Memetic argument for sovereignty of individual over collective

When we say that companies, brands, cities and states live, does this mean that they should poses same sovereignty as humans? If we say that companies live their own life, does that mean that they compete with individuals on the field of freedoms? If they are really alive it seems that the answer should be “yes”. We can even find a kind of proof for such claim in attacks of today’s majority on companies for “sucking the blood from their veins”. Companies are pictured as monsters that pushed individual in the position of a slave as if they were alive and as if they had sovereignty over individuals.

It seems like if one accepts that human supra societal structures do live, he cannot avoid totalitarian nature of society. I will try to reconcile living nature of companies/brands on one side and supremacy of individual human over collective on another.

I’m well aware that whenever I say brands and companies are living creatures, those listening consider my statement as metaphorical. I know this from their eyes.

When Peter Senge took companies as living creatures back in ’90 (The Fifth Discipline), even I understood his claims as interesting approximations. I guess we all took (take) as granted that life can only be tied to amino acids and DNA replication. We were (and we to some degree still are) strongly tied to biochemical nature of life as exclusive one.

When science tried to explain phenomena that could not be directly liked to biochemistry, emergence emerged. Consciousness for example, which can only exist within something that is alive, was (is still) understood as emergent property of something that is material (biochemical).

Emergent property was (and still is) a kind of Deus ex machina. Emergence was coined by philosophers already in 19th century, but really flourished only by the end of 20th century with complexity theory applied to biology, physics and life sciences. But although for instance Stuart Kauffmann tried to come closer to emergence by explaining it as spontaneous self-organization, this only replaced one vague explanation with another.

All of us that used “emergence” in our thought experiments knew that we in fact do not know what kind of mechanisms or procedures drive emergence. My first book was about emergence, but what I did in it was to present certain phenomena as emergencies but I did not explain them. It was better than nothing since at least another reality of something alive but not biochemical was presented in various existences. But I was not alone to find emergence as something important but not really rationally explainable.

What is funny from the perspective of 10 years after is that I did not know at that time that I devoted larger part of the book to memes as second replicators and that the solution lies in memes exactly. I did not understand them as machines that power emergence then. Even less was Peter Senge able to explain life within organizations since he was even not aware of memes. And what is even funnier, Richard Dawkins that was forced to introduce memes as second replicators in 1976 (Selfish Gene) later completely abandoned this disruptive explanation of that part of life that is not biochemical. Following the logic of genes he simply had to fill in memes in the last chapter of his cardinal book to be consistent. That he later mistook memes for religion is already a colossal tragedy for a scientist that did such magnificent work until 2000. In the crusade against religion he took all that is of non-biochemical nature as speculative, anti-scientific and thus refutable in principle. He abandoned memes completely and with that he started his anti-scientific part of his life. Paradox that majority of stubborn pre-1976 scientists still do not recognize.

What we know now is that memes as basic units of what is colloquially called culture (in broadest sense) replicate and that success of their replication rest on fidelity, fecundity and longevity, as does it for genes. Successful memes inhabit more individual’s longer time and have higher rate of replicability. They rest on biochemical brain structures of grey matter mostly, but as such they live on their own as various types of consciousness expressed in many forms like words, music, pictures and so on. They residue mainly in frontal and parietal lobes as more “contemporary” brain structures but are of course linked to more ancient limbic structures of the brain. That is why we do see potential in some animals to behave like humans. They have biochemical structures evolved in lobes and albeit on lower level than humans they could be occupied by memes as much as human brains. But potential is not enough. Memes do not occupy animal brains or at least not in such quantities that would allow formation of complex memetic structures with enough energy to reproduce; in another words: with enough energy to live.

Energy. Second law of thermodynamics. Memes and their brain structures are not enough. You need enough of them to start reactions that counteract second law of thermodynamics. While what life is in essence is counteraction to second law that is nothing but description of unavoidable death. Death of a human. Death of a Universe. So memes become agents of life only if they are in such quantities that produce fission. We can compare conditions for their reactivity to conditions for nuclear reaction indeed.

After we know that the only possible places where they live and reproduce are individual brains, does that mean that brands and companies and states are not alive? On the contrary. All mentioned entities are memetic structures. They do exist only as human cultural/memetic entities. As such they obey all memetic laws with one exception only: they cannot reproduce without human brains. In the moment they form complex structures they develop potential to reproduce, but in fact they reproduce only on the substrate of human brains. They are alive, but as such they depend on humans.

And when we talk about humans we have to be very cautious since no such thing, as “humans” exist. What really exists is always one particular brain of one particular human. No biochemical entity as human brains or universal biochemical brains exists. Only yours or mine brains exist on biochemical level so only particular place for meme replication exists. But as I have already proved, that does not mean that supra social structures would not be alive. They only lack sovereignty of reproduction.

So all religions are right about entity that is alive above each individual. All memetic structures do live, collective and individual, but only when attached to particular human brain they reproduce. Gossips for instance exist as social memetic structures, and are as such alive, literary, but they reproduce only within one specific individual brain.

Now we see that although collective entities are alive, each single individual has full executive authority over even most powerful collective. Thus whenever United Nations or WHO tells you what to do, be aware that it is only up to you weather you will reproduce a memetic structure that such organization tries to implant. In any case it is a memetic structure conceived by larger quantity of individual brains, but since fidelity of meme reproduction is very low on long run and wide distance, it is up to you only weather you will reproduce such memetic imposter in accordance to abstract interests or in accordance to your interests. Imposter memes have less to do with what individuals that were part of their construction had in mind as they come from larger social entities. More that they are collective, more their fidelity (connection to individual interests) is spoiled.

And this is basic difference between humanism and homonism. Humanism believes that one should replicate memes in accordance to abstract collective imposters while homonism place sovereignty of interpretation and reproduction of memes on each individual in accordance to the only possible agent: each single individual.

Andrej Drapal