Building a better meme

This section is both the cornerstone and test of this website.  It explains why some memes are accepted, while the brain filters others out, which is vital to anyone trying to use them practically.  It also attempts to explain how memes are stored in the human brain, and how that storage mechanism can be exploited to increase the stickiness of your ideas.

Above all, it explains how to design a meme(plex) so that it will deliver a payload – whatever it is that you want to get across to your target audience – efficiently.

To do this, we will look at the operating system of this organic computer of ours and how it stores and processes ideas. We will see how our subconscious minds allow us to learn by laying down or adapting pathways in our brain, and the role of emotion in triggering those pathways.  We'll also look at how strong emotions (such as fear) can override our rational brains and how unscrupulous meme designers use this to peddle their products.

We also look at some of the work explaining the filters that our brain uses to weed out memes, and develop some hypotheses on we can get past these filters.  Finally, we look at how to design payloads and memetic containers, and consider some challenges in launching your new meme.

Memetics is still an immature science, and I don’t claim to have all the answers on how to defeat the filters of the brain, but there should be enough pointers here to come up with a workable mechanism for meme design.  As Emerson would say if he were alive today, ‘build a better meme and the world will beat a path to your door’.


  • The arithmetic of belief

    In this section, we will look at the mathematics of meme spread - don't worry, there aren't any equations.  

    Everyone thinks they understand the mathematics - it's exponential growth, right?...  Right, up to the point when a large proportion of the population is infected, and then it's not exponential any more. We'll take a quick canter through the growth of new memes and then look at what happens when the population is saturated and exposed to competing memes. 

  • How memes work

    This section of the site discusses the process by which the brain accepts (or rejects) memes, and the 'immune system' used by established memes.  We will talk about the filters the brain uses, and the stages that the meme goes through from perception to re-transmission.

  • The operating system of the brain

    In this section we will look at some ideas about how the brain processes and stores information, and what we can learn about memetic transmission.  We also ask about whether it's "us" thinking or our memes.  Also, how to scare others for fun and profit! 

  • Building sticky memes

    Here we look at ways of increasing your meme's chances of getting into your targets' brains, and making it stick so well that they re-transmit it.  We will look at the relevance of rhetoric, how to fool the brain's filters, and how to implant an immune system to protect your meme.