Hardly. It’s been almost 50 years since girls at a boarding school in Tanganyika (now Tanzania) were struck by an illness whose symptoms — fainting, nausea and helpless laughter — soon spread to other communities. Or consider the Pokémon contagion in 1997, when 12,000 Japanese children experienced fits, nausea and shortness of breath after watching a television cartoon. Sufferers of World Trade Center syndrome, meanwhile, blamed proximity to Ground Zero for coughs and other respiratory problems long after airborne contaminants posed any health threat.
      All these are examples of mass hysteria, a bizarre yet surprisingly common phenomenon that is increasingly recognized as a significant health and social problem. For centuries it has crossed cultures and religions, taking on different forms to keep pace with popular obsessions and fears. In our post-9/11 world, it thrives on the anxiety caused by terrorist attacks, nuclear radiation and environmental gloom. “At any one time there are probably hundreds of episodes happening all around the world,” says Simon Wessely, a psychology professor at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London. “They just don’t normally get reported.”


More: Memetics – https://eikonal.wordpress.com/2010/04/13/memetics/



Filed under: memetics — Tags: , — sandokan65 @ 16:31


One more example of reactive social role of patent system

Filed under: memetics, opression, patents — Tags: , , , — sandokan65 @ 10:39

Algorithms are a relatively precise set of instructions describing some process. In another words, they are ideas – complex chains of ideas, but still nothing more. Since algorithms can be “protected” by patents (at least in USA), one can perform variety of socially defined thoughtcrimes just by doing what is a natural proclivity and right of every sentient being: play with ideas, copy ideas, modify ideas, look how they combine, …

Since the beginning of human history, the already established social interest (individuals, groups) were using the social “laws” to prevent loss of profitability that their established position keeps bringing to them. It was like that since ever, and it will be until the last human society exists. The phenomena does not change, only its specifics take new faces and names.

The USA patent system (and its projection to the international domain) currently acts as one such social restraint, a force of conservation of established, and prevention of new. Through the last several decades it got corrupted by extending the application of the idea of patentability from the specific implementations of the algorithms to the general/abstract algorithms themselves.

The newest example of consequences of ability to patent the algorithms is following minor incident where a company that has successfully patented an algorithm to fingerprint the sound/music files threatens an developer who dared to implement general outlines of that algorithm afresh.

Related here: “Broken patents system” – https://eikonal.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/broken-patents-system/ | “Broken patents system” – https://eikonal.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/broken-patents-system/



The secret life of misquotes


More: Memetic diseases – https://eikonal.wordpress.com/2011/05/12/memetic-diseases/


Urban myths

Filed under: memetics — Tags: , , , — sandokan65 @ 12:48


Chuck Norris superman meme

Filed under: martial arts, memetics, mind & brain — Tags: , , — sandokan65 @ 16:50

Various cultural heroes have assigned to them list of “facts” which are extreme hyperboles of the virtues exposed by the specific hero. The extremity of these “facts” makes them infectious and memorizeable, i.e. good material to be memes.

The most familiar example in the web culture is Chuck Norris, martial artist and actor (in quite bad martial arts movies and series). Use Google to find various collections of “Chuck Norris facts”, for example:

Related here: Martial arts sites – https://eikonal.wordpress.com/2010/09/21/martial-arts-sites/ | Martial Arts articles – https://eikonal.wordpress.com/2010/09/08/martial-arts-articles/ | Martial Arts magazines and other sources – https://eikonal.wordpress.com/2010/02/05/martial-arts-magazines-and-other-sources/.


Bruce Schneier superman meme

Filed under: fun, infosec, memetics — sandokan65 @ 01:08

Along the lines of Chuck Norris meme, the infosec world has its own cultural hero: Bruce Schneier


Three requirements for evolution

Filed under: evolution, memetics — Tags: — sandokan65 @ 13:21
  • 1) Variation between the individuals
  • 2) Selection pressure based on differences in survival
  • 3) Heritability of traits

Misquoted Darvin – another example of meme evolution

Filed under: memetics — sandokan65 @ 12:06

The Panda’sThumb blog (http://pandasthumb.org/) has an posting (http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2009/09/survival-of-the-1.html) on an quote that was mistakenly attributed to Darvin:
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

The posting is instructive showing how the initial adaptation of an evolutionary idea into the management realm got optimized over time by being shortened (i.e. made more verbose and up to the point) and then mis-attributed to the greater authority (i.e. to Darvin as semi-divine mythical authority).

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