Defining “Antimeme”

An antimeme is a meme with the following three characteristics:

  • Learning it threatens the egos and identities of adherants to the mainstream of a culture[1].

  • Learning the meme renders mainstream knowledge in the field unimportant by broadening the problem space of a knowledge domain, usually by increasing the dimensionality.

  • Mainstream wisdom considers detailed knowledge of the antimeme irrelevant, unimportant or low priority. Mainstream culture may just ignore the antimeme altogether instead.

I call these “antimemes” because they exhibit behavior opposite that of regular memes. The typical response to encountering a regular meme is to assign a truth value to it via rationality. The typical response to encountering an antimeme is to ignore it as unimportant without assigning a truth value to it via reationality.

This is bad because an antimeme is usually a more general[2] replacement that ought to subsume a thriving, more specific meme. This kind of meme-antimeme pair is different from a symbiotic war. A symbiotic war half-meme encourages you attack its parity inverse as “wrong”. The meme in a meme-antimeme pair nudges you to dismiss its antimeme as “unimportant” or invisibly ignore it altogether.

Here are some example antimemes that best illustrate this definition

Antimeme Meme
Lisp[3] object-oriented programming, design patterns and heavyweight integrated development environments
Chinese history conventional Western history
stream entry the self

Antimemes are often a culture-specific phenomenon[4]. Different cultures have different antimemes. Chinese history, for example, is not an antimeme in China. Hy is not an antimeme in Clojure user groups.

Antimemes usually have small followings. For example, there is a strong, serious community of people pursuing stream entry in its various manifestations. In my experience, this represents a tiny fraction of total meditators and published media. This is one case of how antimemes get little attention from mainstream media, standardized education and authority figures.

Antimemetics is the art of prospecting for antimemes and then not papering over them.

  1. ↩︎

    I’m deliberately using the word “culture” broadly here. It can refer to anything from civilizations to subcultures.

  2. ↩︎

    For example, a China-centric history of the world is one where population densities determine the importance of a region. This assumption is applicable to any people in any society in any time period. This Europe-centric history bases importance around late second millennium power projection before the rise of Japan. This model breaks down when applied to the Americas before Columbus.

  3. ↩︎

    I’m using the word “Lisp” as shorthand for the practical dialects of Lisp. Namely, dialects like Hy, Clojure and ClojureScript that have access to large standard libraries.

  4. ↩︎

    Edited from “Antimemes are a culture-specific phenomenon” to “Antimemes are often a culture-specific phenomenon”.