Wednesday, 4 August 2010

The Imagination Virus.

Once I wrote a story called 'Telephone Pest' in which a silent phone call will enslave and eventually kill people. It was fiction. About six months later, a rumour spread around an African country to the effect that if you received a silent phone call on your mobile, you would die within 24 hours. I wondered then if someone might have read that story (it was published on the Internet) and thought it funny to scare their friends with the idea. I don't know if there was a connection and I doubt I ever will.

If you picked up a copy of this (download is free) then you'll have read that story, and one called The Imagination Virus. It's fiction too, of course. It couldn't possibly happen. A virus that changes how you see the world? Ridiculous.

Trooper Thompson finds that maybe it's not so ridiculous at all. There is an inoculation against stress under development, virus-based, that will dispel your rage and make you calm and focused.

In other words, it will turn you into an Eloi. No matter what is done to you, you won't get angry or upset about it. Sound good? Really?

When they take your children, you won't mind. When they tell you what you can eat and drink, you won't mind. When they order you to the organ donation slaughterhouse, you won't mind. Even when you find out that Soylent Green is made of people, you won't mind. You can't worry about it. You've been immunised against worry.

I'm sure those who devised this idea and developed it thought they were doing something good. They did it to help the traumatised and the desperate, I'm sure. They did it without considering what the corrupt and evil in government could do with it.

I'm pretty sure that Albert Einstein didn't have nuclear bombs in mind when he first formulated his equations, and nor did Marie Curie when she figured out how radioactivity worked. I don't think Edward Jenner had biological weapons in mind when he worked out to vaccinate people. No, I don't think the scientists in this case have evil intent at all.

The politicians who will control this, however, have nothing but evil intent.

If this new vaccine against rage works, it will be virus borne. It does not necessarily have to be injected.

Futuristic and impossible, I hear you say. Just like face transplants and tiny recorders capable of holding a thousand songs and playing them in high-quality stereo. As impossible as landing a robotic device on Mars and controlling it from Earth. As ridiculous as the idea that you could surf the Internet from a little phone. An insane imagining, like the lunatic proposal that an aeroplane could be made invisible to radar or that a satellite could photograph your house and garden and even the top of your head. The very idea of babies grown in the lab then implanted in women and brought to term is just the babblings of an overactive imagination. Isn't it?

Can't happen, huh? I have, in my little lab, a cure for Clostridium difficile and I am one independent scientist working alone, with no access to the massively sophisticated equipment available to big labs. I've seen that stuff and it would make your eyes pop out. Cloning and DNA manipulation is now a piece of piss with such equipment. It can do thousands of manipulations a day, automatically, and test them all. Someone I know who works with such things complained recently that modern hard drives are not big enough to cope with the rate of data generation from these machines. Just let that sink in for a moment.

Science can clone entire animals and create a virus from bottles of chemicals. Seriously. The first bacteria created from scratch are now being developed. Meddling with things we don't fully understand, unleashing forces we cannot control and tampering with the very fabric of life is what we do. It's in the job description. Some of us are careful about it, others are not.

So could a virus be developed that is designed to latch on to brain tissue and deliver a DNA payload that will integrate into the brain cells and affect their operation?

That part is a doddle.

What it does once it's in there, well now that's where we get to the 'tampering' part...

I'm glad I never drink unboiled water.

Although I wonder if I should maybe stop publishing stories. They seem to be giving some people ideas.


Anonymous said...

Egad - have these people never seen "Serenity" or "Firefly"?

In that series, the central government tried the same thing on an entire planet. The result was that almost all the inhabitants became so docile, they simply sat around and starved to death.

The rest became so incredibly violent that they became "The Reapers", the scourge of every inhabited planet.

A liberal friend once told me that it was the government's job to dictate the lives of those who weren't smart enough to do it themselves. I said that's all well and good, but what if you are deemed "not smart enough"? He didn't have a reply to that one...

banned said...

Obviously not satisfied with 4 million people self-medicating with variants of benzodiazepine including how many 'over-active' children reduced to zombies with Ritalin.
And we thought Shaun Of The Dead was just for laughs.

JuliaM said...

"I'm sure those who devised this idea and developed it thought they were doing something good. They did it to help the traumatised and the desperate, I'm sure. "

I'm sure, too. Have you watched the film 'Serenity'? Because this quote comes to mind:

"Sure as I know anything, I know this - they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, ten? They'll swing back to the belief that they can make people... better."

Alex Cull said...

The phone virus idea also sounds similar to the Pulse in "Cell" by Stephen King, although that didn't exactly make its victims docile!

"What it does once it's in there, well now that's where we get to the 'tampering' part..." Nanotechnology is coming along nicely now, so that part may well become straightforward soon, as well.

There are those among my work colleagues who say "I'm just not interested in science fiction." I remind them: "Ah, but science fiction is interested in you."

Anonymous said...

Anon #1, I was going to mention the exact same thing. And it's Reavers, gorramit.

Anonymous said...

I read both those stories and they are the two that frightened me the most (thanks for that).

Anonymous said...

You can lookup dollhouse as well, it the programe he made after firefly/serenity.

Tampering with peoples brain over the phone and such, starts of abit slow but gets good.

Anonymous said...

Not forgetting A Clockwork Orange in which Malcolm McDowell's forced to undergo aversion therapy...


Anonymous said...

Anon 08:36 here, returning to leave an additional comment since a thought has just occurred to me.

Given the multiple Serenity references thus far, perhaps the motto/rallying cry/secret knock of Smoky-Drinky should be 'We aim to Misbehave'?

Dave H said...

Although not a virus (I think) isn't infection with Toxoplasma, er, 'Gonadsomething' said change your personality in relatively subtle ways? I thought it had been put forward as one explanation for the way the French drive (not entirely in jest). I think it's supposed to make mice less afraid of cats too; rather a neat way of turning them into a vector.

Rabies can certainly change your personality (and I'm sure that's a virus, just can't remember the name). An exasperated boss once said to me: 'please, Dave, try drinking some water.' This was in a part of the world where the disease is endemic and I'm sure he was concerned that my drinking habits suggested hydrophobia.

None of this relates well to your post.

I'd really like to be able to leave an answerphone message or email filter that sucked the soul out of telemarketeers and/or spam emailers. Maybe even just rumours of one would be enough to deter Nigerian fraudsters.

Anonymous said...

Stunned speechless::


Anonymous said...

But would the powers-that-be really want a totally docile population? For sure, it would make life simpler if everyone simply did what the authorities instructed without all those pesky individual differences getting in the way, but isn’t half the fun for these people the fact that they have the power to force people to obey them, even when it’s not what they want to do? Power itself becomes pretty meaningless when there’s only a few people who have it, but nobody else cares or wants any for themselves. It’s a bit like turning yourself into “the weather” – something that no-one can do anything about, but also something that no-one pays any more notice of than is practically necessary. It just, sort of, "is." And that’s not much of an ego-trip, is it? And a totally docile population which is unable to feel anger or affront or indignation would certainly considerably reduce the active numbers amongst the anti-smoking community - anyone could light up in a pub and nobody else would care!

So, maybe not such a bad idea, after all ………

Leg-iron said...

I haven't seen Serenity. I'll look out for it.

DaveH- there are many parasites with brain-altering abilities. There's one in grasshoppers that makes them dive into water and drown so the parasite can move to the next stage of its life cycle. Another makes snails advertise themselves to birds, so they get eaten and continue the parasite's life cycle.

Humans are more complex, of course, but we can already be controlled with drugs. It's far from impossible to design a communicable mind-control agent.

Leg-iron said...

Morgan - good catch. No matter how highly paid they are, no matter how fit and healthy, no matter how successful, no matter that nobody has noticed before, smokers can't possibly be professional footballers.

It spoils that image of cancerous, hacking-cough NHS-draining wasters, doesn't it?

Leg-iron said...

Anon 22:55 - such an inoculation would be especially useful in controlling the uncontrollable. The drones don't need it.

We wouldn't be smoking in pubs either. We'd be told not to smoke or drink in there.

And we'd just accept it.

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