08 September 2014

Computer Autoimmune Disease

It stands to reason that computers, as complex systems, can suffer diseases similar to those suffered by animals.  My computer certainly seems to think so.

Over the past few days, it decided to contract an autoimmune disease, like M.S. in humans.

The immune system of a computer is, naturally enough, its virus protection software.  And, when a computer's virus protection software gets overactive, it blinds a computer by treating all data coming to it over computer networks, wireless or otherwise, as viruses, much like M.S. can cause a body's immune system to attack its own nervous system.  If the virus protection software shuts down all network connections, no viruses can get it and it perfectly fulfills its virus protection mission.  Unfortunately, this also makes your computer, in a world where most of the data is in the cloud, useless.

Of course, discovering the nature of the problem and fixing it was a many hour matter that I entrusted to someone more qualified than me to solve.

Still, needless to say, this little bout of computer autoimmune disease was highly inconvenient, productivity reducing and illustrated once again that complex systems have a tendency to take on a biological nature, even when they are completely inanimate, in principle.


Julie Jo Koehler said...

You just found a great way to describe autoimmune disease by comparing it to a computer virus, LOL!

ps. Does your PC also get a malar rash?

Love it! Sharing with my autoimmune friends now~ :) JJ

andrew said...

Judging from the funny colors that it suddenly learns to display on the screen when I tried to deploy the browser that I'd never seen before (and the screen must surely be the "face" of the computer), I'd have to say that it does get a malar rash, or at least the computer equivalent.

On a more positive note, in a breathtaking stroke of progress for mousekind, scientists have developed a way to give mice suffering from a particular type of mouse autoimmune disease a shot that turns off the autoimmune reaction and cures the disease. The new technique has the potential to work a bit like an after the fact vaccine. Each subtype of the autoimmune disease with need its own particular chemical switch to inject to produce the cure which would be non-trivial to identify, but the general outline of the strategy for the cure could be generalized to any autoimmune disease or allergy.

Now, as usual, mouse health care is far ahead of the health care technology available for humans. But, this puts the prospect of cures for a whole class of autoimmune diseases and life threatening allergies in the decade or two time frame, rather than the distant and indefinite future time frame.