10 May 2009
Entangled Tales of Memetic Disaster
Mutual implication of the Emperor and the Little Boy
- / -
The following table provides a succinct summary of the many factors contributing
to an Emerging
Memetic Singularity in the Global Knowledge Society (2009).
The table is based on two well-known tales:
Emperor's New Clothes (1837) by Danish poet and author
Andersen about a gullible emperor who unknowingly hires two con artists
to design a new suit of clothes for him, successfully persuading him of
the subtle elegance of the invisible cloth of which it was purportedly
made -- and in which he duly paraded to the appreciation of all convinced
by his authority of that elegance. All except for one little Boy who loudly
remarked on his nudity.
Boy Who Cried Wolf is one of Aesop's
Fables concerning a
bored shepherd boy who entertained himself by calling out "Wolf!" --
thereby causing panic amongst nearby villagers who came to his rescue.
Once they recognized that his alarms were false they ceased to believe
them and stopped responding to his calls. On the one occasion when there
were real wolves, they ate the flock, despite his cry of alarm.
Interweaving the implications
||Emperor distracted by the reality "spun" by his tailors
||Little Boy seeking attention by causing panic amongst the
||Little Boy distracted by constantly renewed virtual reality
applications (possibly with psychoactive drug enhancement)
||Emperor constantly seeking strategic prominence by repeatedly
proclaiming "the most urgent problem for the survival of humanity"
||Total popular absorption in virtual distraction -- effectively
avoiding the challenges of reality ("putting one's head in the sand")
||Repeated official alarms of diminishing credibility, eliciting
only popular irritation -- guaranteeing the vulnerability of society to
a real threat
|"Circuses" as an increasingly essential attractor
||"Bread" as an increasingly threatened resource
The implication of the "Emperor" in legitimating the semblance of
finery, with which the population felt it appropriate to engage, bears a strong
similarity to the implication of governments of the most powerful countries
in the illusion promoted by the financial community -- which sustained the
financial bubble that collapsed in 2008. But the "Emperor" acts now
like the "Little
Boy" in proclaiming ill-founded threats -- such as the possession
of weapons of mass destruction by Iraq, whilst sustaining the illusion
that a close neighbour was not in possession of them.
The systemic challenge is a form of binary
weapon through which humanity
may effectively "shoot itself in the foot". It derives from the
formula of Panem
et Circenses (Bread and Circuses) formulated by the Roman poet Juvenal as
being the only remaining cares of a Roman populace during the decline of
Imperial Rome. In a sense people are now increasingly nourished by virtual "circuses"
-- whilst indulging in strategic game-playing with regard to the future of
"bread" on the commodity
market. "Panem" has become entangled in "Circenses" with
the complicity of the Emperor and the Little Boy.
A. Cerulo. Never Saw It Coming: cultural challenges to envisioning the
worst. University of Chicago Press, 2006
Jared M. Diamond.
Collapse: how societies choose to fail or succeed. Penguin, 2005
Susantha Goonatilake. Toward a Global Science: mining civilizational knowledge.
Indiana University Press, 1999
Charles Handy. The
Age of Unreason. Harvard Business School Press, 1990
The Upside of Down: catastrophe, creativity, and the renewal of civilization.
Island Press, 2006
Donald N. Michael.
On Learning to Plan - And Planning to Learn. Miles River Press, 1997
Paul Ormerod. Why
Most Things Fail: evolution, extinction and economics. Wiley; 2005 [extracts].
Joshua Cooper Ramo. The Age of the Unthinkable: Why the New World Disorder
Constantly Surprises Us And What We Can Do About It. Little, Brown and Company,
Taleb. The Black Swan: the impact of the highly improbable. Random House,
John Ralston Saul.
The Unconscious Civilization. Free Press, 1995