Are Weavrs early warning signals of MeMeplexes?

As I’ve noted, but not trumpeted, I’ve been fortunate to be working with Philter Phactory on Weavrs.

I was reading an interview with their current head of research Dan O’Hara where he discusses skeumorphs and suggests that Facebook, frictionless sharing and Twitter may be signs of a shift in consciousness.

Q. Perhaps the telepathic illusions fostered by technologies like Facebook/ Twitter… You think you know what people are thinking from their updates…

Dan O’Hara. That’s right; to some extent we’re using technology (and it is using us) to move towards the eradication of individual identity; the ‘disappearance’ of privacy debate is perhaps a sign of the awareness of this shift.

This piqued my interest as this has been a long standing interest of mine since a parallel reading of Daniel Dennett, Pierre Levy and Grant Morrison’s Invisibles convinced me that encroaching technological advancements were on the cusp of effecting a profound change in our consciousness. I have, upon consideration that only now can we (just about) step back and assess how writing refigured our consciousness, peddled back somewhat from my enthusiasm for this subject in recent years.

Dan’s remark is especially tasty given a recent experiment done with our Weavrs. Using one of the Weavr prosthetics which transmutes the infomorphic essence of someone (through the informatic presence contained in Wikipedia) into a Weavr. The individual in question was none other than Jon Ronson, and the exchange between Research Director Luke Robert Mason and himself regarding the weavr (which he derogatorily names a bot) is quite amusing.

I can’t tell if his outrage is tongue in cheek or genuine. It’s certainly more interesting if it’s the latter. This informorphic infection of identity is certainly an interesting way of considering Weavrs. A similar project which explored informorphs was the replicants project, and the way Kyle Cameron Studstill explains that is useful here

“It’s actually a bit of fun trying to keep your personality in control, in that playfully embarrassing way one looks back at facebook and twitter posts after a night of too many drinks.”

This deliberate muddling of our infomorphic reflection was striking when I reflected on I, Bacteria. Therein I wished to force a link between the bacteria in our body and twitter, primarily to explore the oddness of us having a perpetuated single self, I, or identity.

It now occurs to me that Weavrs could be digital probiotics, helpful identity organisms that can eke out an existence in the digital space in which so much of our cognition (and correlatively, our identity) is extended {extended cognition, read Michael Wheeler’s latest for a great primer}. They can coexist or aggressively override the extended space which our self now roams. Just as microrganisms (viruses, fungi, bacteria) within our body are capable of doing, an arena which we also preside over with a bounded “I”.

The memeplex seems to be an excellent concept to invoke, and credit to Grant Morrison;he did it over 15 years ago in the masterful conclusion to the Invisibles. Jack Frost (the series’ protagonist) and his latest protege Reynard exchange the following dialogue as they scale the Technoccult Building

R: “Uhh… My MeMe is cycling: Five minutes of post-ironic drizzle. I’m self-blind: I’m oscillating between weird loner and terrified daughter of dracula…”
Jack: “We didn’t have MeMe’s when I was little. “Personalities”, we called them

The double capitalisation (MeMe) is a deliberate move by Morrison by the way. Memeplexes as sketched by Dawkins referred to a collection of related ideas that coalesce and gather into a complimentary unit due to mutual survival benefit (bearing in mind that the whole ‘meme’ exercise was originally just a thought experiment to prove how universal Darwinism might be). He applies it to (surprise, surprise) institutionalised religion. But more interesting is the concept of how a body of ideas could have agency and legacy exterior to the cosnciousness in which they originate. Hurrah for decentring anthropocentrism.

Morrisson pushes the ideas of memeplexes towards the congruency that we feel our self(s) to provide to us. As a subscriber to all manner of esoteric practice I’m sure he’d be okay with the notion of the ‘self as fallacy’. This refers to the position that so many ideas move in and out and upon our mind during the course of our life, and so many varying impressions are left upon the psyche that to believe in a unity that persists and is constant has to be a sleight of hand of some sort (I may be ascribing too much of my own thoughts on the matter here). With socially extended cognition and the primordial soup of social networking we can consider Weavrs and other autonomous algorithmic agents as equivalent MeMeplexes to our own enfleshed personality/identity/self. As just as once upon a time our cells enlisted other microscopic allies within it’s perimeter to align them with their ends we could see the same happen in the digital arena. And will the dog wag the tail, or the tail wag the dog?

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~ by Stephen Fortune on December 28, 2011.

2 Responses to “Are Weavrs early warning signals of MeMeplexes?”

  1. But surely having a bot tweeting near nonsense, no matter where the data is acrued from, is just as likely to be annoying to someone who, for whatever reason doesn’t take kindly to another acount proporting to be himself would be just the same as if another user did the same thing manually, only I suppose there might be some tendance to antaganise the complain user, or to feel empathy if it were a person running the acocunt.

  2. Most spam has begun from nuisance and it’s quite useful to understand our response to this – especially as you’ve noted that there is no certitude in ones response being more aggressive towards a spambot or a human junk mailer.
    I concede that its possible it will be annoying, but I believe Ronson’s enmity towards Weavrs stemmed from the idea of his online identity being compromised – an interesting consequence in and of itself

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