The Information Virus
I'm currently in the process of writing a book in the little free time that I have available (which isn't much these days!). The book will be titled 'The Information Virus' and, as the title indicates, will take a bio-inspired broad look at how information spreads and influences us both in the conscious and unconscious realms. While I won't be the first to describe information in this way, I plan to take a different approach in expressing the concept and tying together the latest research in related fields.
Given how much I believe this issue impacts us on an individual and societal level, it's been a fascinating subject that I've increasingly felt the need to write about over time, and I hope to bring a unique perspective that goes beyond memetics.
While Dawkins drew analogies between the spread of certain cultural traits and the inheritance of genes, I view all information as a contagion (not in a negative sense). Whether it then infects, mutates and is passed on depends on the host, environment and the form of exposure. In fact, sections of our genetic material were recently discovered to host traces of ancient viruses, so, much like human microbiota, while they may not necessarily be native to us in a way that our own genes are, they remain a fundamental part of us and our world; Much like information.
It's also important to remember that information can move from influencing psychology (conscious or unconscious) to determining biological outcomes. If I were to sit across from you at this very moment and express information that angered, saddened, stressed or moved you enough, this would likely result in an endocrine response that would itself determine how that contagion (the information received), would evolve. How you respond to this information would further depend on a variety of other factors, including again biological and psychological factors. Are you short-tempered? Did the words touch a nerve, a particular memory from your past perhaps?
All of this matters for understanding how and why information spreads; Whether it's to get more people aware of a certain issue, or to understand how malign information propagates and how/whether it can be stopped.
In writing this book, I'll be drawing from biology, psychology, business, IT, economics, sociology and politics, among other subjects - and using case studies along the way to make it accessible enough for a general audience.
I'm no stranger to writing long pieces of prose, having written a thesis/dissertation, as well as two feature length screenplays (it's a long story - literally), but the challenge of a book is entirely new to me. Unlike the other forms of writing, there really isn't any standardised length or limit, so it comes down to how long it takes for you to make your point in a way that you'd like and which the reader can understand. Writing a book like this is also a great opportunity, not only to share your knowledge, but also to be enriched by the many new things that you learn along the way.
I still see the act of writing as something incredibly beneficial, that everyone should be doing on a regular basis. In almost every case it can be intimidating to start out, but once you do it frequently enough and break it down into manageable chunks, it begins to flow effortlessly. Sometimes I look back at some of my earlier work and wonder I how managed to write all of it - and then I remember that it came from forcing myself to sit down every night to write at least one page. That way everything stays fresh in your memory and you don't burn out. Inch by inch, you get it done.
At present I'm doing the research and the writing for this book mostly during late evenings and weekends, so I'm not quite sure how long it will take to finish. Like almost everything else in life though, once you have the motivation and the will to do something, it just comes down to be being disciplined enough to follow through with it. Hopefully in a few years time I won't keep getting asked "So how's that book you've been working on?". With that, if you've read this far, I hope this particular dose of information infection has been of use and interest to you.
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