Are Memes & Internet Culture Creating a Singularity?


Here on the internet, we love us some memes. But where do they come from? Yes we know, they are user generated. But to an internet layman, they seem to just appear, in HUGE quantities, ready for cultural consumption. Are they a sign of a “cultural singularity”? Memes follow rules and code, are varied, self-referential, and seem to multiply at an ever increasing rate. It may seem like science fiction, but we’re close to a world where culture automatically and magically creates infinitely more culture.

Written By: YouTube – pbsideachannel
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  1. I’m sick and tired of careless misuse of the term “singularity”. 

    A singularity works like this: speed-doubling processes which have been hitherto observed to take the same amount of time no matter how often doubling has previously occurred, while presumably the humans effecting the improvements aren’t becoming smarter, suggest speed-doubling is a task of invariant difficulty. Therefore, when our machines’, cultures’ etc. quality becomes so great they can self-improve at least as fast as we can improve them, not only might they as well take over from us, but the speed-doubling time will keep halving, because doubling the speed halves the time taken to do a task of fixed difficulty, of which speed-doubling is postulated for the aforementioned reasons to be an example. Therefore, because 1+1/2+1/4+…=2, in very little time speed will become effectively infinite (in practice physical laws place an impassable finite upper bound, which presumably we’ll quickly approximate).

    THAT is a singularity, not just ANY thing that exponentially expands. So what if the Internet produces exponentially more memes? That doesn’t mean eventually the Internet will do it for us, and will become better at it by doing it as per singularities’ doubly exponential development. Normal inflation is exponential; empirically, hyperinflation is approximately doubly exponential. (There’s even a mathematical model explaining why it should be one or the other.) The difference is profound.

  2. I’d like to add that the vast majority of “internet memes” fail to qualify as any sort of cultural information.  At best they’re just a mashup of existing memes and tropes and are quickly forgotten

  3. BS. Internet memes don’t improve or evolve. They have been the same since the dawn of the Internet (well, 4chan). They are no basis for a significant change in culture.
    Is he talking singularity as a sort of paradigm shift? Lolcats? seriously?

  4. The Oxford dictionary defines it as : the point at which a function takes an infinite value, especially the point of infinite density at the center of a black hole.

    When I was studying math back in the 60s, singularities did not have a sexy connotation. There were just awkward points where you could not find roots.  Kurzweil used the term with a sort of religious awe in Spiritual Machines.  Singularity has morphed into a sexifier word, like “quantum”.

  5. If you use the original definition of the term “meme” (coined from “gene”) then we’re talking about replicators, which will keep replicating as long as they’re able to do so in their environment, which in this case is the complex ecosystem of people and machines known as the Internet. The memes that are best suited for their environment will replicate on an exponential scale like bacteria in a growth medium. Until, of course, they run out of energy to replicate with. Then they either have to find a new energy source, spread to a new environment, start eating themselves or die off. 
    I would ask: what is the energy source the memes use? My guess is human attention. How limited is that source? I’d suspect most people won’t physically be able to spend more than about 16 hours a day clicking “share” – and that’s the point where the memes have effectively taken over and rule the world. To survive past that limit, they need to create new humans, reduce our need to sleep, speed up our ability to share, or evolve so that they don’t need us anymore. 

  6. LMAO. No.
    There is no magic here. This is like the similar use of the term “quantum”, as Roedy said. There are filtering processes, and feedback loops. Watson could generate “memes”, but only people would choose and distribute them. Once popularity is ascertained, more variants of that type are created, these are selected from, and so on. Creation of “memes” is (often) trivial. Their refinement comes through selection. This is only different from what happened previously in the way an email is different from a letter. The process does not automatically accelerate itself any more than sending emails automatically leads to something better than email. Presumably letters were sent in the development of email. However, this alone is a very poor model of how email developed. I use quotes as these are bits of simple art and are reproduced for the same reason that art has been for as long as we know of. They are memes only in the way words are memes, ideas are memes, phrases are memes, symbols are memes and any damn thing in the mind that can be represented outside of it and comprehended in some way is.

  7. Hm. That’s true of individual image macros, etc, but not of the constituent components. Those are reinforced in viewers’ minds to a degree dependent on the impact.

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