A thing from my novel Fog. Memetic weapons are essentially weaponized thoughts that infiltrate a target's mind--or possibly many targets--and either destroy their minds or edit them in such a way as to benefit the user's aims. They're often used in the form of meme bombs, clouds of utility fog that serve as the computational strait for nosois--sentient viruses--to attack many targets in an area. These sorts of nanoweapons are the simplest delivery mechanism, and the only one mastered by near-baseline entities. However, there are other, more advanced delivery mechanisms like weaponized art, which use ultra high information density music or visual art to convey the information needed to distribute the memetic weapons. The key idea is that they force targets into a mindstate that is beneficial to the attacker's aims.
Several ways to do this, and not mutually exclusive:
- Directly attack the system itself, effectively shutting down or rendering inoperable critical mental functions. One of the simplest examples is the weapons-grade earworm, which simply causes a thought--often musical--to be inserted into the target's mind and copied billions of times, clogging up memory space, overwriting data, and eating up enough processing power to make the target's brain unresponsive. There are also cybernetic prions, which act much like their namesake.
- Alter the target's memories or perception of reality. Similar to sensory engineering, but carried out from directly within the brain instead of deceiving the target's sensors themselves. What they see and hear isn't being altered, but how they interpret it is. This sort of memetic weapon can convince the target that their friends are their enemies, their enemies are their friends, and that instead of standing on the ground, they are hanging upside down above a bottomless abyss. (Yes there is a memetic weapon that has that particular effect.)
- Alter the target's convictions and beliefs. Requires much subtler and more fine-grained control of the target's mind, but is also far more versatile and difficult to detect. This is sometimes known as passive, or "weak" possession as it can be used to edit the target's mind into a rough copy of the attacker.
- Overwhelming and destroying the target's memetic defenses. Not dangerous in and of itself, but makes the target defenseless against common memes and spam, which quickly strike and mentally alter the target beyond recognition. Makes it difficult to identify the attacker and is thus commonly used by spies and assassins.
- Active, or "strong" possession. Sentient or even sophont entities--or very rarely meta-aware high ais--are downloaded into the target's mind. From here, they can move on to take over the target mind or otherwise alter it in a continual and extremely versatile fashion. There is a subset of active posession weapons that download a partial or even a full copy of the user himself into the target's mind.
I conceived of an example of an active possession weapon last night, the Eros Bomb: when this device infiltrates the target's mind, it begins making thousands, millions, even billions of partial copies of the user, typically tweaked slightly so as to be idealized forms. The copies endlessly self-replicate, taking up more and more memory space and processing power until, if they are not stopped, they clog up the target's mind to such a degree that crucial processes slow down or freeze, and it is simply impossible not to think about the user because their copies are everywhere. These copies then cause the target to perform extreme and bizarre acts of loyalty and devotion which may appear to have no purpose, but secretly serve the agenda of the user. High ais and posthumans attacked by Eros Bombs have been known to engineer entire civilizations and ecospheres from scratch, build colossal monuments in space for no apparent reason, start devastating interplanetary wars, and ask people out.
Naturally, most citizens have a variety of defensive systems to counter memetic attacks, which need not come from the military or government--corporations, religious groups, activist organizations, and even individuals acting for personal reasons, have all been recorded to use memetic weapons.