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You can’t not read. That’s the trick of it.

Your eyes see ink arranged into the shape of letters, and your brain descrambles the image, assembles the words, and deciphers their meaning without you even having time to think about it. You can’t stop it if you want to. It is entirely unconscious, automatic, always on; the perfect vector for the perfect weapon.

The McCollough effect is a famous optical illusion; look at a set of coloured bars, and then at a black and white version of the same. The colours from the first carry over, infecting the way you see the world.

This weapon does something similar. You’ll find it embedded in a block of text somewhere, scrawled on a wall in spray paint, posted in a forum, forwarded to you in a message. You won’t notice it. You’ll just read it and move on, like you do with so many other snippets of text every day. Pull. Push. Please wait until passengers have left the train to board. Try our shampoo. Try our soap. And somewhere in that mess, the statement, and once you’ve read it, that’s it. It’s in.

Once you’re exposed it starts to work, rebuilding the way you see the world. What was once black and white becomes coloured, and what was coloured becomes black and white. Eventually this process will move beyond the subconscious, but by the time you start to wonder if something’s changed it’s already done its job; everything that follows will feel like your own idea. There will come a moment where you begin to question things you thought you knew. Things you always knew. Up is down, and right is wrong, and shouldn’t you tell people this?

Like any good memetic agent, it spreads itself.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I haven’t even told you what it’s for yet. All this talk about reframing the world, colouring it in — what does that actually mean?

Well, that would be giving the game away. It won’t work if you notice it.

Image courtesy of AB.Ç, used under a Creative Commons Licence.