Ethos, Pathos and Logos

I now want to turn to gentler ways of persuading others, starting with a look at what the ancient Greeks thought about meme transmission.

These days, the word rhetoric has mostly negative connotations, but it just means ‘the art of persuasion through the use of language’. The Greeks saw rhetoric as the means of clarifying, ordering and presenting persuasive arguments, pretty much guaranteeing it a place in this book.  Rhetoric dates back around two-and-a-half millennia, and was the method by which the memeplexes of art, democracy, the sciences and civil society spread around the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, spawning the Greek and Roman empires along the way.

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Building a virulent meme

The test of this material is whether or not we can identify the factors that will allow us to construct a better meme, which we tackle here, and whether we can make it stick in the brain (here).

You will remember in Memeplexes the comparison to a stealth bomber, where wings, camouflage, guns, bombs, engines and so on were useless by themselves but powerful when combined.  So I want to look at design of a memeplex consisting of at least two types of meme: the payload (the message you are trying to get across) and the container the payload is packaged in.  

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Making it sticky

So we've looked at the design criteria for container and payload memes.  These will get your meme noticed and implanted.  But that's not enough: it needs to stick.

Avoiding defection once the idea is planted is somewhat harder.  We know (here) that memes die out because they don’t get transmitted well or because adherents defect from the idea.  So if we really want to make the change stick, the memeplex has to be adopted and protected by the host’s immune system.

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