Copy Either of These Two "Image" Viruses to Your Web Page

Clifford A. Pickover

Neither of these two "viruses" will do any harm. After all, they're just images. Yet, in a strange way, they act like viruses, and can be tracked like a spreading epidemic, or like a radioactive probe introduced into the bloodstream. The wording on the image viruses will attract others to copy one of them to their web pages. Let me know if you take either image and put it on your page so I can track their spread. Place one on your page today! In a few years, this probe will be everywhere on the web.

This will surely be a conversation piece. Future historians of the web will wonder how it all started. Be part of the amazing adventure.

Questions to ponder regarding the spread of information on the web:

  1. It has been said that all people on Earth are linked to one another by a chain of five or fewer acquaintances. For example, if I were to give you a random name of someone in California, you could get a message to him or her by giving a message to a friend or yours who perhaps lived somewhere in the western U.S. This person would, in turn, give the message to another friend, and so on. In five or fewer steps, your message would arrive at the destination through a chain of friends. This closeness and interrelatedness has profound implications on how we view the world.
  2. If all the computers attached to the Internet were to collaborate on a single problem, would humanity find answers to questions that are now too hard to solve? If everyone on the planet had access to infinite computer speed and memory, how would the world be different? (I answer this question in my book Computers and the Imagination.)
  3. Rumors are easily spread on the Internet. Extrapolating from what we now know, what does this mean for the future of our planet? For example, someone now could put up a false web site advertising organs for transplantation, with an ordering form and even pictures of organs. How can you tell what is real on the web?
  4. Many people do not like "spam" -- unsolicited junk e-mail from anonymous people trying to sell products. Currently, people often get 10 "spams" in a single day. What prevents people from getting 100 a day? What actions should be taken to solve this problem?
  5. To what degree is the Internet like a human brain?
  6. Could aliens, with very strong satellite receivers, be monitoring the Internet right now? I like to imagine the faint possibility that supercivilizations are already linked in a galactic federation of intelligent beings. Perhaps they are experienced in making contacts with emerging intelligence such as our own. If there are super-intelligent, technological races in our Galaxy, then the Messengers may already be here in our Solar System, hibernating in wait mode. This is a safe way for the aliens to gain or give information without making the dangerous interstellar voyage. There may be thousands of Messengers swarming in the asteroid belt, reproducing using the large deposits of metals in this region. Their antennas might be pointed at Earth right now -- waiting for the next Einstein, Jesus or Mother Theresa to hit our air waves... Perhaps by monitoring major telephone microwave links between New York and New Jersey or various communication satellites, aliens could be scanning and downloading the entire contents of the Internet's World Wide Web as they searched it for works of art, music, science, and literature. Whether they like it or not, they would also be downloading the ever-increasing pornography, romantic discussions, money-making schemes, Pamela Sue Anderson photos, conspiracy theories, and all manner of wild and weird.

    As hard as it may be to stomach, our entertainment will be our earliest transmissions to the stars. If we ever receive inadvertent transmissions from the stars, it will be their entertainment. Imagine this. The entire Earth sits breathlessly for the first extraterrestrial images to appear on CNN. One of the preppy-and-perfect news anchors appears on our TVs for instant live coverage. And then, beamed to every home, are the alien equivalents of Pamela Sue Anderson in a revealing bathing suit, Beavis and Butthead mouthing inanities and expletives, and an MTV heavy-metal band consisting of screaming squids.

    This is not such a crazy scenario. In fact, satellite studies show that the Super Bowl football action, which is broadcast from more transmitters than any other signal in the world, would be the most easily detected message from Earth. The first signal from an alien world could be the alien equivalent of a football game. Lesson one: we had better not assess an entire culture solely on the basis of their entertainment. Lesson two: you can learn a lot about a culture from their entertainment.

Return to Cliff Pickover's home page which includes the Wishing Project cataloging wishes from various cultures, computer art, educational puzzles, fractals, virtual caverns, JAVA/VRML, alien creatures, black hole artwork, and animations.