Memetic Totems
Sentient/quasi-sentient meme acting as a guide or totem for a group of sophonts (also Totemic memes or memetic angels or spirits).

As AIs first worked to master the art of memetic engineering they noticed certain groups (generally between 5-50 members) could be induced to carry on an almost self-conscious meme. Something akin to ancient totems, thought to embody a tribe or clan's spirit and character, these conscious memes acted as a sort of guide prompting their constituent members to act for the general benefit of the group and the advancement of a particular cause.

Often, it was noted that unusual rituals tended to evolve as a result of a self-conscious meme. However, such rituals diverged somewhat from those surrounding traditional tribal totems. Where as the traditional rituals tended to arise from an original event or practical purpose and later became a means of emotional and psychological preparation, rituals derived from a self-conscious meme tended to arise from random and seemingly unimportant details in the surroundings (important as judged by who though?), but often later found to be of key importance in physical preparation for events as well as psychological conditioning.

When a totemic group (tribe, crew, company, team, etc.) swells in membership to the extent that it reaches the upper limits of group stability there is often a splitting of the group. Often one group retains the original memetic totem, while the other group(s) take on slightly differing totems. There are cases in which divergent groups all retain the same totem or in which the memetics of each differ notably from each other and the original.

It is noted that the engineering of memetic totems is somewhat feasible among all social creatures, be they alien or terragen, however the exact social groupings and patterns vary markedly, especially among non-baselines, AIs of various levels, and alien species.

It is often the case when a higher intellect must pass judgement on a lower one that higher singularity entity takes into account the nature of a lower singularity's memetic totem. There have been times that individuals perpetrating atrocious crimes have received a lesser penalty because the AI passing judgement placed a value on the memetic spirit backing the perpetrator (or the AI viewed the totem as a fellow sentient).
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Development Notes
Text by Peter Kisner
Initially published on 08 December 2001.