30 years ago, when I was just a teenager, back in the Amiga 500 days, a fellow computer friend of me had some friends over from school to visit him. These school friends of my computer friend knew nothing about computers. One of the girls from his class carefully lifted up a disc, holding it by one of its corners, barely touching it, treating it as if it was a dangerous diseased rat or something, as she asked my computer friend; “Does it have virus?”
My friend later told me the story, and we laughed by the incident, and how ridiculously stupid his classmates were. Today that story is no longer funny, because such viruses actually exists, and they’re based upon the fact that computers can convey information to a human host, that creates some sort of dangerous or negative side-effect in the human host’s brain. The technical term for such a virus is “Meme virus”.
Meme is the Latin term for an “idea”. Most ideas are harmless, but some very few, can create extreme physical reactions, and trigger the host to do all sorts of negative things. The obvious example here is a person who is the target of bullying, and told that he or she is worth nothing, until the existence becomes unbearable, and the person commits suicide. The “idea” here, is the constant repetition of how “worthless” the individual is, and the consequence is suicide. However, even more dangerous memes than these exists.
Derren Brown proved a couple of years ago that he was able to turn approximately 75% of his test subjects into murderers. Simply by planting suggestions in the human host’s mind, and combining this with hypnosis. 3 out of 4 people were willing to murder a stranger they had never met before, because Derren Brown was able to convince them that it was the best thing they could do. These were random people, he picked up on the streets of London, and was in no ways particularly weak or radical. These were the people who serve you coffee on Starbucks, drives your taxi, and some of them were even computer scientists. Still, most of them were willing to murder a stranger, believing that there was no other way to solve a situation. Derren Brown was able to “manipulate” these people into committing murder in 6 hours.
Humans are adaptable, this is our most important survival trait. However, it is also our weakness, since it makes it possible to modify a human being’s environment, by feeding it information, and such change its fundamental ethics and morals. This makes us particularly vulnerable for what I like to call “meme viruses”, which are viruses that infects the human brain, and feeds it information, that makes the human capable of doing things it would under no circumstance do by itself, if it hadn’t been fed this information.
For a computer to create such a virus is ridiculously easy, especially if it has access to a mountain of information about human psychology, in the forms of something such as Facebook or Twitter. Other humans could also exploit this information, to consciously devise a computer meme virus, and spread it to the world using social media. According to Derren Brown, making a murderer, could be easily done in less than 6 hours, and roughly 75% of humans would end up murdering a stranger, believing it was “the best thing to do”.
So yes, a computer virus, can easily infect human hosts, and could in theory, initiate computer Armageddon and world war 3, making humans start killing strangers – And it would require no more than 6 hours. And thanks to Facebook, such a virus could easily infect 2 billion people, within hours of breaking loose. And most people wouldn’t even see it coming, before it was finished with its rampage.
Facebook, Twitter, and Google etc, are in fact explicitly created to “plant memes” into our minds. This is because of their business models, that are based upon selling ads. Their business model, and how they make money, have made its engineers consciously devise their websites and apps, such that they should be able to create a maximum impact for advertisers. The dangerous side-effect of this, is that they’re also perfect distribution channels for spreading “meme viruses”, since they are consciously designed to manipulate its subjects minds, at maximum capacity.
In fact, Facebook could raise an army of zombies, of 2 billion people, in roughly 6 hours.