The Art of Virality: a clinic analysis of the Ice Bucket Challenge, Ebola and the ISIS Terror Campaign
Alexandros K. Liakopoulos, CEO and Chief Strategist
This is an analysis on the emerging strategic realities and threats, methods and tactics of modern info wars. The paper brings in a single framework and concept of analysis all viral phenomena, be it human-to-human, human-to-machine, machine-to-machine and human-to-machine-to-human.
During the last months the Ice Bucket Challenge hits the World of the West; some of the Rest may also get affected and suffer from its manifestations, but mainly the virus is contained within massive social media penetrated societies. This is Information Era virality and to be threatened one should primarily be connected. This means not that the virus may not be transmitted with human-to-human interaction; but it certainly means it is a “machine-born” virus, escalating its transmition with machine-to-human interaction; it copies itself, it multiplies and it replicates, within their hosts, affecting their overall health, judgment and actions, as all biological agents also do. This also means we are already beyond the concept of computer virus, far into the land of the “Machine Use of the Human Beings”, to paraphrase, Norbert Wiener’s “The Human Use of Human Beings” , one of the Initial Scripts of Information Cosmology that is.
We are already far into the land of exchange of substance between human and the machine, both ways. This is a drastically new factor of the environment, of the cosmos that is, disrupting it in a holistic manner and affecting all notions, ideas and manifestations of realities. This new external environment needs to get analyzed for its strategic and conceptual implications and results, as it is within strategically defined environments that the info wars of today have replaced, substituted or combined harmonically with more brutal manifestations of the human activity of war.
Terminology, Linguistics and Philosophy of Information Clinics
Info Virus is neither Biological, nor Computer Virus. The new term info virus needs to be defined; till today it exists not. Info viruses affect Human primarily under his/her nature of a coherent whole –a system or wholeness – of continually renewed information. Then and only then, to a second phase that is, info viruses, through the mind, affect the Human as a biological entity. Info virus is designed to attack Wiener’s Human at the first stage of the attack and only to a second stage they mobilize the actions of “Leonardo’s automated human machine” under the influence the virus. An Info Virus is a carrier of malware information for human perception transmitted through the machine. It creates and operates as a mental disease, causing a limited or a permanent malfunction to the ones who get affected; some viruses drive their victims to their own and other peoples’ death: they are not to play around; they are as deadly as biological factors may also be.
An info virus is malware information capable of transmitting itself to the Human from and through the Machine, but not directly from and through another Human. Info viruses are manipulated and manipulative information; even the noblest causes and ideas can provide shelter to info viruses. To the contrast of the Human-to-Human Interaction, Machine-to-Human interaction makes info viruses possible due to their corresponding environment: electronic information is capable of generating disoriented - sick – activities, reactions and results, in real or near real time, through stimulus of extraordinary intensity and gravity. Physical information generates less intensive stimulus and therefore would need much more time – if not for ever – to create the same effects, results or damage of an info virus.
To convince a Human to have a cold bath before the eyes of the worldwide public of social media, for a good cause, can take a lot of talking with understandably no positive result. The same would apply with much bigger certainty if one tried to convince someone to behead someone; or, also, to become a martyr. One the other hand, it could just take a YouTube video release, a Facebook post or a twit: info viruses become possible in Information Society and not in the physical world. Info Viruses distinct themselves from totalitarian and/or hatred ideas , to which they should not be confused; totalitarian/hatred ideas can create lots of info viruses, as also can the noblest ideas of them all if manipulated properly. But for info viruses to get transmitted there is the need of the Machine, which acts like the medium for info viruses’ transmition, like an info syringe. All short of information – or idea – may serve as the generator of info viruses, but totalitarian/hatred ideas can do it much more easily. Info viruses get created more easily from totalitarian/hatred ideologies, but not exclusively from them. After they do so however, from whichever information they may be created, they spread though the machine to the general public; they travel through Information Society, mainly through social media; they attack and affect Human perception through the Machine; they disrupt basic notions of reality; they confuse enough or totally destroy and then conquer the mind; they are able to disrupt any former ideas with their corresponding framework, in an effort to create a new one, partially or totally, for a limited or permanent time – in other words, with limited or permanent results and damages for their victims and the victims of those.
Info viruses are Human creations so far; it should be expected that Machine-created info viruses will start to be produced in an automated way in the short to medium term, following current technological trends. This tendency will develop exponential results in parallel with Machine’s progressive exponential liberty from Human. The question of the nature of intelligence, of its very definition and of its limits has central importance in this discussion, but it is not in the scope of this paper.
Info viruses are weapons that resemble to the biological ones. When they spread to general population, they create info epidemics. An info epidemic is “an info virus Humans that gather crowds and to which pandemic is “ . Defined differently, an info pandemic is an info virus going viral at large, passing borders and affecting big parts of the crowds at their very spiritual integrity and mind health, manipulating their ideas, altering their old ones and pushing them to the extremes or forming brand new beliefs. Info viruses take advantage of and push for a disruption of character; in the absence of character integrity and self-coherence, info viruses produce exponentional results.
The most vulnerable to info viruses part of the population is the least educated and most populated one. The least educated the people are, the weaker their internal defenses should be expected to be and the most wild their passions, the most strong and less flexible their beliefs. This is a perfect environment for an info virus to find shelter and thrive. Education to its wider sense possible, even if crucially important for the better defense against the initial attack, it is not, however, a sufficient info antidote. Only highly-trained professionals, accompanied with accurate technology, may be able to protect themselves from an info virus attack sufficiently. What doctors cannot do – protect themselves – confronting a deadly biological factor without the proper training and equipment, the same way the info professionals cannot protect themselves without proper knowledge and equipment. Doctors can very well know what a virus is, but they can do nothing to keep him off their body or some other peoples’ one, or kill-extract the virus after it has entered the system, without necessary knowledge and specialization, corresponding technology and anti-virus drugs. The same applies to the professionals of information as well: they may understand very well an info virus when they see it, but it does not mean they can protect themselves against it, without proper precautions and corresponding equipment.
Leveraging peoples’ passions, or even instincts, at great large numbers, info viruses transmit and thrive through false beliefs, hate and the fear factor. These viruses disrupt the overall orientation of the Human, along with the scope, range and comparative weight of the actions-under-the-influence-of-the-virus.
Newspeak 2.0 and the Dying of the Languages
At this point, a small parenthesis is needed on the corresponding realities of Information Society which gave birth to this new kind of virus. Information Society’s ‘sacred language’ foresees not so much of people; instead, it speaks of crowds. In Information Society, “we the people” become anonymous – sometime Anonymous as well – and more or less criminalized. To the contrary, “we the crowd” get all the positive attention of the New Era, for all possible reasons: millennia have been trained with the new terminology so that’s all they know; state authorities seemingly have misconceived their “people” as an overall threat and, so, they prefer to do business with crowds: they are more manageable entities, as they are smaller, less organized, easier to spot and dissolve should necessity appear, etc. As for companies, crowds provide with a brand new business model to explore, along with the funds and the glory of the new definitions of success, being it under a personal, institutional, societal, national, political or economic definition.
This is a complete set of a Brand New Era – the Anthropocene that is – with new definitions and new meanings to old words, new problems, new diseases, new weapons and new wars. In this whole new environment, Orwell’s Newspeak at “1984” becomes more and more a corresponding reality of the underlying philosophy behind the changes than a fiction (or function?) book of the past, for the future. Besides allegories and parallelisms, there are some cruel facts: new meanings and new content to old meanings of English words follow an exponential growth graph, manifesting the same qualities with the graphics of epidemics and pandemics of all types of viruses. To the other extreme of this axe of the rise and fall of languages, in our Times of Troubles as George Kaplan calls our era, the Rest of Languages are moving on an exponentional decay graph, marking the Dying of the Languages.
Information Society sets an Era of unprecedented extremeness to all fields of human activities of the past in the same time, now. Having matured for a certain period of time, Information Society produces today its results with an exponentional growth to mostly all fields of activity, disrupting everything and setting new standards about everything.
Viruses could not escape and they did not: therefore, they mutated to present themselves to the whole new environment of Info World, a new set that is, created by Human, hosted by the Machine, co-managed from both more and more, or - equally apparent – chaotically unmanaged to the extreme.
To the extend “each language is a whole other reality and enriches the world with its wisdom”, as Noam Chomsky puts it, it follows that – through this unprecedented Dying of the Languages – Human gets deprived of a big part of knowledge, of wisdom, with which each language corresponds by and through its linguistics. To a certain extent, every time a language extinct, Humanity loses a part of itself, ie its character, knowledge and wisdom, along with its overall capacity to explain different realities and different perceptions of the same reality. It misses its chance to observe the world and describe it through multiple frameworks, to understand and see through them.
The “boom” of the English language cannot recompense and counterbalance Humanity’s losses due to the Dying of lots of the Rest. Human will pay a heavy corresponding tax on its very nature, due to this very reality; Humanity’s very nature is preconditioned to variety of perceptions. Single perceptions create total ideas. Total ideas lead to mass and mostly mutual destructions. History is quite indicative on the subject.
Closing this brief parenthesis, how do all these get connected? Why are Newspeak 2.0 and info wars of any importance and in any relation to the Ice Bucket Challenge and the Information Virality as described and defined above? Is there an underlying factor or a pattern that we may observe to replicate from field to field, manifesting results in multiple ways, the wholeness of which is partially or totally responsible for international and internal progress-to-chaos situations that characterize most societies of today?
These are the million dollar questions of our times, or – to be inflation and adjustment-to-growth accurate and updated – the billion dollar questions.