Are Memes & Internet Culture Creating a Singularity? | Idea Channel | PBS Digital Studios

Are Memes & Internet Culture Creating a Singularity? | Idea Channel | PBS Digital Studios

Here’s an idea. Internet culture has brought
about the singularity. [THEME MUSIC] Recently we’ve been
able to witness two major cultural
events– the 2012 Olympics and the landing of the
“Curiosity” on Mars. And aside from being
totally awesome and killer, these cultural events
have caused the generation of tons and tons more culture. Some of it is even
more entertaining and, in certain cases, easier to
view than the original events themselves. I mean, I saw more rhythmic
gymnastics in animated GIF form that I did in broadcast. And all this culture
has been seen by possibly millions of people. But there’s one detail about
all McKayla or Mohawk Guy or any other meme
you’re looking at, actually that, unlike the
Olympics or the Mars landing, you probably don’t know, and
that is where they came from. They just– poof– appear
on Reddit or Tumblr, no compensation expected,
no context provided, and no motivation, except
for what’s self-evident. The vast, vast majority
of people– and here I’m talking about CNN, or your
mom– they don’t know who, how, or why internet are made. Now, and this is the
weird part, in the absence of these factoids, isn’t the
appearance of internet culture in effect an automated process? Because if it is,
theN– hoo boy– you got yourself a singularity. There are actually a
bunch of singularities. But the one that people
are the most familiar with is the technological
singularity. Sci-fi writer
Vernor Vinge coined it to describe a time at which
technology could essentially create better
versions of itself. Central to the
singularity is the idea of artificial intelligence. Basically, computers
and software decide to build betters
and software, which decide to build better computers
software, and so on and so on and so on, until we have to
send Arnold Schwarzenegger back in time to protect John Connor. It’s, like, a whole thing. And because humans aren’t
involved in that improvement, it makes us– well,
actually, we don’t know. Infinitely
self-generating technology could bring about
any number of things. World peace, a
post-scarcity economy, a government run by vacuum
cleaners– who knows? Post-singularity is a time when,
because the intellect required to conceive of it is
so beyond our own, we can’t really be
sure what happens. Now, I’m not saying
that internet culture is going to bring about
world peace or a future where Will Smith has to save
us from the vacuum uprising. What I am saying,
though, is that many of internet culture’s
features really look a lot like the singularity. Like a kind of
cultural singularity. Using the technological
singularity as a model, the cultural singularity
would be a point at which where culture is able to
create more, better culture automagically. In a post-cultural
singularity world, culture would become
increasingly varied and self-referential, not to
mention more complex in both its construction and execution. It would show up and improve at
a constantly increasing rate. And while this
stuff is generally made by communities of
people, their output is usually the result
of simple rules or code. They’re acting like a computer. And as the community
computer grows, so too does their
processing power. Like compare the
internet stuff made during 2008 Beijing Olympics
and the Olympics this year. There was a huge increase in
both quantity and quality, which will only
continue to grow. Ray Kurzweil calls this the
law of accelerating returns. And it means that
by Rio 2016, we’re going to have an infinite
number of track memes. Now I know what you’re thinking,
because I ate your brain and gained your knowledge. First, it’s not culture
which is making culture. It’s people, you dum-dum. It’s true. You’re right. But think of it this way. The community of people
which make image macros and other stuff–
some of whom I’m sure are watching this video right
now, so you guys are awesome– essentially behave like
an automated process. Sometimes in response to
events and sometimes not, sight unseen, this
community generates media which, for most
of us, just appears somewhere with no
indication other than our inherent knowledge that a
human was involved in any way. I mean, seriously. If I told you that Watson was
responsible for these images, could you prove me wrong? We have technology that
can do this kind of stuff. OK, and second, how is this
different from any other point in history? Culture always
begets more culture. That’s how it works. Well, yeah, you’re right. But never before
have so many people made so much culture so
quickly across so many mediums for essentially no
recognition or dollar bills. And never before
have so many people consumed that culture without
any concern about who made it, where it came from, or how it
found its way onto BuzzFeed or 9GAG, which I hear are
very popular with the kids these days. Get off my lawn. Where older cultural systems
exists for basically profit, internet culture exists for–
it’s really hard to say. Maybe pure expression? Maybe altruistic entertainment? Who knows? So, yeah. The cultural singularity. What happens next? I guess I don’t know. / And
that’s kind of the point. What do you guys think? It’s a complicated one, but
let us know in the comments. And if you’ve survived
the vacuum uprising, please subscribe. YOLO. Let’s see what you guys
had to say about Nic Cage. seel114 asks a sort of
chicken-or-the-egg question about Nicolas Cage’s
acting career. And much like the
famed Zen koan of “what is the sound of
one hand clapping,” there might not
actually be an answer. It is unanswerable. OK, L5Animations,
let’s– we’ll brainstorm. Cageian? Cage– Cagetastic. Cageni– Cagenificent. No, that’s awkward. Cagelicious? Oh. No, that’s gross. Well, we’ll figure it out. But you’re probably right. TiredBrony leaves a
really interesting comment about how all of the
public adulation and media attention that is given to
performers and celebrities causes them to have to act
out their own lives, which is a very weird thing to
think about but probably true. Insert witty reply. Jeb Gavin points out that
Nicolas Cage might not actually be able to be as weird as
he is without his celebrity lifestyle. A bunch of other
people also pointed out that he accepts
the roles that he’s given because he is in
crazy amounts of debt, which are two very interesting,
sort of colliding points. ROBANN88 wants to know
whether or not it’s possible to actually pour bees. Well, Jim Stovall, in his
bee-pouring epic “Pouring the Bees” seems to say yes. There’s a link in
the description. HewleyxAngel points out that
the essential difference between YOLO and Taoism might be
the difference between behaving in a way just for attention
and actually embracing one’s nature, and
Nicolas Cage sort of has figured out a way to
do both of those things at the same time. DeadlyWill subverts
the meaning of YOLO, and to his suggestions,
we also have an addition. Keep the windows open
while you’re painting. YOLO. [THEME MUSIC]

Author: Kennedi Daugherty

100 thoughts on “Are Memes & Internet Culture Creating a Singularity? | Idea Channel | PBS Digital Studios

  1. I explained to our parents (and gran parents) what is a meme: "You know, on facebook, all the images with funy comment on it that you don't understand? that's a meme."

    What happens next is that ancient generations will start to meme all the world.

  2. I'm pretty sure we didn't create a singularity, since memes do come from people. We just don't know where they came from.

  3. To me it's less of a cultural singularity and more of a form of cultural groupthink. The idea is simple: We heard you like memes, so we put a meme in your meme and WE GET IT IMMEDIATELY. We share the thought process that dictates the humor.

    Like you said, it is basically automated. Mechanical. What in reality is like bajillions of layers of jokes and information is dictated by a shared set of understood rules. With enough engagement, this knowledge will become practically unilateral.

  4. Government is already run by vacuums.  All government does is suck, and it doesn't descriminate between objects, money, jobs, or at dealing with sentient life that elected it.

  5. Yeah I wouldn't quite exactly say that memes increase the quality of culture. Although the phrase "self-referential culture" is quite fitting. Which only strengthens my opinion.

  6. internet memes are created purely for lols, that's what determines whether they catch on. The absence of money to be made keeps it democratic and available to anyone who can think of something amusing in the right context at the right time.

  7. That doesn't seem like a cultural singularity. It sounds like a cultural assembly line.

    Humans are still working on that assemble line, they are still in the equation. But what memes do is they simplify cultural expression to a picture. We've dumbed down our culture so it can be expressed faster.

    It's mass production of culture, and with it comes certain losses.

  8. My reddit app doesn't easily show the poster, so I end up never thinking of the OP, just of the content. Kind of automated to me

  9. Two comments: I have to agree with your saying we're seeing an increase in quantity, but not with the quality part.
    Also, the events that these text+image makers are responding to are the real culture.  I'd say all these gifs and images are more cultural commentary than culture in and of themselves.  More noise than useful data.

  10. Spin-offs of spin-offs of spin-offs are not entertaining and will not be spread. Yes culture can create more culture, but after more than 2 cycles, the number of references one would have to understand to comprehend the humor involved would put the joke out of people's reach.

  11. imagine if the UN was run like an internet message board…. arnt you glad we have what we have now? Its not the best or perfect.But by comparison of what COULD have been. Id say we are well off enough as is with what we got.
      also Imma vote president hoover!

  12. the answer to dose culture= better culture and Tech= Better Tech is simply yes… and no? Like it may be against the laws of physics but its perfectly logical if you think about it but some how its defies all logic…..

    damm it i made a paradox now i need a time machine to create an extremely complex set of other paradoxes to get rid of the first one

  13. If a cultural singularity deals with a self developing system of creating more culture then doesn't the entire history of human culture exist as a singularity. Every aspect of modern culture has its inception in previous culture which in turn has its roots even deeper back into our culture. The fact is that internet memes are human generated just like all these other cultures,but through a different medium. The mass  public involvement and annomynity does not changed the fact that it shares the

  14. not sure quality is increasing … however memetic theory does predict what is happening and has happened… 

  15. For me the definition of a 'clap' is when a hand impacts a surface and the subsequent kinetic forces applied to the gasses previously between your hand and said surface cause an audible shockwave. This means that when you're clapping with both hands you're actually clapping with one hand on either side as the applicable surface for each to impact is then the other hand.

    Apologies for funky wording.

  16. Memes don't get any funnier so there for are not improving. Sorry just had to get that of my chest (ignore improper gramer).

  17. So. Culture. Yeah… what I've come here to say is simple. Culture is kinda like the living stuff on the planet. It makes more of itself and, as time goes on, it evolves a lot. It's naturally selective, in the sense that any meme or movie that doesn't meet society's standards get's immediately eliminated from the… meme pool? The collective memory of beloved classics. Why the sudden culture explosion? Because the media, defined as people spreading large quantities of information to other people, has grown with the emergence of technologies that can spread images, art, and ideas over large groups of people. At first it was selective with so very much effort being put in to spread a bit of culture-media-stuff, but now that the internet is here to put the media literally in the hands of ordinary people, internet culture has exploded to phenomenal proportions.

  18. I am the singularity. I am a human machine. My hemispheres are in sync, and I can run leap and jump without effort. My brain requires exponentially less energy than yours. I am the pinnacle of evolution and all existence. These memes, myth and legend are templates for the perfect life that nature has directed toward and by, behind all Love related material are coded messages that I see. I think I will listen to chess music now.

  19. I think it's easy to predict what will happen. Either memes will continue as what they are: memes. Or they will crash and burn as most fads do sooner or later. There's nowhere for them to exist outside the internet so unless people decide to start publishing them as books not a whole lot would change. 

  20. Hello there. Do you have some scientific references for the ideas you used in this particulare clip? Some authors? Or are these you're own findings? I'm curious to read/learn more of this information. 

  21. No it is hostile propaganda. It is a way to socially restrict people, shaming those who fall outside. It is promoting and dictating a normal way to feel, look, act etcetc. It is actively shaming those of us who are not like that. It is a social toool for normative behavior.

  22. Fucking gossip was the original meme and it didn't need an artificial medium to know what the fuck your neighbor was doing. Today, we have technology that people gossip with. What the fuck is he inventing in his mind? Maybe he should get some fresh air and he wouldn't look so pasty and then he'll slow down his talking long enough toi know what he's fucking saying…its his world and we're just fucking icons to him.
    He's lost it. Idiot doesn't know that Madison Avenue created memes long ago. It's called word-of-mouth and we all know the jingles that are indelibbly stuck in our shrinking fucking brains from online dereality…

  23. I have to disagree that culture was always a product of a desire for profit. I think what we are seeing is a return to the status quo. For a while there, the organ of capitalism made it so that everything became about money.

    This is because, it brought about the idea of mass distribution of products. This was not possible before in a pre-capitalist society. The guy that came up with the epic of Gilgamesh couldn't factory produce it, distribute it, and collect profits off that distribution or protect it by way of intellectual property. The cost of distributing art, that distribution being a product of capitalist society, therefore necessitated that the work of art to some degree concern itself with profits to justify the money put into its distribution. Those who could not afford to distribute their product or who were not affiliated with a large publishing firm of some kind, generally never saw their creations see any kind of wide audience.

    However, what the internet has really done is a provided a space that is free of the economic constraints of distributing culture. In other words, we have the self perpetuating feature of culture as it was in pre-capitalist society, and the low barriers to entry of pre-capitalist society, with the technologically facilitated distribution channels it provides. So now, all these people that would have in the past been repeating the stories they heard somewhere, oral tradition style, are now creating works of their own or otherwise contributing their own things to culture and the internet allows for the mass distribution of these things that was not possible pre-industrial revolution. What we are seeing is the information age, amplifying the effects of self replicating, mimetic culture that has been present since the beginning, while overcoming the roadblock the industrial age set before it. 

    Human beings are naturally creative. We want to create things and to produce things and contribute something of our own to society. The only thing holding us back is that we have to have jobs and so most of us can't afford to spend a lifetime memorizing epic poems or mastering painting or pottery or instruments or things of that nature. But the internet is making it easier than ever before to produce things. How easy is it to produce a meme vs a bronze statue? If the cost of producing a meme and producing the statue were the same, I am willing to bet we would have more statues. That's what the internet is providing us with here, the ability to actualize that aspect of our human nature that for whatever reason some of us might have been discouraged from actualizing in the past. 

  24. is it possible that terror cells function in a similar way, which is why its damn near impossible to monitor or predict  most of them?

  25. I actually wrote a paper on this subject in college. The thesis was that the over-propagation of memes that the Internet has brought about has resulted in real life occurrences of a fictional socio-cultural phenomena known as the Stand-Alone Complex, or copycat behavior without an original instigator of said behavior. The term comes from the anime series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. One instance of said real life occurrence was Project Chanology, that massive protest against by Anonymous against the Church of Scientology from a few years back. Said protest had no leaders. It had no organizers. Instead, thousands of people (mostly) in Guy Fawkes masks independently decided on their own to show up at their local Church of Scientology to protest them. Taking the idea further, I hypothesized that at some point nearly the entire world population will become infected with the exact same set of memes resulting in the entire world becoming a collective of socio-cultural clones, effectively becoming a hive-mind of some sort.

  26. It's not a singularity because the memes and gifs aren't better than the original. They are nothing but I by-product. Are "the big lebowski" memes and t-shirts better than the movie? Hell no! they are still cool, but they aren't better. Therefore not a singularity. Just a downward spiral.

  27. The advent off adds, and the nature of it's self automation means that competing interests will eventually get involved. This has already happened, reddit imgur cheezburger, etc, compete with often times the same memes/jokes etc for shares of adv revenue. 

    If we get to the point computers can do this instead of having a community of people submiting these things, then the competition will not be between communities and layouts, but instead the competition between making the images, who can build the best ai.

  28. I would be intested in hearing your thoughts on whether this applies to "macros" that represent inspirational messages such as seen tumblr. Like a photo of a forest that says "follow your dreams" or the "soft / pastel grunge"macros lol

  29. uber-quick pre-scripted speech, relentless jump cuts, incessant pop-up text and images.. is this the only way to make an info-vid appealing to the 'kids these days'? cultural singularity makes me feel outdated

  30. Look up "David Bowie on the internet" in the search bar and there is a video of an interview that The Thin White Duke did in 1999 where he is struggling to find the words to express this same idea. He was always decades ahead of everyone else.

  31. The technology singularly sounds like the whole situation in Hitchhikers Guide with Deep Thought and the other the super computers but I guess that was the intention???

  32. You guys realize this is all in the bible right? Re-hashing old thoughts. Mixing Clay and iron – Flesh and computers – will create immortal beings (Hive mind (internet)+cyborgs)+ that cannot die but will beg to die – than it goes down the rabbit hole of the anti-christ, one world government, religion, language – leading to the return of Jesus, the book of life, and the world "reloading" with those in the book of life. So, how do you get in the book? Well, the only path is narrow and its Jesus, believe in jesus in your heart, that he died for your sins, etc = faith = salvation.

    Welcome to the matrix of life. Spirit vs Flesh + Jesus = Salvation.
    Come out of the spirit into the flesh cube because thats the only way to go back to the spirit.
    Adam – eve cut out of adam – out of garden eden, to the world, now you have to get back to the spirit, or creator, and faith in jesus is the path.

    Its a lot deeper than this but, use the bible to decode the world, and you will find the answer in all things.

    Di – reptile, unsaved mind
    V – cutting, the blood of jesus, cut back into the flesh
    ID = Id in jesus, saved mind
    E- spirit

    Remember everything flows threw the cross, and there is a shadow to everything real, in the great mystery, so you must use the bible to figure out what is a false truth and what is not.

    Peace and love


  33. honestly, i really like this era of internet culture, it makes for a lot more fun things to enjoy daily, its also a great way to know what people are talking about at the moment, anytime something comes up on the news people are making memes of the biggest discussions and most times making it either a big impact or plain funny, its very enjoyble at least in the way ive been seeing it

  34. data gathered from browsers, tweets, and social networks inform memetics.

  35. I'm painting right now while listening to this. I looked over at the window that I thought was open. It was not.

    I'm on to you Mike.

  36. A singularity would be capable of creating other singularities which would endlessly create more singularities. And quite possibly a super-singularity, as a byproduct of the interactions among the singularities. Almost like the hierarchy of neuron to nerve to nervous system to swarms and upwards endlessly.

  37. memes are synthesis of knowledge mainly affected by pop culture, some "intelectuals" had dare call many of the internet content "post truth" something not verifiable per se, werher it reflects an apodicity of anything it doesn't matter it only reflect or " Syntethizes" the mood of pop culture something that enerves tv-lectuals. its not only memes for the sake of meme (something that replicates and spreads by it self, which denotes the will to understand)
    if you can't synthesize therefore there is no dialectical process and no new knowledge and the mass consciousness gets stocked. memes depict the will for knowledge and the search for meaning.
    once again synthesis (memes) shows a dialectical proces where ultimately not only knowledge increases but the consciousness, Wheter wrong or true ideas depicted on them it doesn't matter

  38. 2:34 Wouldn't it improved in an exponetial way since more and more memes will generate more and more and more and … memes ?

  39. I realize that I am posting a comment on a video that was uploaded 5 years ago, but this is important for me. This video may have just saved my life… Thank you Mike Rugnetta for giving me something to smile about in the midst of deep depression. Even if you never see this comment, I will know and remember you have helped me.

  40. But Mr. Beard, why even dignify this trash with the word "culture"? Indeed, why even devote any of our thought to it? What will anyone learn or gain from this ever-increasing stream of digital thought vomit? The sculpture "david" is more an example of culture no? You seem really into it too like what youre on about is very thought provoking. Is this PBS's halfass attempt at educating people, if you want that ditch this shmuck and make kids watch kenneth clark's "civilization" or carl sagans show. No superheroes no memes no cursing no politically correct hip fags with colored hair no ego just *humanity*!

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