- Paperback: 251 pages
- Publisher: Integral Pr (January 31, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0963600125
- ISBN-13: 978-0963600127
- Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 0.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 143 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,377,739 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Virus of the Mind: The New Science of the Meme
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The Amazon Book Review
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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 Paperback 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 Paperback edition.
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Mr. Brodie in his introduction opens with sweeping promise: "The good news is that the long-awaited scientific theory unifying biology, psychology, and cognitive science is here . . . a new science called memetics". What he delivers, however, is far less. It' mostly pop psychology, and in the most pejorative sense of that term - shallow, smug, and brimming with aimless enthusiasm. I've read a other books in this genre, usually with regret later, and this one exhibits all the tell-tale traits, down to effusive praise from other pop-writers on the opening fly-leaf and ads for their tapes and seminars at the back. Stylistically, the book is full of exclamation points, sophomoric humor - he likes sex jokes - and condescending rhetorical questions with obvious answers. One device he favors is setting off little chunks of text inside of lined boxes every page or two, apparently to emphasize bits of wisdom he wants to make sure his inattentive readers don't miss. Thus are we subjected to things like: "Access to sex is the driving force behind many aspect of culture" (page 106), or "Our beloved dogs, cats, iguanas, and so on, along with the enormous industries that have arisen to support them, are all part of a huge cultural virus known as pets" (page 168) Little editorial tricks like this designed to elevate ideas too trite or silly otherwise to attract attention constitute yet another hallmark of this irksome genre.
Much of the first part of the book is actually about evolutionary biology, and I'm assuming - not having read Dawkins - that it's essentially a recapitulation of his theories. And this part of the book is even sort of interesting in places, but it reads like a summary written by a college student eager to demonstrate how well he's absorbed the assigned reading. So we hear all about how it's genes themselves, more than organisms, that compete for survival in the biological world, and how they do so by learning to replicate themselves more rapaciously then competing genes. The meme then emerges as the psychological and social extension of this same process. For memes are ideas that replicate themselves easily and acquire the ability to spread rapidly from one human mind to another. Hence, the "virus of the mind" metaphor, which apparently originated again with Dawkins but which Mr. Brodie co-opts here and brandishes proudly around like a kid who just found his dad's gun.
A meme in its own right, as Mr. Brodie repeatedly points out, the meme idea is compelling because it indeed seems to capture a lot about our media-intense social environment. Advertisers, politicians, televangelists, cultists, propagandists and hucksters of every sort surround us and compete for our attention with neatly packaged ideas designed for rapid social transmission. The dark side of the concept can be seen in the totalitarianisms that dominated the latter half of the last century and the new ones emerging now. Stalinists, Fascists, Nazis, and Islamic extremists have all sought to complement their police states with what we might now call engineered meme infection. State-sponsored memes are planted everywhere in the form of official ideology or doctrine, and competing memes are exterminated.
Mr. Brodie is a happy-go-lucky kind of guy, however, and only hints at such negatives. In fact, he positions himself on a high horse above it all, explaining that he has "disinfected" himself from the memes of his culture and "re-programmed" himself with constructive memes, although he doesn't tell us much about what these might actually be, other than that they support his "values". He says his agenda in writing books now is to "make a difference in people's lives", by which he seems to mean helping them along his own path of "self-disinfection". He even tries to associate the process he advocates with Zen Buddhism. As with most of the ideas he toys with, this one is not without interest, but he reaches way over his pay grade in his shallow attempt to address it.
I'm still interested in the concept of the meme, but I have to say a bit less so after reading Virus Of The Mind. Surely this is one defining characteristic of a bad book.
Good overview of subject and an easy read. A decent popularization.
To his credit, author admits book is written in an evangelizing style embodying memetic tactics of persuasion. But the activist, breezy, manipulative style detracts from intellectual merit and reduces clarity of presentation.
Its a great eye opener, eventhough I already had some understanding of the idea of MEMES (which in my language I call it indoctrination) I was happy to know there was something out there to point to this phenomena. After you read this book or listen to it consider The Avatar Course, it is like the continuing or an action step to discover al these sabotaging memes you hold.