Meme Magic (a magifesto)

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Science has served us well. But it has blind spots, spots that didn't bother us much in a world that was still immediate. This world, however, is becoming increasingly networked, virtual and mediated, and the blind spots are starting to show. Our voices can now be heard across the planet, what we say is fed into advertising algorithms and presented to distant people in real time. We are speaking in front of an audience all the time and we are not yet used to it. It creeps us out when our searches show up in our ads. Say something particularly stupid, piss off the wrong hivemind, and a hate mob may form and ruin your life for nothing but a brain fart. Science tries to describe without influencing the subject. Experiments, once set up, must work independently from theories, the map must be causally downstream from the territory. This Must becomes an expectation and creates a blind spot. But only the most well-behaved fields really work this way: Sociology and Psychology that deal with social realities struggle with this, especially. For many areas of interest, the map is carved into the territory by its usage, a herbivore trail both formed by and forming the territory. Language, world views, even our memories are such maps, changing whenever they're used. What we need to manage a chaotic, protean world full of feedback is language that is not descriptive, but manipulative. Language that knows and embraces its effects. Words of power, well-recognized. Magic.

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Magic is real - if you deal in human perception. It is coincidental imposition of human perception onto reality. It is tricking reality into seeing patterns in the noise, telling it a story so compelling that it adapts. It is: Giving you what you expect. Magic is real in a world seen through many layers of humans and silicon. Misdirect attention, modify expectations, or manipulate consensus reality: A task that is becoming increasingly easier in the Internet age where the web is mediator to everything. A web that is soaked in and composed of memes. Meme magic is the tool of the age.

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Pre-rational magic deals in curses, the evil eye, talismans and animal spirits. It is a crutch. As long as many believe that it works, it often does. Often it doesn't, with nobody the wiser. Rational magic is an oxymoron. The scientific method and the Pre-rational don't get along. Science cuts through the haze of human perception to find 'true' reality, or at least a version of it that can be subject to consensus. Rationality attacks the biases and superstitions magic has so carefully coevolved with, drains leylines rooted in the psyche, reduces magic to a shadow of its former self. But in the meta-rational Internet Age, it comes back in new glory: While science is great at negotiating a consensus reality, the contents of minds cannot be part of a consensus. Consensus reality breaks up and gives way to virtual reality, realities. Everybody can craft their own, is free to choose their reality providers, can subscribe to any feed they like and see through their eyes. The web connects all the minds and a pluralistic, often split-brained shared mindspace emerges. Every sentence modifies someone's personal reality, our every word has consequences. In this environment, memes and hyperstitions thrive and a magical world view becomes viable again. Meme magic happens when we ask: How do we change the Internet with mere words? It takes place when stories change what they describe, where the Internet is about itself and the story is indistinguishable from the happening. Meme magic is supercharged pragmatics. In a world where memes are literally traded on currency exchanges, where you can crash a plane with no survivors, make the city of Agloe appear or America great again, whether you call it self-fulfilling prophecy or hyperstitional manipulation of desire's puppet-strings, meme magic is real, hyperreal. It is native to our Internet-mediated hyperreality. Apply enough force and it becomes malleable.

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Where the Logos is the guiding principle of reality, the Mythologos is the guiding narrative. Narratives can be changed: To give people hope and to take it, to ridicule and even destroy your enemies, to support the political cause of your choice. Where it used to take a state to implant collective memories and suppress others, successful memes can now achieve the same with negligible human effort, spreading through wishful thinking and toxoplasmatically along ideological fault lines. Sure, they are capricious beasts, hard to tame and predict, but their force multiplier is huge. With them properly mastered, you can literally meme things into existence.

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The laws of magic are that of the human mind. The noosphere is slowly weaving itself together into an overmind and it's made of humans and noumena - not particles and waves. Magic, not physics, is the noosphere's natural theory. You are but a neuron, but you can be one that knows its place and the location of the control buttons. Develop your mythodology and manipulate the mythologos for fun and profit. Meme magic gives you the tools. published: Sep 26 2016. epistemic status: manifesto.