Thursday, September 6, 2007

368 Book Banning: An attempt to control the mental environment of the public

Message no. 368[Branch from no. 363] Posted by Thomas Culhane (1311520071) on Thursday, February 15, 2007 7:05am Subject: Book Banning: An attempt to control the mental environment of the public

Dawn -- you are spot-on correct bringing Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451" into this discussion (for those of you who don't have until 6am to read it, you can also rent the film of the book, which is quite good!)

There have been book bannings and book burnings for centuries (and often the heretics who wrote books were burned as well!); some of us in this class (like me!) are old enough to remember when Beatle albums were burned all over the US because John Lennon lamented that the Beatles had become "more popular than Jesus" and many people thought that he shouldn't point that out (perhaps they were afraid that the idea that they were more popular would actually encourage youth to question their values). The protestors burned the records to say that they were unhappy with this idea being talked about but of course this just made more people talk about it!

What we are talking about in the cases of suppression of ideas through destruction of the media in which ideas are coded is the attempt by organisms to "kill memes". A "meme" is an "idea virus" -- a unit of information that can invade the brain of an organism and affect its psychology of behavior. Prior to the evolution of cerebral environments of great complexity, organisms behaved according to relatively simple programs. They monitored their environments with their five senses and made decisions based on immediate inputs (avoid extremes of temperature, avoid extremes of noise or vibration, avoid areas where other objects exhibit erratic or fast movement etc.).

Since simple organisms didn't use their brains all that much, the most successful parasites were organic viruses that invaded cells and took over their machinery using the codes of life -- RNA and DNA.

As the brain evolved, it developed the capacity to store information as memories and reorganize that information to make predictions about the future and to behave according to old sensory inputs and to imaginary sensory input (imagination, forethought, planning.).

Human beings developed LANGUAGE -- an ability to compress information about both real and virtual environments and pack it in a symbolic form that could transmit that information into another brain.

Once a brain existed that could change its behavior because of sensory inputs that came in compressed packages, people could carry complex ideas around with them and deliver them to others. The ideas behave very much like viruses -- once they infect the brain, they can affect the behavior of the infected organism.

This can be extremely threatening, particularly to totalitarian governments and dictatorships and control freaks. Thus societies and often felt the urge to destroy the encoded form of the idea viruses and kill the originators of the idea viruses.

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