If we are self replicating Automata does that mean that pure altruism is a virus?

This sounds like a mad question.

Perhaps it is.

Let me explain why I am asking it; I watched the fantastic BBC documentary series “All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace” (if you missed it I highly recommend you visit i-player and immerse yourself).

The final part of this three parter was by far the most thought provoking and chilling piece of Television I have watched for ages. The topic was how we have come to believe that human kind are essentially flesh machines, driven to self replicate their code at any price.

The brain is the computer, DNA the kernel of the operating system.

As we all know computer hardware is disposable, it’s the information that is precious…

The premise of the program was that the DNA code would push people to behave in ways that seem at odds with what we understand to be the innate survival instinct of the individual, driving people to sacrifice themselves for their peers.

DNA is selfish it wants to replicate and continue uncaring of the vessel that carries it.

There was much hat tipping to Darwinists like Richard Dawkins who coined the term ‘selfish gene’.

The theories of Geneticists Hamilton & Price suggested that some people may be genetically pre-programmed to commit murder, and all manner of atrocities.

We were then presented with the horrors of the genocides committed in Rwanda and the Congo as examples of this kind of behavior.

Altruism as a genetic survival strategy.

Members of the same races & tribes have similar DNA so self sacrifice in the pursuit of a race war is explainable in these terms states the theory. If we are to follow this logic and the program makers assert that many of us do it would explain why we no longer feel like we are able to make a difference.

Pure philanthropy is not in the interests of our DNA – it does not ensure the propagation of our genetic code. So we watch disasters and wars with a resigned collective shrug figuring that it is just a symptom of the human condition. Price, one of the scientists that created the theory was so shaken by his insights that he converted to Christianity and gave away all of his possessions almost as if he was trying to prove his theory wrong.

So why do some people buck this trend?

Why do people choose to help others who are not genetically similar?

Why do people form relationships across racial boundaries. Why do individuals choose to consciously make a difference and combat the collective apathy.

Dawkins has described the spread of ideas as “memes”. So we can liken what I like to think of as enlightened behaviour and ideas as a virus that changes the way that the operating condition behaves.

I for one think that if that is the case this is one virus we should be propagating.


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