Institute of Applied and Theoretical Memetics

Institute dedicated to the study and use of cultural ideas, symbols and conditioning.

Institute of memetics
Image from Steve Bowers

Memetics in the current era is, on the whole, an extremely well-understood subject that is an accepted part of everyday life. Modosophonts in most of the civilised galaxy live out their lives knowing that many of their decisions, actions and thoughts will be influenced in some way by artificial means. Memegeneers of all toposophic levels, while commonly a source of suspicion and sometimes even fear, hold a huge amount of power over those within their influence. Even those not particularly trained in memetic conditioning can still access and use a large number of "off-the-shelf" memetic commodities and products, or take steps to reduce their own susceptibility to memetic conditioning.

But the way that memetics shapes society on much larger scales is often much harder for modosophonts to comprehend. The extent of certain kinds of memetic propagation, the effectiveness of protections against cryptomemetics and the actual amount of influence the Archai have on an individual basis are subjects that are of huge interest and importance, but are generally little understood.

As well as these macro-subjects, each almost as hard to untangle and comprehend as the transapients themselves, there is constant movement and mutation within the memetic environment of the Terragen Sphere. Many groups are dedicated to identifying and investigating any new and potentially harmful memes that emerge from this maelstrom.

There are countless small research and/or development organisations dedicated to the field of memetics, with a huge variety of outlooks, aims and resources. More visible than these smaller groups are the larger institutes that tend to dominate the dissemination of research, advice and guidance to the wider modosophont population. All extremely well-established, most have been in existence for several millennia.

The Institute of Theoretical and Applied Memetics (also known simply as the Institute of Memetics, or ITAM for short), by virtue of its establishment resulting from the merging of two already successful memetic schools, has recently emerged as one of the most well-known and respected of these institutes.

Based primarily within its own extensive research facilities on the world of Dorminy IV-C, as well several substantial orbiting habitats, ITAM both undertakes and publishes its own research as well as assists and coordinates many smaller research organisations throughout the Terragen Sphere. Like its rival institutes, ITAM attempts to place itself on the cutting edge of research and, while dedicating some resources to refining older theories, concentrates on those areas least understood in the current era.

The Institute, in its modern form, was founded in 9278 by the superbright academics Tyrel Genk and IsfuMajor90, under the guidance of the modosophont- rights activist AI TRKR88-0 (at the time a first singularity entity). Tyrel and Isfu, both well-respected leaders of their own several millennia old research organisations, joined forces in response to accusations from the general sephirotic media that the field of memetics had become too fragmented, biased and itself both memetically manipulated and manipulating. The superbrights decided the best course of action would be to create a new body of study that could look to set strict standards for itself and others.

The stated aim of the new Institute was agreed to be: "To push forward every aspect of the understanding of memetics, and ensure all data, research and knowledge is openly available to all reachable modosophonts". To this end, the superbrights merged their own respective organisations to form the new Institute (procuring the actual name from the de facto owners of a group that had become defunct several thousand years previously). With the guidance and assistance of TRKR88-0 (already a major funder of Tyrel's work) Dorminy IV-C, part of the Dorminy IV system deep within the NoCoZo, was chosen and a large part of it purchased. Soon after, construction was begun on several specially designed research orbitals.

The active membership of the institute now numbers close to 15,000,000, and very closely connected (but technically separate) groups contain many millions more. As well as a significant proportion of NoCoZo-aligned members, the Communion of Worlds is well-represented among the Institute membership and has often expressed their interest in and support for the Institute. The empath influence in the higher circles of the Institute is believed to have grown recently, as is the case in several of the other memetic institutes.

The equipment accessible to this membership is extremely advanced, and is claimed by ITAM to be the best available to modo memetic researchers.

The highlight, and possibly the most controversial aspect of the Institute, is a large closed-cybercosm with a population believed to number in the millions, all of which are totally unaware that they reside within a virtual world. The rules surrounding "bottleworlds" are notoriously strict, but ITAM seems to have found a loophole in these rules by populating the virch with uploads who have previously donated their mindstates to science and signed extremely liberal disclosure documents. The virch is regularly purged, before being restarted with new sets of social parameters to test a range of social theories. This virch is highly controversial, and ITAM has reportedly been forced to allow unobstructed monitoring of the project by representatives of many of the sephirotic empires and factions. Rumours have repeatedly emerged that ITAM have been constantly on the verge of being reprimanded for breaching sentient rights protocols, but so far they have escaped having the project shut down. This has, in turn, led to further rumours that there may be one or more higher powers advising the Institute on how ITAM can keep the virch just on the right side of acceptability in the eyes of the Archai.

While the current Institute was founded relatively recently, the members proudly claim that its roots can be traced right back to the original scientists, psychologists and sociologists that pioneered the meme concept on Earth in the twentieth century CE. ITAM's official history is littered with fanciful stories of controversy and innovation stretching back to the Information Age, although these claims are mostly derided by its rivals and have been called into question by historians.

Generally, the other major memetics institutes care little for ITAM's attempts at gathering and standardising the research of other groups, but academic observers and analysts frequently report favourably on ITAM's work. The findings of the different institutes on the same subjects tend to differ almost every time, depending on a huge variety of factors, making the more complex areas of memetics an almost indecipherable intellectual maze for the uneducated modosophont. While many (including many members of ITAM) argue that this must be the case for the findings to have any real meaning whatsoever, most would find it hard to disagree that a basic knowledge framework is needed; which is what ITAM aim to provide to the wider Terragen Sphere.

The most common source of criticism of the Institute is from within the Institute itself, as researchers regularly raise the subject of the Observation Effect, and also question how the dissemination of information can affect the subjects being researched. Case studies of the Institute's memetic affect on society regularly trigger a flood of squabbling, in-fighting and genuinely useful and insightful science. A recent publication, "An assessment of memetic objects and vectors emerging from assessments of the ethics and methods of the Institute of Memetics", is consistently one of ITAM's most well-read and warmly received publications.

While the Institute of Applied and Theoretical Memetics has yet to achieve its original aim of unifying the study of memes in the current era, the members continue to appear positive and hopeful that this will be achieved. While they appear to have a solid foundation with which to work towards this aim, the fickle and competitive nature of academia in the sephirotics means that their goal is still extremely distant. If, that is, it is achievable at all.

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Appears in Topics
Development Notes
Text by Graham Hopgood
Initially published on 16 May 2009.