Social Question

Soubresaut's avatar

If you were to kill an idea, how would you do it?

Asked by Soubresaut (13695points) January 31st, 2016

Many comments on another question were to the effect that “you can’t kill an idea,” since an idea isn’t mortal biology. So I’ve been trying to figure out what “killing” ideas, these tenacious little creatures, would even mean… I realized I wasn’t sure. Would an idea be dead if everyone forgets it; or if it becomes marginalized; or if it becomes replaced by a newer, shinier idea; or if it is condemned in the public eye; etc.? Each definition seems to suggest a different strategy of attack, and a different problem… But let’s imagine it’s possible:

I turn to you, fellow jellies. I offer you any and all resources available in the world. Everything is at your disposal, limited only by your ingenuity. How would you go about killing an idea?

… This seems, also, to depend heavily on what the idea is, and how rooted it is in people’s minds. So go ahead and define what idea you are attacking, too, if that helps.

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21 Answers

cazzie's avatar

The only ideas I can kill are the ones in my own brain.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Oh, if you have a good idea and you take it to your boss, who is an asshole, and she says you can’t implement it. That idea is daid.

Or you have a good idea for a business start up, but the banks refuse to give you the loans you need. They’ve killed your idea.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Say that your grandparents thought of it.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

I guess the idea is dead when it no longer matters to you.
When you can let it go,type thing.

ucme's avatar

Smash the lightbulb

jaytkay's avatar

Slavery still existed in the US when two of my great-grandparents were born.

Teddy Roosevelt was progressive on many issues, but he also said American Indians should be exterminated.

One of my grandmothers couldn’t vote in the US when she turned 21.

Same-sex marriage was banned throughout the US a year ago.

The ideas that those things were OK were largely eliminated.

Jeruba's avatar

Humor is known to be a powerful weapon. If people started seeing the idea as ridiculous, it would probably lose its hold.

Zaku's avatar

Saying an idea is dead is a metaphor, so it doesn’t have a concrete meaning.

Some people say something is “dead” when the people they hear talking most often don’t talk about it every day.

Some people might mean when they haven’t heard it in a year, or a decade.

Others might mean when it’s not on the Internet.

Or when it doesn’t seem to be being thought about currently at all by anyone.

But it’s still just an idea, that never actually lived or existed, except as an idea, which I would say ultimately is something timeless and that doesn’t require anyone to think of it.

1 + 1 = 2 and 1 + 1 = 3 I would say refer to ideas that were bound to be thought of as soon as there were thinking creatures. And if Huffman hadn’t thought of Huffman encryption algorithms, someone else would have very soon after, because it’s a natural logical thing to do. Patents are an economic argument against the truth that new (to humans) ideas are not really created out of nothing by people, but found by trying different combinations of other basic ideas which were originally just based on logic.

So the definition of life or killing for an idea is arbitrary, and needs to be defined to have a concise discussion about it.

For myself, the ideas I would like to “kill” tend to be those I disagree with, dislike, and/or feel are leading to needless suffering or waste of time and/or resources.

Usually I think this means coming up with alternative better ideas, and/or pointing out the negative things about the target ideas.

However, few if any ideas, especially in popular consciousness, stand alone. Ideas get repeated in conversations with others, and in recorded media, and are associated with many other ideas and emotions and stories, which in turn are associated with others. Often an idea will be supported by many other ideas and emotions with which it resonates.

The most effective ways to unravel and change conversations tend to come from gaining a larger sense of the whole swirl of ideas and emotions, as they exist in various audiences, and then creating a counter-swirl – an alternative resonating patterns which can do some jujutsu to use the energy of the original swirl and turn it into a new and more powerful swirl going in a better direction, and that avoids getting mired in vortexes of stupidity or other negative patterns.

A simple example was the sudden shift from “disco fever” in the 1970s to “disco sucks”, basically a graffiti message that caught a dance fashion craze and had it go from trendy to embarrassed almost overnight.

Another example might be political candidates who stand a chance but then get dismissed as soon as some negative idea about them gets enough attention, even when it’s really stupid and unfair.

Then of course there are industrial idea-blasting campaigns that sidetrack conversations that they think will cost them money, by buying and suppressing certain researchers and journalists to get them to spread doubt and distracting conversations, and who also pay people to even go out on the Internet and argue their way in online conversations.

CWOTUS's avatar

Tell people you heard about it on …
– Alex Jones
– FOX News
– the internet
– Facebook
– a pamphlet from Scientology
– Fluther

filmfann's avatar

The best way to kill an idea is to destroy its air conditioning.

imrainmaker's avatar

If it’s too nice to believe then it will get killed automatically as people will think its some scam..

ragingloli's avatar

The only way to do it is complete and unadulterated genocide, followed by the destruction of any and all literature, historical documents and monuments.

Jak's avatar

In addition to the above extreme measures you would have to remove key conceptual words from the lexicon.

Darth_Algar's avatar

Offer people a more attractive one.

Seek's avatar

In George Orwell’s 1984, the government successfully silenced the opposing public by removing the language necessary to communicate the ideas they wanted to spread.

If I have an idea, and I either cannot put it into words, or the person I wish to share the idea with cannot understand me, that idea is, as @Dutchess_III says, “daid”.

Pachy's avatar

In my corporate days I saw good ideas and germs of great ideas killed in every committee meeting I ever attended. It took only one person throwing out a few negative words about an idea (and every meeting had such a person) to start everybody else hacking away at the idea until nobody remembered they had originally liked it.

Soubresaut's avatar

Thanks for all the responses! I’d try to respond more precisely, but I’m short on time, so here’s the condensed version: I realized I was thinking of already-at-large ideas when I initially posed the question, and hadn’t even been thinking of all the small ideas that get quashed every day, so that was interesting to think about… how most ideas don’t live very long, it’s only the powerful few. And for the responses dealing with those few—thank you too! I’d like to think that the less violent approaches would be the most effective (social movements, techniques like humor), though I can see how violence seems to eliminate dissent…

SecondHandStoke's avatar

Good ideas?

I’d let the mainstream media do it for me.

CWOTUS's avatar

Thanks for the added commentary and detail to the question regarding “established” ideas. That got me thinking in a different direction, since I had been responding with respect to “new” or nascent ideas, which are after all pretty easy to kill.

So how did we (and by that I mean a very broad and long-lived “we”, which probably does not include you and certainly doesn’t include me) manage to move away from, say, Zoroastrianism, which according to Wikipedia is one of the world’s oldest monotheistic religions? In that specific case it was done, at least in the case of Persia (present-day Iran) when that state-sponsored faith was “supplanted” by a newer idea (Islam, of course). And that’s probably the main way that “established” ideas of this type are supplanted – especially religions – when the practitioners die off, whether from old age or other natural causes (such as having their heads lopped off, for example) which reduces the attractiveness and therefore the spread or at least the dissemination of the idea.

I’m sure that that also explains the lack of Mayan, Incan or Aztec religions – which once flourished throughout South and Central America – but have since been all but forgotten and have in their time been supplanted by Christianity in much the same way that Islam supplanted Zoroastrianism in Persia and other parts of Asia.

But those are religious ideas.

Other ideas are dropped when “better ideas” come along, such as the idea that the planet is an oblate spheroid supplanting the idea that it is a sphere, which supplanted the idea that it was a flat plate, etc. Ditto the idea that the Theory of Evolution suggests that mankind and other primates descended from “common ancestors”, which supplants the more simplistic idea still held by many that “mankind descended from apes”, which also supplanted the literal idea still held by a distressing number that “man was formed from the image of God and was placed in a Garden containing animals and plants created ‘just-so’ by God, just a few thousand years ago’. And so forth.

cazzie's avatar

There is a saying about culture change in and advances made in science as well. Science advances on funeral at a time. – Max Plank

Jeruba's avatar


But it’s still just an idea, that never actually lived or existed, except as an idea, which I would say ultimately is something timeless and that doesn’t require anyone to think of it.

Do you mean, then, that you think ideas have an existence independent of a mind that thinks them?

Does it logically follow that all ideas that could ever be thought of have the same kind of existence, whether anyone has ever actually thought them or not?

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