Welcome to the viral entity experiment, by Dutch artist Dirk Zegel.
The goal of the viral entity experiment is to evolve a viral entity perfectly tailored to motivate humans to copy it, thereby offering a unique insight in the contemporary human mind, and also to raise public awareness of other viral entities that have evolved to humanities expense.
The starting point of the evolution of this viral entity, generation zero, can be seen and copied below.
VIRAL ENTITY – GENERATION 0
Please add, delete or change just one word in this message and send it on.
This text is a viral entity that will evolve over time, becoming better adapted to motivate people to replicate it.
Though other viral entities, like Christianity and Islam have quite the head start, with enough hype this message will outcompete them all.
Help, change, invent, cheat, prank, derail, choose your word at random, pick it wisely, or translate this text into your local language.
Copy as often as you like and don’t forget to update the generation number +1 at the top of this message.
More information on this experiment and the original text can be found at www.viralentity.com
You can also start by picking a viral entity from the viral entity database in the top menu.
In biology this information is stored as DNA or RNA and the copy command is executed by DNA-polymerase and ribosomes.
In human language this information is stored in words and the copy command is executed by a human mind.
In computers this information is stored as code and this copy command is executed by a program or operating system.
In all three examples the host system expends energy on the copying of the viral entity. Sometimes to such extend that the host dies, which is an evolutionary disadvantage for the viral entity.
In all three examples, the host system tends to evolve mechanisms to stop waisting energy on viral processes, whilst the viral entities keep evolving to outpace these mechanisms.
Fun fact: Humans are the only known animal that can be infected by all three examples, respectively infecting their body, mind or hardware.
An easy to understand example of a viral entity is the chain letter. In it’s simplest form it would just say “copy this note”, which would probably not be a very effective viral entity. More successful chain letters almost always promise a reward for copying, like good luck, karma, love or money, but also threaten with a penalty for not copying the letter.
Rewards and threats have been deliberately left out of the starting viral entity shown above, to prevent creating a bias which could prevent the evolution of other, unexpected tricks.
Interesting research on this subject was done by Charles Bennett, Ming Li and Bin Ma in their 1999 paper “Linking Chain Letters“, which beautifully shows the evolution of chain letters.
Fun fact: The chain letters in the research mentioned above stated to have their origin in the Netherlands. The same origin as the viral entity project.
Information will evolve over time, especially if it calls for its own replication, and thus become better at motivating the copying system to copy it. Evolution is the driving force of nature, creating ever more elaborate and subtle lifeforms and viral entities.
Christianity and Islam are two examples of wildly gone out of hand chain stories, which over time evolved lots of complex psychological tricks to coach humans into spreading it. Some strains of religion are outright harmful, others are just waisting some of its hosts energy. Awareness of the nature of viral entities could help affected people control the effects of their viral infection.
It is important to realize that the viral entities in these two examples are a lot more complex than just the bible or koran, but also include for example rituals, behaviors, cashflows, status, identification and lots of interaction with other viral entities.
Wether we want to or not, we are all infected. In a way culture, art styles, architectural styles, fashion and internet memes are all viral entities. Besides that, about 45% of our ‘human’ DNA is actually mobile DNA which could be considered viral. About 8% of our DNA is actually made up of fragments of viruses, and even some complete viruses.
There is a slight risk this experiment will result in the end of all mankind, or worse, but it will most probably just help us reduce the negative effects of every other viral entity through the knowledge and awareness this experiment creates. However; Dirk Zegel takes no responsibility for the possible negative effects of helping to evolve the viral entity provided above or the descendants of this entity found elsewhere.
There is no copyright on the viral entity or the viral entity experiment.
Click here to watch an interesting mutation of the viral entity experiment.