Wednesday 25 December 2013

Incomplete List of Good Memes

What ideas should we want to be circulated in the mass media? Since there is a lot of uncertainty involved, we should probably stick with very broad and safe messages that are difficult to be abused or to lead us in bad directions. A meme like "New technologies are good" may be good but it could easily lead to untrue beliefs or bad consequences. I think our general goal should be to raise the average level of rationality, as that will help us resolve many of our other issues.

List of good memes:

Rationality is great
Science is useful and reliable
Morality is non-arbitrary
Atheism is acceptable
Breaking conventions is acceptable
Being uncool is acceptable
Being wrong is acceptable as long as you're willing to change your mind
Understanding cognitive biases is good
Defining one's terms before an argument is good
Other people think and feel a lot like you
Being able to control your emotions is good
Learning is good
Accepting criticism is good
Consequentialism is good
Democracy is good
Belief without evidence is bad
Racism is bad
Sexism is bad
Speciesism is bad
Homophobia is bad
Xenophobia is bad


Note that many of these memes are already very prominent in the media and popular culture. The ones that are the most overlooked are the ones relating to rationality and self-improvement. It could also be important to focus on specific political issues that are hot at a given time. For example,

Abortion should be legal
War X should not happen
Apartheid X should be stopped
Gay marriage should be legal
Marijuana should be legal
Capital punishment should be far less common
Gun control laws should be stricter
Climate change should be taken seriously
Party X should win the election
The rich should be taxed more


[Note: I don’t necessarily stand 100% behind all the above examples.]

Some of these issues might be far less important than the media and politicians make them seem, but knocking them down, one by one, could probably pave the way for more important change. Making gay marriage legal is a relatively trivial victory in the grand scheme of things, but it is still a move in the right direction and many such victories can snowball into large-scale positive change. Perhaps more importantly, they prevent the tides from gaining momentum in the opposite direction.

It matters who your audience is. The average person does not need a reminder to develop their social skills or learn how to communicate, but the average rationalist might. Similarly, there’s no need to convince rationalists that atheism is acceptable because that would be preaching to the choir.

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