posted on 2021-03-28

Cultural and Memetic Hygiene

i like culture as much as i like markets; but just like how markets need an outside force to become correctly aligned, culture takes extra effort to partake in in responsible and hygienic ways.

you are not just influenced by environmental factors, you are made of environmental factors, and this includes culture. culture is what determines and existentially determines what people think and value, and is very important.

here are some ways i think about culture in order to make sure i partake of it responsibly and i don't value drift.

never consent to advertising or marketing

if there is some force whose influence on culture you want to restrict, it's markets. as soon as markets influence culture, markets influence what people demand from markets, and you've got yourself a feedback loop of self-reinforcing Big Advertising.

advertising and in general market-motivated cultural influence is very not valid; it does not represent what people would otherwise freely or organically choose to want (as much as that's even a thing).

use a good adblocker. don't let websites (notably media streaming websites) recommend media to you; even if you end up enjoying individual works, they are still inducing a sampling bias. don't watch sponsored clips. outright avoid content that has unblockable advertising or even product placement. and, in a sense, don't give in to marketing; if a movie is successful because big hollywood maximally threw artistic vision under the bus in order to maximize profitability, then chances are it's not very interesting culture.

i tend to also avert my eyes from public billboard advertising outside; unconsented advertisement should absolutely be as illegal as any other unconsented influence on people's minds.

(by the way, this is my answer to anyone complaining about the state of big movies or big video games: just stop consuming them, and consume independent media instead. you are not gaining legitimacy by consuming them, they are gaining legitimacy by being consumed by you.)

always be skeptical of memetic virulence

memes want to occupy your mind and leech of your precious cognitive resources to spread. be conscious of that process and try to avoid places that are just memetic petri dishes; having fun is fine, but is the value you're getting from memes always worth it? wouldn't your cognitive capacity often be better spent on things you value more?

express yourself freely

this point covers some obvious points, like systematically disregarding intellectual property laws — in this case especially copyright and trademarks, the latter of which literally being companies having some ownership over some words.

but there are subtler points here too: when you post a gif from a gif-picking utility or even an emoji, are you freely choosing how to express yourself, or is your set of acceptable thoughts and memes constrained by whatever platform you're picking on?

or, when you don't disable autocapitalization, autopunctuation, or spellchecking and spellcorrection, are you being railroaded by institutions into shaping how you express yourself according to their own standards?

language should be maximally alive, and people should use it however they feel like using it; if there is to be a standard, it should be that of free and organic consensus between individuals, not top-down enforcement by companies or state institutions.

even text encoding standards are institutional shackles on free thought.

in conclusion

people should be, and in my opinion are, the ultimate source of legitimacy.

universal sufferage tries to align politics to intrinsically value people; univeral basic income will try to align markets to do the same.

but a third struggle in that vein is to guarantee the continued control of culture by people rather than structures of power; to realign culture to people.

posted on 2021-03-28

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