How Can We Help?
Do viruses have sentience?
Senior correspondent of Wired magazine, Adam Rogers, answers: This is so great! Forgive me for getting all excited at a grim time, but this is the kind of thing that drives the most basic of this research. A virus is a package of genetic material inside an envelope that helps it get into the things that can then get hijacked to make more virus. The kind of language that many people often use is, well, the virus wants to infect people and what the virus is trying to do is infect as many people as possible to make more of itself to reproduce. But of course the virus doesn’t want anything.
A virus is a verb. A virus does a thing. What it does is it infects other cells and then those cells make more virus. There’s no collective intelligence at work here. Viruses are infinitesimally smaller even than bacteria, which are infinitesimally smaller than us. There’s some notion that the entire microbiome in a person is more cells of them than us and so there’s some collective version of sentience that makes up who we are as humans. But viruses exist almost in a world unto themselves. They are riding us to do something. But all we ever see of it is they take over our cells to make more virus. I don’t think they’re thinking about it when they do it. Which is kind of implacable and terrifying when you think about it as well. (April 6, 2020)