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Meme Update #8

In this issue: 
    Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt



The latest milestone in the growing acceptance of memetics as a "real" academic subject is the appearance of the Journal of Memetics, The first issue is due to be published this month, available free on the Internet.


One memetic tool commonly used in marketing (I used to hear the guys at Microsoft bandy this about from time to time) is known in the manipulation biz as "FUD." FUD stands for fear, uncertainty, and doubt, as in creating those states of mind in your target market regarding your competition.

Chapter 7 of VIRUS OF THE MIND puts forth one hypothesis of why we are so oversensitive to scary situations: because thousands and millions of years ago, the creatures that got scared and ran away got to live another day. If you can get your customers to think the other guy's product is dangerous, the logic goes, you make use of their natural tendency to run away from danger into your welcoming arms.

A favorite example is a brand of canned white tuna that used to advertise itself as "the tuna that doesn't turn pink in the can." Ewww...yuck! Never mind that those other brands of tuna don't turn pink in the can either -- they're naturally pink!

AT&T loves to use FUD to scare people away from using cheaper long distance services. Welcome home, they tell us soothingly. You'll be safe and secure with AT&T. Reminds me of Robert Mitchum playing the scary evil preacher in "Night of the Hunter," singing the hymn "Leaning." Every time he sang "safe and secure," with those haunting sunken cheeks and hungry eyes stalking the little girl, my stomach just tied up in a knot!

The US government has done quite a bit to promote "Truth in Advertising." That's good as far as it goes, but they'll never be able to control the kind of "spin" that FUD is a part of. We just need to become more and more conscious of the ways they manipulate us.


Seen on a bumper sticker:

So Many Stupid People
So Few Comets...


[The following is reprinted with permission from Rolling Good Times, Remember the discussion of the evolution of gambling games in VIRUS OF THE MIND? Well, evolution never ends, does it. Now they're adding the biggest push-button of them all...]


Extrema is a new start-up based in Russia and, evidently, can produce any sort of customized slot machine a casino could want. Not really sure where they're licensed. Not really sure if the games are any good, actually.

The real interesting thing about this company's product line is their love for blending soft-core pornography and gaming.

You want breasts and video poker? They got it!

You want a feature that has "two sexy girls striptease" if you double up your bet five times in a row? get the point.

The added facet of pornography to gaming is an interesting concept. Is this going to be a major segment that has yet to be exploited? And think about this: the two biggest issues about the Internet are gaming and pornography. Isn't it just a matter of time before they're strategically combined?

This probable eventuality might be delayed by 29 U.S.C. Section 5273, which makes it illegal to attach a lottery ticket to indecent or immoral pictures. Not that we're talking about lotteries necessarily, but Federal bureaucrats have a tendency to equate lotteries and gaming.

Still, this little company may be on to more than it realizes.


The Diamond Age, or A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer
by Neal Stephenson
(Bantam, 1996)

I haven't been a Fan of anyone for a long time. But I am now officially a Neal Stephenson Fan. Stephenson, who is my age and lives in my town and whom I am looking forward to meeting as soon as both of us can clear our schedules sufficiently, is a Good Writer who Gets Memetics. Such folks are rare as a sunny day in Seattle in April, and as such ought to be cherished, nourished, and all their books bought by the dozen and given to everyone you know with more than three firing neurons left.

The "Diamond Age" of the title refers to the diamond fibers used in building materials in the coming age of nanotechnology (see Drexler, Engines Of Creation, The Primer refers to a one-on-one Artificial-Intelligence (AI) teaching tool that could conceivably solve what Stephenson and I both perceive as the biggest underlying problem in the world today: how to give any and all children the best possible education.

As in Snow Crash, Stephenson illuminates a future as likely as any and as shocking to our complacent selves as it is realistic. The world of The Diamond Age is one in which deliberate memetic engineering has given birth to designed cultures, most noteworthy the neo-Victorians, in which philosopher-kings worthy of Plato decide not what values are True, or God-given, but what values make up a workable society. When a bootleg copy of the Primer accidentally falls into the hands of slum urchin Nell, she embarks on a solitary Pygmallion-esque adventure, her transformation a metaphor for the awakening of infant billions to higher consciousness.

While the pages don't turn nearly as quickly as those of the fast-paced and comic Snow Crash, these pages are to be savored. Great literature isn't so much in the reading as in the recollecting. This is a book the memetic engineers of the next millennium will all have on their shelves.

To order, click HERE:

You can order books mentioned here and others through the Memetics Bookstore at