I just returned from a wilderness raft trip. It was spectacular. We had no cell phone or internet access for five days. I had no idea what was going on in the world outside my immediate surroundings and no way to connect to anyone outside our little party of eight people and the occasional rafters we waved at from our campsite.
The absence of technology was an interesting mental juxtaposition to a book I have been reading; Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age by Clay Shirky. He, as many of you may know, is a leading thinker in the area of the social and economic effects of Internet technology. In his book he makes a great case for how social media is bringing about a shift in the way we use our free time; how watching TV is being replaced by a more connected use of our time. He suggests a future in which that surplus of free time will be used for goodwill – to dramatically improve our world. I agree with that prediction and applaud his insights.
As I was floating down the river watching an eagle, thinking about cognitive surplus and social media, I was overcome with gratitude for the freedom I have to use my cognitive surplus of free time in this era of growing connectedness. My cognitive freedom was a gift my mom gave me when she hired my deprogrammers.
Having been a slave to a totalist memeplex, I see a vast part of the cognitive surplus Clay talks about being squelched by memeplexes throughout the world, much like the one I was part of. They each use different words to define themselves, but a key component they share is a polarization that disallows true connectedness to anyone outside their memeplex. This greatly hampers the kind of connectedness we need to solve the issues we face – like climate change (a good place to start so that we actually have a chance at a future).
We need to deconstruct dangerous memeplexes to understand what fuels and binds them. That is what I hope to do in a book I am beginning to work on. I will be blogging pieces of it along the way.
Once we understand the components of dangerous memeplexes, the kinds that create polarizations filled with hatred of the “other”, we can begin to build sustainable peace memes. We will then be in a position to truly work in a connected way, without the false polarizations inherent in irrational, predominantly religious, memeplexes.