Did you ever get a song stuck in your head? It’s no coincidence we call a song ‘catchy’, and say it’s ‘going viral’. In ‘The Selfish Gene’ (1976) Dawkins compared the spread of a meme to the spread of a virus, referring to certain ideas as ‘viruses of the mind’. Stephenson wrote about memetic warfare in Snow Crash (1992), which featured a literal mind virus – a drug, religion and computer virus all in one – ”What’s the difference?” asks a main character. Information that spreads survives, regardless of value or morality. Even pre-internet, memes often outlive genes: Socrates has little genetic code left in his descendants, but his ideas have lasted millennia.
Despite advancements in technology, our brains still run on hardware developed 10,000+ years ago – and it’s susceptible to mind-viruses. Facts spread slower than misinformation on social media, and people often believe even after debunking. Like any virus, the antidote may be a vaccine – a study found we can immunize people to misinformation, by providing them with a weakened version of an argument, with facts refuting it. In Snow Crash the solution was causing humanity to speak different languages (the Babel myth), but Bob Marley believed “you could cure racism and hate... literally cure it, by injecting music and love into people's lives.” What part will you play in the war against misinformation?
How To Inoculate Yourself Against A Weird Mind Virus
I Am Legend (2007) Will Smith: Robert Neville
Inoculating Against Fake News About COVID-19
Richard Dawkins on the internet's hijacking of the word 'meme’
Snow Crash – Virus, Drug, or Religion?
The Selfish Gene, Dawkins
Vaccinating against viruses of the mind