When I was growing up in the Netherlands, shops would close during weekdays as 6PM, with the sole exception of Thursday night, which was fittingly called Koopavond or Buying-Night. Since both my parents worked, this was really Buying-Night for our family. None of us kids were much interested in grocery shopping (and to be fair, neither was my Dad) so we were usually dropped of at the local library to browse for new books to borrow that week.
Reading the Byte, a leading computer magazine at the time, was one of the highlights for me and I remember reading one time about this crazy idea. Somebody had figured out that you could by changing the master boot record on a floppy disk a kind of a program that would spread itself from floppy to floppy and automatically install itself on any computer that booted from any of those floppies. It was just like a virus, but then for computers. A computer virus, you could call it. An interesting idea and the writer went on to argue that nobody in his right mind would of course write a program like that, so it was mostly a theoretical possibility.
We all know what happened of course. Computer viruses developed into a real menace and the worst thing of it is that not all of them are build to steal your bank account information. That’s pretty bad too, of course, but those viruses have some sort of point. There are lots of them that don’t. Written by bored teenagers or frustrated mid-life crisisers, these viruses just wreak havoc because the author can. Ha, ha, look at that, I just killed a million computers.
Last week a team of scientist announced that they were one step closer to artificial life. When I read that I thought, so this is how the world is going to end. Right now, it takes a crack team and lots of research money to get a little closer to build a bacterium from scratch, but this will change. Progress will makes things easier and cheaper. Rogue regimes might get there hands on biological weapons and probably already have, but I am not too scared about that.
I think the real problem will be the pimpled 17 year old who in 20 years time buys a biology kit that is supposed to be safe and figures out how to build a new virus. He’ll release it just to punish the next door girl for not wanting to date him. And wipes out humanity in the process.