Life is so exciting. Why? Because we have developed a brain to learn and remember, to process and analyse.
I am sure a neurologist and a psychologist could describe this better. But then, would they know more about the workings of the human mind than Shakespeare, Da Vinci, Dunne or Blake?
I could liken the structure of our thoughts to the layers of software to run a computer, from firmware to applications. The reason that can be done is because at the very top of the hierarchy sits our imagination.
The virus, from the Latin meaning ‘poison’, has been described as an ‘organism on the edge of life’. A virus has genetic material. It evolves through reproduction and thus natural selection. But on the other hand they cannot make their own energy, one of the definitions of life.
When in contact with host cells the nucleic acid of the virus, it’s DNA or RNA, infects that cell and causes the host to replicate the virus until it bursts expelling new replications that go on to infect other cells.
The analogy of a pathogen works well in other areas of our lives.
We see a malicious code modifying computer programs and replicating. As with the organic viruses it is the code that is the infection.
It does not require a big leap of the imagination to see the same characteristics if we consider the theory of ‘cultural viruses’. We would easily accept that minds can be poisoned, especially young or vulnerable minds.
Let us go back now and consider the original and see if the list of characteristics continue to show similarities with machine and intellectual processes.
Are all viruses malignant? No, and as with a lot of things in life, the space between the poles is full of grey. The Seneca Valley Virus-001 can kill cancer cells 10,000 better than chemotherapy. Bacteriophages can stop acne and others. Cowpox served in the development of a vaccine for Smallpox. The discovery of the Human Placental viral gene leads to other questions about the beginnings of life, the creation, synergy and evolution of life.
The study of viruses have increased our understanding about ourselves.
Organic viruses can be passed on genetically. If machines make machines one should keep an open mind on that comparison.
Consider cultural viruses in this context (1):
There is another important and benign consequence. The improvement of the human immune system. Advantages can be made from adversity. That is life, evolution, progress from experience. We always have to deal with the real world and there is so much to learn.
Viruses have made our systems more robust.
The characteristics of viruses provide an effective tool for studying events in life processes.
Thus they have allowed us to develop solutions that we may not have been able to and certainly fresh perspectives in ecology.
Viruses mutate, challenging epidemiology. Polymorphus code for machines has similar effects.
Now consider cultural viruses in this context (2):
Viruses are energy parasites. They rely on the host. The machine virus has no power of its own it is not free standing as a useful entity. Likewise the power of a cultural virus is derived from its host.
When the Black Death struck, was it selective? Did it just pick the weak and simple, the unsuccessful or the ‘troublesome’? Was the Black Death discretionary about status, wealth, worth or intellect? No, there was no discretion in human terms all were vulnerable. Is the machine or the cultural virus selective?
To avoid the Black Death one would have to understand how infection occurs. To avoid a computer virus one would have to understand how it attacks and how it is detected. How would one avoid a religious or political virus?
The common factor in combating all forms of virus is knowledge.
We must discover how the information is transmitted and the genomes of the threat.
This analogy cannot be new. Others must have noticed. But the analogy is complex. Knowledge of the type of virus will allow the manufacture effective antidotes and ‘anti-viral drugs’. That is: answers, slogans and de-radicalisation solutions.
To understand cultural viruses one must also have some idea of the human condition.
To answer (1) and (2): We know memes are hereditary. A complex web of intellectual argument is embedded into the explanation. Language is corrupted and perspectives are shifted by propaganda.
Great care must now be taken.
Humans do not yet understand the part played by viruses in our evolution. It is my own personal belief that the ‘viral analogy’ is a reasonable tool for analysis. I cannot express the complexities, synergies and benefits of analogous ‘cultural viruses’.
The purpose of this essay is to challenge the malignance of Socialism, not to challenge people’s belief systems in general, some of which are benign.
When political beliefs become obsessive or irrational, can the exponents be classed as infected or diseased?
Here is a set of symptoms devised by Dawkins to identify sufferers. I mark those matching the symptoms of Socialism.
- The believer is impelled by a deep conviction that the belief is true, right and virtuous, without evidence or against evidence. Yes
- That the belief is itself a virtue and is strong and unshakable. Yes
- There is a conviction that “mystery” element in is a good thing, that it is not a virtue to challenge the belief. Maybe?
- There may be intolerance towards perceived rival beliefs. This can manifest itself in violence. Yes
- The particular convictions involved although not evidence based can be similar to parents belief. Yes
- If the believer is not ‘following’ their parents the explanation of transmission may be contact with an influential individual. Yes
- The ‘internal sensations’ of the believer may be passionate. Yes
We must fully understand Socialism and the threat it poses. Only then will we assemble an array of effective answers and slogans to de-radicalise.