Saturday, October 15, 2005

Retainer Viruses (based on the example of the latest Kiyosaki's book)

Before Your Quite Your Job: 10 Real-Life Lessons Every Entrepreneur Should Know About Building A Multimillion-Dollar Business By Robert T. Kiyosaki, Sharon L. Lechter – Warner Business Books, 2005, 259 p., ISBN 0-446069637-4 People have different, often opposite views on Robert Kiyosaki’s books, the author of popular “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” series. This particular book is interesting because it talks about excuses that people use to decide not to go into a business on their own. Among those are “I don’t have money”, “I don’t have contacts”, “I’m not smart enough”, “Business is risky”, “I have to support family”. When you look at them from the memetics point of view, you will recognize our old acquaintances – mind viruses. It’s interesting that the author divides all people into two categories, employees and entrepreneurs. The excuses he lists are typical for employees. He also points out that school is what usually conditions people to become employees, not entrepreneurs. After reading my book, you all know what the school does culturally, right? Yes, it plants a lot of mind viruses in the young minds to cultivate them into a predominantly expected kind of a person. Let’s consider it in details. First, all these excuses have very strong anchors. “I have to support my family” goes straight to the procreation anchor. In fact, this anchor is so strong that for most people their memetic mind simply can’t notice any flaws in this argument. It’s only the cognitive mind that is able to leave no stone on stone in this virus, because (a) most employees don’t earn enough to support their families as they think they should, and (b) a lot of entrepreneurs are supporting their families just fine. For other excuses it’s a little harder to find their anchors. Say, “I don’t have money” or “I don’t have contacts”. Where is an anchor here? In fact, there is none. These are not complete viruses, but rather payload parts of special antiviral viruses that are supposed to prevent penetration of the subjects by matching entrepreneur culture viruses. The whole viruses are “success stories” like “this guy had a lot of money, and he makes even more out of them”, or “this guy has a lot of connections, and he makes a load of money out of them.” The main anchors of success stories are both curiosity and self-justification. The self-justification one works like that: “This guy has a lot of money, that’s why he makes even more money, and I don’t have money, so it’s not me, it’s actually the absence of money that prevents me from financial success.” You see? Here we’ve got the payload that later surfaces as an excuse. And it also make the carrier, because by passing a “success story” along, you justify yourself in front of another person for not having the same success. And we are all really hooked on justifying ourselves in front of other people. It seems to be in our genetic make up. Now, why would such a virus be successful? They are clearly not very successful in entrepreneur subculture. What makes these viruses to proliferate so widely in an employee subculture? An employee subculture itself. If you consider an employee and an entrepreneur, they have to live in different styles, or, at least, they had to in the XX century. Employee was naturally risk avert, seeking security and stability, oriented for the control of resources, not results. An entrepreneur cannot avoid risk, he has to live with it and enjoy it. He does not have security beyond the one provided by his own capabilities. And if he does not set his mind on the results, he soon may find himself among employees. Naturally, such two different environments resulted in two different subcultures with their own system of supporting memes and mind viruses. Each subculture to be stable have to keep several kinds of mind viruses. Some of them are useful symbiotic mind viruses that help their hosts to adapt to the environment. Risk aversion in a XXth century corporation was a symbiotic mind virus because it helped people to keep their jobs. But subculture also have to carry mind viruses that prevent their subjects from escaping – retainer viruses. Most of the excuses listed above are exactly these kinds of mind viruses. Compare it to two extreme environments where these kinds of mind viruses are evident. A religious cult is normally built around a mind virus “leave us and you’ll go to hell.” That’s a typical retainer virus. In a concentration camp during World War II the guards on watch-towers and barbed wire was not exactly communicating a mind virus, but rather a simple meme that escaping is not an option. Although in the second case the meme was mostly correct, the purpose of guards and wire was rather communicating the meme than actually physically killing escaping prisoners. In fact, in the cases of mass escape, guards and wire was normally unable to function with 100% efficiency. Making them evident to the prisoners and implanting appropriate meme into their minds was from all point of view much more efficient measure against escaping than their direct purpose. In fact, killing those who try to escape was rather used to enforce the meme in the minds of remaining prisoners. That’s why guards, towers and wire was not hidden but rather demonstratively exposed, that’s why bodies of those who failed to escape could have been left in a common view. As it often does, perception was more important than reality. Well, I beg your pardon for making such grim comparisons to the employee subculture, I just wanted to make clear the concept of a retainer virus. By the way, arguments of Kiyosaki is based on the XXth century employment. Today, most of us even in the employment have to carry some elements of entrepreneur subculture, recognize the risks, and rely on peer relations. Except some obscure corners like some government agencies, employment does not provide anymore stability or security. Read Peter Drucker and Tom Peters on that (see below for some links). [1] The Essential Drucker: The Best of Sixty Years of Peter Drucker's Essential Writings on Management by Peter F. Drucker - Collins, 2003, 368 p., ISBN 006093574X [2] Management Challenges for the 21st Century by Peter F. Drucker - Collins; 1st edition, 2001, 224 p., ISBN 0887309992 [3] Re-imagine! by Tom Peters - DK Publishing, 2003, 352 p., ISBN 078949647X [4] The Brand You 50: Or Fifty Ways to Transform Yourself from an 'Employee' into a Brand That Shouts Distinction, Commitment, and Passion! by Tom Peters - Knopf, 1999, 224 p., ISBN 0375407723


At 10/19/2005 05:58:00 AM, Blogger Howard Campbell said...

A meme is anything that a mind replicates, thus to some degree has taken hold of a mind. Elements that take hold might realease tension, strike an emotional chord or fit an unmet need for expression.

Hereditary observations via genetics:
1) Isolation breeds mutation
2) Minor environmental changes can result in significantly different selective pressures
3) Over specialization increases chances of extinction

These principals occur to me as holding true for memetics.

Genetics is blind. Species tend to support their own tribe but destroy their own kind. For instance, a pride of lions often attack or challenge another pride of lions and rats often fight to the death with any rat they come across from another nest.

However, genetics is about genes, a tangible thing that can be seen under a microscope. You can't see a meme under a microscope.

I suggest that memetics is more like calculus than genetics, facilitating the ability to visualize change.

A meme is then more like a differential than a gene.

Then, if we see an emerging idea, for instance, a "retainer virus" we are looking at change and not at a thing.


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