living viruses!

RYBICKI, ED ED at molbiol.uct.ac.za
Tue Jan 24 02:59:24 EST 1995


> From:          Denni Schnapp <ds4 at st-andrews.ac.uk>
> Subject:       living viruses!
> I agree with what you said in your posting (life is due to self 
directed
> replication of nucleic acids), but why should this definition be 
re-
> stricted to nucleic acids? What about self directed replication in
> general (i.e. computer viruses are also alive in a similar sense)?

Way-ull...Hawking certainly thinks so, and has gone into print on 
the subject:

(excerpted from tutorial at ttp://www.uct.ac.za/microbiology)

Computer Viruses as Life Forms:

Steven Hawking, of black holes fame, apparently believes that 
computer viruses
should count as life: they are obligate parasites which exploit the 
"metabolism" of
the host computer they infect, they replicate in the form of their 
source code
[=genome], and they newest and nastiest can mutate while they do so 
(Weekend
Argus, Cape Town, 6-7 August, 1994). 

So I suppose one should perhaps say "life is a phenopmenon 
associated with the self-directed replication of information 
systems".  Certainly cover computer viruses then!

  _____________________________________________________
 | Ed Rybicki, PhD          |  (ed at molbiol.uct.ac.za)  |
 | Dept Microbiology        | University of Cape Town  |    
 | Private Bag, Rondebosch  |   7700, South Africa     |          
 | fax: xx27-21-650 4023    |  tel: xx27-21-650 3265   |  
 |       URL: http://www.uct.ac.za/microbiology        |
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