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Virus of the Mind: The New Science of the Meme

139 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1401924683
ISBN-10: 1401924689
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Editorial Reviews Review

If you've ever wondered how and why people become robotically enslaved by advertising, religion, sexual fantasy, and cults, wonder no more. It's all because of "mind viruses," or "memes," and those who understand how to plant them into other's minds. This is the first truly accessible book about memes and how they make the world go 'round.

Of course, like all good memes, the ideas in Brodie's book are double-edged swords. They can vaccinate against the effects of cognitive viruses, but could also be used by those seeking power to gain it even more effectively. If you don't want to be left behind in the coevolutionary arms race between infection and protection, read about memes. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.


Anyone who wants to be involved in media in the next ten years must understand memetics and must read Virus of the Mind. -- Danny Bannister, President, The Mental Fitness Company, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Hay House (May 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401924689
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401924683
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (139 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #579,887 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Richard Brodie dropped out of Harvard to join Bill Gates in the personal-computer revolution at Microsoft. There he wrote the first version of Microsoft Word before becoming Gates's technical assistant. His books Getting Past OK and Virus of the Mind are international bestsellers, published in many languages across the globe.

A lover of technological progress, he made a deal with marketing manager Jeff Raikes in 1983. Jeff wanted to save time and ship the first version of Microsoft Word without support for a new device called a "mouse." Jeff's research showed that none of their users had demand for such a device. Richard thought hard and promised to put in mouse support in one week, working night and day. Jeff agreed on Friday afternoon. The version with mouse support was on his desk Thursday morning. Jeff went on to become the president of Microsoft's business division.

Before leaving Microsoft, Richard led the design for the Windows version of Word, code-named "Cashmere." Bill Gates always thought the name referred to the fact that Bill liked to wear cashmere sweaters, but in reality it came from passing through the Washington town of Cashmere during a river-rafting trip with some Microsoft colleagues.

During the Cashmere design, Richard came up with the idea of the Combo Box (a combination text box and drop-down menu widely used today), the Ribbon (a strip of buttons at the top of the screen used to display and change formatting), and his favorite, the squiggly red underline that checked and flagged spelling errors automatically.

Not being a nine-to-five kind of guy, Richard retired when Microsoft went public, before Cashmere shipped. When it did, he was distressed to see the squiggly red underline hadn't been included. Nor was it included in the next version. Finally, he cornered development manager Chris Mason in the Microsoft Cafeteria and asked why they hadn't done what he thought was the coolest feature.

"Oh, it's too hard," said Chris. "No it's not!" said Richard. "You just do this and this and this..." Chris thought for two seconds and said, "Oh, you're right, that's easy. We'll put it in." And it was in the next version. "Why didn't they pick up the phone and ask me how to do it?" Richard wondered. It's not like I moved to the moon. It was in the next version.

In retirement, Richard sampled many personal-growth groups (as he put it, "I joined cults as a hobby) and boiled down what he thought were the best ideas into his book Getting Past OK. As part of that research he saw the importance of the idea of "memes" -- contagious ideas that evolve in our culture -- and realized there wasn't a book about them, so he wrote one: Virus of the Mind.

Richard has appeared on numerous radio and TV shows, including Oprah, and maintains an eclectic blog at where he shares his thoughts and stories. His current hobby is poker, and he has appeared on television a few times playing big tournaments. ("With somewhat limited success," he says. "So far.") He lives in Kirkland, Washington.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

120 of 131 people found the following review helpful By Jake Sapiens on December 8, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Richard Brodie's, Virus of the Mind, presents what has proven to me the most practical use of the idea of memes. He presents plenty of good scientific background to set up the concept for those still unfamiliar with the meme meme. Although he does not actually inaugurate a true scientific field of memetics, he uses the concept of memes very skillfully to raise our consciousness and look at everyday things in our culture in a whole new light. In this respect I think he accomplishes far more than many of the unsatisfying attempts to make memetics a full fledged science. It is a bit early to expect such grand successful collective science, but it is not too early to raise our consciousness as individuals about some of these ideas, and Richard Brodie does a fantastic job in that undertaking.
Unlike some in the self-development field, Richard Brodie does not insult the intelligence of more educated readers. He doesn't hide the ball, act mysterious in his presentation, cop out to supernaturalism, or try to claim false or highly questionable scientific support. I have found it easy to disagree with him on some points and still get a lot out of his work. He has certainly given a lot of serious thought to the nuances, pitfalls, and strongpoints of our modern culture and that shows through in this book. He is a guy trying to figure things out just like all of us, and he shares his thoughts in a non-offensive highly accessible way. I think you will find his book a joy to read, and find many useful insights as we individually try to navigate the quickly evolving cultural environment we find ourselves in today.
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178 of 198 people found the following review helpful By Alex Burns ( on April 14, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Since its publication in 1996, Richard Brodie's 'Virus of the Mind' has ignited ongoing debate within the memetics community, and signalled the beginning of the new science crossing-the-chasm into the mainstream (for example, Oprah Winfrey invited Brodie on her talk-show in January 1999).
For 'hard' scientific data and mathematical/conceptual modelling (which really conveys why memetics is a legitimate science and not just a controversial upstart), you definately need to look elsewhere (Brodie himself has admitted this to me in extensive interviews). Texts by Lynch, Beck & Cowan, Csikzentmihalyi, Blackmore, Dennett, Dawkins, and Hofstadter are more useful in this regard. Brodie should be considered as a populariser of memetics, able to look at its impact on and relevance to contemporary cultural debates.
Politics aside, Brodie's book is best understood as an accessible introduction to the memetics field, which can capture and hold a general audience's attention. It is closer in many respects to a description of evolutionary psychology drives, 'hot buttons', coercive double-binds, and ideological faith/belief structures used by cults, advertisers, politicians, and religious entities.
Thus, a reading of 'Virus of the Mind' can offer you an accessible text with some insight into how people are programmed, and how to become more aware of your own consensus trance (Charles T. Tart). It continues a self-help perspective developed by Brodie in his earlier book 'Getting Past OK'. Many of Brodie's ideas have been said before in different contexts, but the memetics angle puts a fresh spin on things, and his early chapters on definitions of memes are useful for the layperson in confronting a rapidly growing field.
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102 of 113 people found the following review helpful By Nir@d on May 6, 2006
Format: Paperback
Please be advised that this book does not take a cold calculated scientific approach at explaining memetics. Richard Brodie explains memes by recounting his personal discovery of memes, futhermore elaborating a fairly modest 'scientific' conclusion. I recommended this book to those merely curious about memetics. If you like 'guru-type' self help books you'll find that this book will suffice is explaining memes while expanding your consciousness. If you are looking for a scientific approach to memetics I would recommend Susan Blackmore's The Meme Machine.
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115 of 129 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Logan on December 9, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Virus of the Mind is nothing short of extraordinary! What you'll learn from Richard Brodie's book is how and why words, concepts, ideas and beliefs are transmitted, become dominant and get woven into the very fabric of our personal lives and our cultures. Indeed, Virus of the Mind is a wonderfully insightful book that should be read by everyone wishing to make better sense of the world around them--not only of global events, but also of their own life patterns. I am the president of a software development company, an attorney, a student of psychology and linguistics for 15 years and the information I learned in this book was truly ground breaking. In my opinion, this is one of the 10 most important books that is available to read today. Get it and read it!
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 4, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Virus of the Mind" provides a very good introduction into
memetics while trying to be a self-help book. Brodie gives a
nice overview of the concept of memes, where it started, and how
memes exist in current society. He then goes over the
destructive side of memes while keeping the subject light and
somewhat humorous. Brodie's writing style makes the subject easy
to follow and a very quick read. From reading the book, one gets
a quick understanding of how others can use memes to influence
ones behavior, which serves the reader with the ability to look
how things are being presented to them; wether in news,
commercials or relationships.
Brodie used the first half of the book to explain where the
existence of memes came from, and what they represent. The last
half was used to explain how to notice them in daily life. I
would like to have seen more information for the reader on how to
detect memes with concrete examples, though he does give enough
information so the reader can 'learn' this process themselves in
more detail, with abit of work. He provides enough information
for the consumer, but not enough for those trying to reach
consumers, which is interesting.
In short, the book is worth reading for those trying to
understand why they buy so much useless stuff, or wondering why
a song stays stuck in their head. For more specific information
on coercive techniques employeed against individual consumers,
see Douglas Rushkoff's book 'Coercion'
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