Pure Parasite Heaven

Computers have interesting properties when considered as viral or memetic breeding grounds. The phrase "computer virus" isn't as misleading as it might seem. While computers may not be very good at some of the things popular culture expects them to be good at (HAL is behind schedule, much less Rudy from The Jetsons), computers are very good at manipulating information. They are not good at doing anything with the information--I'm sure Marvin Minsky would be delighted to find a computer with judgment--but for replicating or altering pure data, computers are a good bet.

This is pure parasite heaven. Back in the dinosaur days of computers, there was a game called Core Wars. The goal of the game was to write self-replicating pieces of code and then drive the other players' code to extinction. The last piece of code left in memory was the winner. Not being programmers, most folks currently using computers have never played Code Wars, but I'll bet they've seen a piece of data/a lexia/a meme entitled "Good Times." That little annoyance is going to be around for years. It's a result of people's desire to use the new electronic media and the fecundity provided therein. A friend of mine who works for Brown's computer services described it as a "social virus." True enough--anyone who has been using the Internet for any length of time must be thoroughly sick of seeing it. People sometimes are no more discriminating than computers when it comes to dissemination. "Good Times" is a thoroughly successful meme, and I wouldn't be surprised it outlasts a number of real viruses--vaccines for virii are simply a matter of scientific research, but people have been trying to teach one another how to behave for the last three thousand years or more...

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Inf(l)ections by Steve Cook