THE MYSTERIOUS CASE OF THE INVISIBLE THIRD MEME

THE SEEN AND THE UNSEEN

First of all, it is important to know that, when we are navigating the net, our eyes are capturing the information we’re reading but also capturing a lot of information we are not specifically reading. This happens all the time, whether we are reading information on the Internet or observing an open field landscape. To make it more clear: when we read the news on a digital paper, our eyes are capturing the words we’re reading but also capturing all the information that is around these words: ads, pup-ups, gifs, pictures, colors, shapes, other headlines, etc. This means that a huge amount of information we are not aware of is stored in our brains, unconsciously. And, as you know, that it is unconscious doesn’t mean is less important, it only means we are not aware of it. In fact, it has always been important, and more since Freud started to investigate it. And you will know that was, precisely, Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays, who introduced Freud theories into the United States but he did not only that: this Freud’s nephew used his uncle’s theories about the unconscious to build an economical empire being the first to use subliminal manipulation in advertising.

Of course, I am not saying at all that there is subliminal information in everything we read on the internet. That would be too conspiranoid and absolutely false. But I just wanted to recall this example to remark how important it is to have an active experience when navigating the net, more than having a passive experience (which it happens lots of times, when we are absorbed completely until almost physically disappear and we are caught in a kind of rapture, in those moments -algid moment of mechanism – I think we are specially vulnerable not because of the certainty that there’s someone behind the internet trying to manipulate us – although maybe there are some – but because it should be important from now on to be aware of in which ways experiencing the internet is shaping our brains and our perception).

 

BRAIN MECHANISMS UNDERLYING THE BRIEF MAINTENANCE OF SEEN AND UNSEEN SENSORY INFORMATION

So, in first place, we have to have in mind – as Stanislas Dehaene says – that the definition and empirical measurements of conscious and unconscious visual perception remain a topic of high controversy but it seems the results of Dehaene’s study points in the same direction I was suspecting: that the brain accumulates unseen information (in this case, when navigating the net) unconsciously.[1]

DIFFERENT LEVELS OF INFORMATION AND THE WEAKENING OF THE NOTION OF PRIVACY

Also we have to think about the different levels of information we are consuming at the same time: for instance, on Facebook, we can read in the same newsfeed international news (for example: a country bombing another country and the number of injured civilians) just above a comment of a friend sharing a very intimate experience or thought about something. It is precisely at this point when I think the notion of privacy – meaning the invisible wall that separated public things (things that involved everyone in a community) from private things (things that involved just yourself or your nearest ones) – gets cracked.

Related to these different levels of information consumed at the same time, I wonder if my brain stores this information in the right place, let’s say, in the right drawer: for instance, will my brain store the public information in the public information drawer? or will my brain store the private information in the private information drawer? because if it doesn’t, if my brain does not store the information received in the right drawer, most possibly a semantic deformity will unconsciously take place.

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MEMETIC SUPERPOSITION

The superposition is a phenomenon that I have been perceiving in the late years. I have decided to call superposition to the memetic simultaneity that take place in a pendulum movement. What does it mean?

When using social networks, there exists a pendulum pattern that accelerates and decelerates but never stops. So, for a while, I was able to recognize that the same day that in my newsfeed appeared information about, let’s say, X also appeared information related with K and, days after, when in my newsfeed appeared information about H also appeared information about Y. We are talking, therefore, about a superposition of memes.[2] The reason, I think, for the occurrence of this phenomenon is the algorithm that the network – in this case, Facebook – is using. I wonder then about what the consequences may be of our reality being shaped by algorithms. And I say firmly ‘shaped’ because, at this point, it is useless to defend that our interaction with the Internet should be understood as a reality apart from what we call real life. This is not true: the Internet is also a part of our real life and it is producing changes in our neuronal plasticity and perception.

 

CAMUS & TRUMP

Let’s say every time I saw a picture of Albert Camus, I also saw a picture of Donald Trump. On one hand, to find repeatedly a memetic superposition like this one, when there is an apparent antagonistic interrelation between this two memes, makes me think that I am heading to a discursive ending. And I have the feeling that this discursive ending can be a fatal ending given that the memes are antagonistic. And in front of this discursive ending I have to decide if tacking into another direction -to avoid the ending and continue with the discourse- or, on the contrary, keep on walking the same direction and take the risk of generating this fatal ending that I have called discursive paralysis, discursive explosions or collapses of meaning.

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Also, a superposition of memes like this one could make me think about a symmetry but what I think is, precisely, that these kind of symmetries are false because: is it true that Camus and Trump are symmetric?

What I think that happens is that the algorithm works by approximation, the relation between things doesn’t have to be exact or precise and our brain just fills the gap that exists between these approximations and the precise.

So having that in mind, the superposition of the two memes have to lead, indisputably, to deformities of meaning. In first place, this may occur because forced analogies are established: if every time we see X we also see K, we will end up searching for connections – conscious or unconsciously – between X and K even if the meanings of X and K are far one from the other.

And how this deformity comes to live? Well, what I think is that what happens is that the interrelation between X and K generates, necessarily, a third meme, a third unit of meaning born from the relation between X and K although this unit of meaning won’t materialize in other place than in our brain, unconsciously.

So from the mix between an Albert Camus meme and a Trump meme I think a new imaginary creature could be born in our unconscious, for example, a creature called… Crampus?

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THE THIRD TONE

A musician I know, when I explained to him the subjects of this talk, told me about a psychoacoustic phenomenon that can be used to illustrate what I am trying to explain about t his super position of memes . T his phenomenon is called the combination tone or the third tone or the Tartini tone because it was discovered by Guiseppe Tartini.

The combination tone would be like a ghost tone, a tone that we don’t know if physically exists or it is only a trick of our perception. It happens that when playing two notes at the same time, a third note can be perceived without being played anywhere and this happens because of the result of the difference between the frequencies of the two notes that we are playing.

HOW IS LANGUAGE DAMAGED?

So a similar thing happens, I think, with the superposition of two memes, a third ghost meme may appear unconsciously. The difference from the combination tone is that this third tone doesn’t damage anything or anyone, as far as I know, the third meme, instead, can indeed damage, and what can de damage is – in my opinion – language.

And how is language damaged?

  1. Meme X and meme Y meet and create a third meme.
  2. This third meme is a semantic deformity because the analogy established between this two memes is not real or is a simplification.
  3. This semantic deformity is stored in our brains unconsciously.
  4. We give back to the collective narrative this semantic deformity through language, by talking, writing, thinking.
  5. We deform language by adding the semantic deformity stored in our brain into the collective narrative.

This is how language, I think, becomes imprecise. And the imprecision gives space to misunderstanding and manipulation.

ALTERING THE NARRATIVE

If the relation between X and K is happy, if an harmonious meeting between the two memes takes place, the result will be a third meme of an integrative and non-violent tendency and the result of that is that the discourse will continue its way. If the relation between X and K is unhappy, if a crash takes places between the two meanings, a collapse of meaning may occur and what derivates from it is this third meme that will tend to conflict and that can lead to -as said before- discursive paralysis or to discursive explosions or collapses.

So, in both cases micro-realities are generated and, once assimilated by our brains, are projected again by us altering the narrative, that means that once that what it comes to us from the outside is digested – in this case, a semantic deformity – we give back to the collective narrative the result of this digestion through projection, having in mind that projection is language too.

THE PENDULUM

Maybe it is the pendulum pattern in itself what should be put in question. Without this pendulum pattern, the synergies that are generated between the both meanings of a memetic superposition would be never insistent, both meanings would never meet through this constant pattern and, therefore, the energy that could generate an insistent antagonistic synergy would dissipate.

It would be like if a pattern made two enemies meet every two days in the same corner at night at the same time. The more they will meet, the more probabilities there will be that a fight is going to start between them. So if they meet once in a while instead, the probabilities of that fight would decrease.

HEAVEN/HELL: WHAT’S THE RELATION THEN BETWEEN CAMUS & TRUMP?

Most possibly, what relates Camus and Trump may be that both are living in hell. But we should clarify and say that they are living in hell in different ways: while Trump enjoys ad maximum, let’s say, the hellishness, what makes the existence of Camus a hell is having to deal with the consequences of coexisting with someone like Trump.

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Entering the game of Heaven and Hell, though, means to be caught -again- in the traps of binarism: in a great and infamous simplification exercise, given only two options we are seduced to make us believe that there is no other option possible than choosing between these two options. It seems there is no option to not choosing or to imagine a third option or, even, multiple options or, why not, infinite options, as many options as possible perceptions. The one who does not choose eternally walks, wanders borderline, marginal, intermediate landscapes, is the one who does not have a home and that, in Judeo-Christian terms, would be the soul that is waiting ad infinitum a destiny in the Purgatory.

And this makes me think about Bartleby.

When we think about Bartleby, the guy who preferred not to do the things he should be doing, we maybe think of the state of mind of a perpetual wanderer. We know that Bartleby preferred no to do the things he should have been doing but we don’t know in which place Bartleby locates himself. It is, of course, a place located somewhere since the negation of Bartleby has a real consequence, but it is, definitely, not the place where the game is taking place, although the consequence of his negation – as I said- has an impact in this game anyway.

But let’s be honest, Heaven and Hell need each other, one could not exist without the other. The constant battle between one force and the other does not know (and never will) a conclusion. None of both forces is interested in it because the extinction of one of them would carry the immediate extinction of the other. Therefore, as we cannot -it seems, for the moment- escape from this binary game, it is more about finding a balance between one force and the other. That’s why they talk about destabilization as a tactic to break the balance between these two forces.

Anyway, I think it is precisely the binary game in a pendulum pattern what makes us used to mechanism.

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INDUCTION OF THE IMAGINARY

And talking about destabilization and manipulation and now that it seems is true that some hidden squads are hired by an invisible hand to post information of all kind on what we now call post-truth era, I don’t think the idea of the possibility of an induction of the imaginary to modulate our perception is a mad idea at all, in first place, because this has been one of the main uses of television too, since the television was inside every home. I wonder, for instance: would we be having the feeling of a climate of cold war without the internet or the media wars we are witnessing everyday? How this induction of the imaginary could work?

Well, let’s imagine I am powerful enough to hire people to post pictures of Hitler and Stalin on the internet at the same time for a period of time.

If they do their job properly, the Internet will go plenty of pictures of Hitler and Stalin.

If the Internet goes plenty of pictures of Hitler and Stalin, what would you think about?

You would probably think about the WWII, Nazism, communism, holocaust, gulags, cold war and all that’s related to Hitler and Stalin.

Therefore, we could say I am inducing this imaginary into your brain.

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So if millions of people see pictures of Hitler and Stalin at the same time millions of people will think about WWII, Nazism, communism, etc.

What I think is that there is a high percentage of possibilities that what we are all thinking

at the same time will finally come true by the simple fact that we are all thinking about it at the same time, through projection.

And if it finally doesn’t come true, we’re giving space enough to speculation and we should never forget that behind the Internet there are lots of investors trying to gain money and it is the re-investment and the circulation of this money what make a lot of things come true.

To say it more clearly: we are what we eat, our conscious is, in most part, the result of our unconscious. That we are, in most part, the result of our unconscious could seem something obvious at this point of the story but it seems it is something unnoticed in our every day lives and the more unnoticed the easier it is to be manipulated. So it is not that we have to be completely paranoid about it but just to be a little bit aware when we are exposed to the media and to the internet.

AFTER THE COLLAPSE OF MEANING

And what happens after a collapse of meaning?

In the shock of two antagonistic memes and once a collapse of meaning has occurred, unpredictability reigns. This would be – as far as I can see and understand – the principle of accelerationism, to search for the collapse of meaning that lead to a period of unpredictability. Within this tactic a goal is achieved: in first place, to generate a crisis in strategic points of the binary predictability and, in second place, that this same crisis generates unpredictability. And the more unpredictable the more difficult to control.

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LIBERATION FROM MECHANISM: IF ALL THIS IS TRUE AND EXISTS, WHO AM I BUT ONLY SOMEONE BEING UNCONSCIOUSLY GUIDED TO FIND OUT?

It is in periods of unpredictability when improvisation takes place, that means the non-mechanism. Therefore, we could understand the improvisation as a way of breaking the pendulum pattern that favors the liberation from mechanism.

IMPROVISATION AS A FORM OF FREEDOM

But who suffers from heavy spleen wonders at what point the improvisation is truly improvised, that is to say at what point the idea of chance or free will would be a kind of perceptive illusion given that all that we do and constitute us is a result of our genetic information.

I understand by improvisation that kind of manifestation that happens without being previously calculated nor written and that cannot happen again. From my point of view, the act of improvisation is, above all, an act based on the free flux of the unconscious. But that the circulation of the unconscious is liberated does not imply that the unconscious is free.

Even so, what cannot be denied is that improvisation exposes us to the unexpected and entails a breaking with the pre-existing patterns, and that is the nearest form of freedom we can accomplish at this point.

 

ELI NINGÚ

 

 

[1] Stanislas Dehaene, “Brain mechanisms underlying the brief maintenance of seen and unseen sensory information,” Neuron, 2016. https://www.cell.com/neuron/fulltext/

[2] Understanding by meme the concept Richard Dawkings developed in 1976 meaning a unit of cultural transmission.

 

*published in ALIENIST 5

 

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