Another Take On Reality – Meme, Myself and I

September 3, 2009

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This article was writen for the New Scientist by Dr. Susan Blackmore, and was pulished on the 13th March 1999. Personally, out all of the ideas about reality that I’ve come across so far, this one in particular (for me, at least) stands beautifully apart from the rest and addresses very accurately the notions of reality, free-will and how the subsequent illusion of the “Self” arises.

Meme, Myself and I

Hold out your arm in front of you. Whenever you feel like it, of your own free will, flex your wrist. Repeat this a few times, making sure you do it as consciously as you can. You’ll probably experience some kind of decision process, in which you hold back from doing anything and then decide to act. Now ask yourself, what began the process that led to the action? Was it you?

Neuroscientist Benjamin Libet of the University of California in San Francisco asked volunteers to do exactly that. A clock allowed the subjects to note exactly when they decided to act, and by fitting electrodes to their wrists, Libet could time the start of the action. More electrodes on their scalps recorded a particular brain wave pattern called the readiness potential, which occurs just before any complex action and is associated with the brain planning its next move.

Libet’s controversial finding was that the decision to act came after the readiness potential. It looks as though there is no conscious “self” jumping into the synapses and starting things off.

This and other research has led me to believe that the idea of “self” is an illusion. You are nothing more than a creation of genes and memes in a unique environment. Memes are ideas, skills, habits, stories, songs or inventions that are passed from person to person by imitation. They have shaped our minds, leading to the evo-lution of big brains and language because these served to spread the memes. But the memes with the cleverest trick are those that persuade us that our “selves” really exist. We all live our lives as a lie. The memes have made us do it–because giving us the illusion of “self” helps them to survive and spread.

continued here

A bit about Sue Blackmore:

Dr. Susan Blackmore is a freelance writer, lecturer and broadcaster, and a Visiting Professor at the University of Plymouth. She has a degree in psychology and physiology from Oxford University (1973) and a PhD in parapsychology from the University of Surrey (1980). Her research interests include memes, evolutionary theory, consciousness, and meditation. She practices Zen and campaigns for drug legalization.
Sue Blackmore no longer works on the paranormal.

She writes for several magazines and newspapers, blogs for the Guardian newspaper and Psychology Today, and is a frequent contributor and presenter on radio and television. She is author of over sixty academic articles, about fifty book contributions, and many book reviews. Her books include Dying to Live (on near-death experiences, 1993), In Search of the Light (autobiography, 1996), and Test Your Psychic Powers (with Adam Hart-Davis, 1997)…

32 Responses to “Another Take On Reality – Meme, Myself and I”

  1. [...] September 6, 2009 Susan Blackmore is dedicated to understanding the scientific nature of consciousness. Her latest work centers on the existence of memes – little bits of knowledge, lore, habit that seem to spread themselves using human brains as mere carriers… Something which we’ve already been introduced to in the previous post, entitled “Another Take On Reality – Meme, Myself and I.” [...]

  2. [...] you have not already viewed “Another Take On Reality – Meme, Myself and I“, “Evidence For Humans Being Meme Machines“, “Infectious People Spread [...]

  3. [...] And as we are all subject to the influence of memes, something we have seen postulated in “Another Take On Reality – Meme, Myself and I,” we should be careful to never tire of our right and responsibility to understand things [...]

  4. [...] present it here as I feel it ties in with what we have already discussed in Another Take On Reality – Meme, Myself and I and demonstrates that this illusion of reality, something which we all experience daily, might be [...]

  5. [...] To truly See this, we need to understand and challenge the “context” i.e. that “light”, in which we view things. We need to become completely aware of the moment in which we are in… Because once we do so, we leave by the way-side a limited preconditioned array and basis for our actions that serve no purpose other than to dredge up irrelevant past actions… And – perhaps it relates ourselves to the avarian “copy-cat” parrot… Not very hopeful thought really – to be compared to a “bird-brain”. As if we continue to live like this, we can only ever hope act within parameters of old, continuing conflicts of yore (war, prejudice, hate, etc…) that bring the pain of the past back into the present i.e. we carry these old hurts on chains of a “tit-for-tat” mentality that we learnt in the school playground. We need to understand the subtlety and sensitivity of our perceptive stance – see the blog “Another Take On Reality – Meme, Myself and I.” [...]

  6. [...] choose to see it with the limitations of social conditioning i.e. we are decide to simply use the memes that are passed down to us by our religious, political or moral decrees to define and understand [...]

  7. [...] 27, 2009 In a world populated by meme machines… Meme machines who are a lot more susceptible to being indoctrinated with rather bizarre [...]

  8. [...] Machines”?,” “‘Infectious’ People Spread Memes Across The Web,” and “Another Take On Reality – Meme, Myself and I” for some pertinent new discoveries pertaining to the nature of our minds. Armed with these [...]

  9. [...] of knowledge, based on self-referential systems and axiomatic understandings i.e. a form of memetics. It is this knowledge that has allowed us to grasp a few of the basic facts about the world in [...]

  10. [...] discussing in previous blogs ideas about “illusion,” “percpetion,” “memetics,” “psychology of the masses” and read Edward R. Murrow’s infamous speech [...]

  11. [...] we are reminded through feedback patterns from video art, OR through the more commonplace and daily memetic feedback loop created through the media industries’ reporting of current events which guide [...]

  12. [...] – we would be foolish not to heed the underlying message i.e. that we are nothing more than meme machines, regurgitating past experiences and ideas which we have come across, and so have been assimilated [...]

  13. [...] This replicator is resting on the code of our biological bodies… And it is called the meme. From this replicator, another type of entity is evolving i.e. that of the idea. Ideas, whether we [...]

  14. [...] consciousness and spirituality, which proposes ways about how we might go about letting go of our old memetic programming and replacing any “evolutionary aspirations” that we might have, to get past the little [...]

  15. Tim said

    You really should check out the writings of Bill Harris over at centerpointe.com and his holosync technology. I have no affilitation with them. Many parallels between things I see in your writing and what Bill talks about.

  16. [...] well aware, faith is a highly personalised ideal which is predominantly dictated by “memetic” exposure and familiar/cultural disposition on the whole. Besides, I might have it all [...]

  17. [...] Or if particularly ‘catchy,’ then spreading across wider groups as successful “memes” via infectious minds across any form of [...]

  18. [...] of our own experiences??? Aren’t we all viewing the world via our own schemas; via our own memetic [...]

  19. [...] Of Religion” and/or Matthew Taylor discusses in “God On My Mind” – it uses memetics as a truly revolutionary tool for understanding why we are so prone to producing delusions of [...]

  20. [...] CO2 aware, tree hugging, peace loving, vegetable growing, tea-bag/egg shell composting, memes have riddled my mind and are hard at work doing their best to propagate – through my actions [...]

  21. [...] of ‘self.’ As my ‘self’ sits cross legged under this framed print, the memetic ideals of my ‘self’s’ identity slowly dissolve into [...]

  22. [...] to give meaning to things that didn’t have (or even, need) any meaning. Whatever “memes” were floating around at that “point in time” – where the clock was [...]

  23. [...] resides here in the intricate web of wondrous unfolding… The long chain of interdependent memetic origination… One that can provide all sentient beings with their given chance to enjoy this [...]

  24. [...] i.e. chaos, plus how we are beginning to use that understanding to develop artificial intelligence, also discussing concepts that treat our ‘self’ as nothing more than an amalgamation of i… for relative processing… No to mention how prone to illusion our biomechanical bodies – [...]

  25. [...] our senses… And our ‘minds’ couldn’t help but slowly evolve a schematic/memetic representation of the patterns that we perceive in the world/universe around us, which we now we [...]

  26. [...] And I felt that somewhere in there, one could see how the nature of mind – via a type of memetic understanding – might allow/explain how such a notion as Karma might unfold and affect [...]

  27. [...] a friend who has seen it how it looks… I mean… How can one’s hemmed in, limited memetic view break free from the shackles of narrow mindedness, so as to truly see what lies beyond all [...]

  28. [...] these models of understanding in order to develop artificial intelligence with… Not to mention we have discussed concepts that treat our ‘self’ as nothing more than an amalgamation of… for relative temporal processing… !!! We’ve also seen how prone to illusion the system [...]

  29. [...] living organisms here on Earth in some manner or another – it’s pretty obvious that memetic evolution has given rise to – and certainly benefited from – these unfolding fractal [...]

  30. [...] that have recently come to light between all the multifarious modes of varied understanding in this memetic world of ours (whether in the name of scientific reasoning or by way of religious practise) and all [...]

  31. [...] in today’s world, this situation seems to be all the more compounded by the intense memetic drive of ideas that we are all exposed to every single day, via every channel and medium of [...]

  32. [...] notions to actually embrace into my being… A being which has been riddled with all sorts of memetic vagaries and ideas relating to my living in a capitalist and consumerist society, the roots of [...]

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