|This page contains information copied or paraphrased from the OCD FLEET site.|
"Meme" is a tragically overused term these days, and no fewer than three divisions of the Board are colloquially referred to as Memethrowers. The Memetics Research Division is the one most deserving of the name, though, as they concern themselves with the flashy, high-impact, high-energy, invasive-psychology sort of meme. (Board Containment gets called "memethrowers" a lot too, but they focus more on traditional social engineering and ideology management in general. They work closely with the MRD but are quite separate. And both groups strongly deny having anything to do with the Department of LiveJournal Quizzes.)
A "meme" is a self-replicating information structure that has some notable effect on the behavior, beliefs, or attitudes of its host. Unlike ordinary information, memetic transmission is generally subtle, and the concept takes on a life of its own. The Board classifies memes primarily by toxicity class, which indicates just how thoroughly they can subvert a mind:
- Class E memes don't affect you all, other than by transmitting information; in fact, only qualify as "memes" due to the nonlinguistic nature of the transmission.
- Class D memes can mess with you or "drive you crazy", for the version of "crazy" used in casual conversation. It also includes standard subliminal messages, as well as annoyingly catchy tunes.
- Class C memes can actually drive you crazy, or lock you up in your own mind for a time, or dramatically but temporarily transform your personality.
- Class B memes can kill you, or at least permanently disable or warp your mind.
- Class A memes can destroy or dramatically transform your entire society. Class A memes inherent in your society comprise most of your personal cultural makeup, as well.
Memes can be transmitted through visual patterns (moiré patterns, or simple flashing lights), or audibly via subsonics. Mundane memes can be spread through simple communication, but deliberate memetic broadcast via this technique requires extensive training, and few Boardies bother with that training unless they're memethrowers as their day job too.
These techniques all only work if the target is conscious and capable of perceiving the patterns, though. While this makes basic memeshielding gear convenient (subsonic filters and polarized sunglasses can work for the first two, and are stylish to boot), it doesn't help when a meme needs to be transmitted to a being that is unconscious or otherwise unable to pay attention. Weird Science came to the rescue, producing a liquid delivery system that will permit memes to be introduced to stunned, blind, deaf, or even completely unconscious subjects. It interacts directly with the auditory nerves, and thus must be administered by ear. (The liquid is also mildly toxic; early bottles of the stuff were marked "Not to be taken orally; aural use only", which led to some unfortunate training accidents.)
Small-scale memes (all class D or below) can be broadcast directly from an unmodified POST without much difficulty. Class C or B memes require an enhanced POST to handle the transmission precision required, as well as the processing power to modify the distribution to match the target mind properly. Boardies using the standard Mark IX POST can requisition PsyWar attachments if they expect to be deploying class C or B memes; other Boardies must have the POST custom-modified. Projections of advancements in Board miniaturization technology suggest that the Mark X POST will not require this modification.
Meme delivery in the field is all well and good, but somewhat imprecise; a meme may not "stick" if it doesn't interface properly with the target mind, and there's also a significant chance of mutation during transmission. If a subject wishes to actively permit a meme to take hold in his mind, or to remove a meme that's already present, he can undergo Memetic Repatterning. A Repatterner looks like a cross between a sensory deprivation chamber and a VR rig; it controls all sensory input to lay down the desired meme, or to remove the undesired one. Class C memes or below require approximately 15 minutes to implant or remove (and in the case of class E memes, this time is dominated by hooking the subject properly into the repatterner). Class B or A memes require more subtle manipulations and can take hours or days.
Memes In The Field
Memetic technology, true to its nature, is widely present but not particularly blatant.
- The fnordlock is a Class D meme transmitted over an environment that instills unease and disquiet in anyone contemplating entering the protected area. The Funky Horror deploys fnordlocks to keep confused or lost Boardies out of sensitive areas.
- The "Screaming Meemie" is a more powerful (Class C) mind-control based lock that ensures anyone getting too close to the lock flees in a panic. The Funky Horror uses these to guard the RCA and similar highly dangerous artifacts.
- Memetic disruptors are themselves Class C memes.
- One form of the Boardie Mind Trick is simply a Class C memetic attack that directly affects beliefs.
- Combat memes such as Avenging Angel and Tree of Life are class C or B personal enhancers, but they have fallen out of favor as the Board moves away from the warrior mythos and towards the soldier mythos. (Also, the widespread availability of memetic disrupters in modern times make artificially maintaining morale problematic.
- Brainbleach is a Class C meme derived from Distilled Oldbie Jadedness and deployed in the field as a countermeme and simply to cure cases of Severe Brainwarp.
The Board didn't invent the noosphere: memetic effects of all toxicity classes occur naturally as well.
- Each living human's core cultural makeup is largely dictated by a set of Class A memes that their civilization instills in its inhabitants. Boardies are generally expected to transcend these for the sake of their role as global operators.
- The ontological fugue phenomenon experienced by RCA technicians is a Class B memetic effect.
- The 2QT crisis (see Archive file) was eventually classified a Class A meme plague with two outbreak points.
The Memetics Research Division creates most memes to order using mundane, if somewhat specialized, graphic arts and foleying equipment. Much of the work here must be done indirectly via nonsentient agents to prevent the creator from being taken over by his creation. Once a meme has been designed, it can be mass-produced by nonsentient machinery and verified by semisentient algorithms. This suffices for most general-purpose memes like brainbleach, fnordlocks, or the Somebody Else's Problem field generators.
The Board, in general, frowns on memetic munitions; most of their stock of Class C and B memes have been captured from places where they were naturally occurring. Research into the area (to say nothing of Class A memes) is both highly discouraged and incredibly dangerous -- and a standard-brand Sanity Eroder or Navel-Gazer is usually good enough, anyway.
This doesn't mean that new Class C and B memes aren't created, of course. Techniques have been developed to increase the power of pre-existing concepts, making them function as Class C memes, or even Class B. The most commonly deployed is the Zeitgeist Orthogonal Memetic Gestalt; given nearly any concept, a ZOMG may be created based on it that plays against the local culture's taboos and packages the concept in an amplified, visceral, irrational, and virulent form. (As an example, "Radiation" is an occupational hazard that requires containment and shielding amongst its technicians; it can cause cancer, mutations, and tissue damage. "ZOMG!Radiation" is an insidious, malevolent, immortal force that COULD BE ANYWHERE and gives kittens fourteen eyes and makes them glow in the dark.)
Overzealous memetechs have occasionally proposed large-scale social engineering via manipulating natural Class A memes -- generally via mass disruption of complexes they find noxious. Such plans never made it out of committee; the Board knows what Satanic memes look like, and the targeted memes aren't. As such, they're probably Hers, and thus are around for a Reason, and as such are to be Left Alone.
A meme can only take root if it can be accurately perceived. Thus, the simplest memeshields are filtered faceplates or earphones that counter or baffle meme transmitters. The Funky Horror issues highly specific memeshields to its technicians to permit them to ignore the fnordlocks that keep away their curious, less specially trained colleagues. For more general protection, Boardies with duties in memetically hazardous areas is to wear sensory modification suites that chaotically perturb all incoming percepts. The more severe the perterbation, the more complete the protection -- but blocking class D or class E memes will make actually perceiving the universe itself difficult at best. Complete protection is equivalent to total sensory deprivation. Full Class-E protection is generally not seen outside of Board HazMat containers.
The stronger and more jaded a mind is, the more resistant it is to memetic invasion. After a few decades of active duty with the Board, a Boardie can, by sheer force of apathy, reject nearly any memetic transmission. (Yes, this includes the fnordlocks. No, they don't ignore them -- part of having Seen Everything is that one has also seen what happens to people who ignore them, and you don't get to Oldbie status by being Stupid.)