Related imageNo, this article is not about how my computer has been infected. Many younger people today may find this hard to believe, but before there were computer viruses, there were biological ones.

A virus is a machine more perfect and efficient than anything mankind could manufacture. It is a difficult beast to describe; scientists aren’t even sure whether it is “alive” in any sense of the word. That’s because viruses contain genes but no cell structure or metabolism, considered critical to life.

Whatever viruses are, they have a somewhat poor reputation, because they have probably killed more people than all wars and murders combined; not millions, or even tens of millions, but hundreds of millions have been slain by something the poor victims couldn’t even see.

Viruses come in essentially three different flavours: the good, the bad and the ugly, and the ugliest one of all is Ebola. This monster can kill within several days, and it does it in a most horrific way: it essentially liquefies your organs from the inside. Victims bleed to death from the inside out.

What’s interesting is that Ebola, like all deadly viruses, does not actually intend to kill its host. It’s simply making copies of itself, because that’s what it is programmed to do. Essentially, it is trying to turn its host (a person) into a giant copy of itself. In the process, it destroys the host. Hence, their nasty reputation.

But what if you could make a good virus? In fact, such viruses have been developed. Years ago it was discovered that milkmaids who had been infected with the relatively mild cowpox virus were immune to the much deadlier smallpox virus. This led to smallpox vaccination. In fact, most vaccines today contain weakened versions of viruses that protect you against the nastier ones. In genetic medicine experiments, harmless viruses carry useful genes into cells. For example, scientists have tried treating a genetic disease by letting a virus insert a crucial gene into liver cells that protects against harmful cholesterol.

Therefore, we should not always fear the virus. In fact, we can learn much from it. Earlier I said how viruses are simply trying to make their hosts into copies of themselves. That is precisely what an information developer is trying to do to the reader. A successful information developer infects the host agent (the reader) with the knowledge already contained in the information developer’s mind. In doing so, the developer is creating copying the information into the reader’s brain. The more efficiently and accurately the information developer can do this, the better the infection.

And the best part is, that, unlike the Ebola virus, the reader’s brain won’t be liquefied in the process. Unless you are a really, really poor writer. Unfortunately, there’s no vaccine for that.