virus: INTRO: Richard Brodie

Richard Brodie (
Fri, 10 May 1996 10:26:41 -0700


Francis asked me to introduce myself to the list, which I have been
following for the last few weeks without making a contribution. What a
wonderful world that such a list can exist--a gathering of committed
people from around the globe, discussing how best to create positive
change through speaking.

I'll start with my publicist's brief bio of me:

Richard Brodie was Microsoft chairman Bill Gates's personal technical
assistant and the original author of Microsoft Word, one of the world's
best-selling computer programs and the first of its kind to be inducted
into the Smithsonian Institution's National Software Collection.
Educated at Harvard, he is also the best-selling author of Getting Past
OK. An accomplished speaker, he has appeared on more than 80 television
and radio shows including two appearances on "Donahue" and NBC's

1996 - "Virus of the Mind: The New Science of the Meme" (Integral Press)
1993 - Getting Past OK: A Straightforward Guide to Having a Fantastic
Life (Warner Books)

I believe some of you have read my new book "Virus of the Mind" and I
have followed the meme discussion with great interest. I always say that
even though it took me years to put together "Virus of the Mind", the
first book devoted to the new science of memetics, it raises far more
questions than it answers. However, I'll put forth a few (meta)memes for
you all to chew on if you're interested in the subject:

1. Memetics as a science, or a model, or a world view, is most
definitely a paradigm shift. That means it's easy to fall into one of
the mental traps people get caught by when dealing with paradigm shifts.
One trap is to think it's nothing new because you "map" parts of it into
ideas you are familiar with: "A meme is just an idea. So what?" "If
culture is a meme, then everything is a meme so it's not saying
anything." and so on.

Another trap is to dismiss the new paradigm because it doesn't fit with
your current model: "Psychologists thought the mind was all conditioning
years ago and that's been discredited." "I don't like the idea of
thoughts as viruses, that implies they are bad." "How can you
'deprogram' yourself? It's ALL programming!" and so on.

I cover all these topics in the book, so I won't get into them here, but
suffice it to say that memetics does indeed have powerful predictive
force as a scientific model, is indeed something new beyond psychology
and sociology, and cannot be dismissed lightly.

2. Memetics is inextricably woven with the idea of speaking as an agent
of change. How does your speech (memes) penetrate the minds of others?
This is a central question of memetics (see the chapter in Virus of the
Mind "How We Get Programmed" for a layman's overview). How can you speak
powerfully such that your memes start replicating on their own (virus of
the mind)?

I look forward to continued discussions with you all, and
congratulations--this group of people is truly on the leading edge of
societal evolution.

Richard Brodie

P.S. I have cc'ed the Church of Virus list, which you might all be
interested in checking out at