Kurioza naukowe / Scientific curiosities ISSN 1176-7545 No 941







The medical aspects of computer viruses. 

It is well known that spending many hours at a computer is not very good for our hear health. It is bad for the eyes, the back, hands, as well as the fact that a sedentary life and exposure to electromagnetic fields may have negative consequences for people sensitive to such things or those with weakened immune systems. In closed areas there are also issues associated with the gaseous products of strong magnetic fields and emissions from heated isolating materials and various types of plastics.
However, the use of bad computer programs and the invasion of computer viruses constitutes a totally different kind of harm. The financial losses that face large companies and state intuitions are well known, however in practice it does not mean very much. One can count on the fingers of one hand the number of court proceedings that have been taken against the perpetrators of these crimes, which often result in nothing else but a promotion in professional career.
We rarely talk about the millions of computer users that waste their time and energy attempting to use bugged programs or battling, often unsuccessfully, with various viruses, Trojan horses, worms and the like. In terms of social costs, the losses created by this must be much greater than those caused by, for example, smoking cigarettes, marijuana, or alcoholism. I wonder of anyone has calculated how many billions of hours of lost time, and stress is caused by the mere threat of loosing data, or the losses caused by an unexpected break in contact to the outside world.
It took many years for the manufacturers of cigarettes to be required to pay out billions of dollars for damages, even after there was proof of the harmful effects of smoking. It will probably also be a good number of years until the producers of bad computer programs, authors of viruses and their distributors have to stand in court for deceit or the illegal gathering of information, not to mention damages done to health and even causing death.
In the instance of viruses destroying computer data the case is quite simple and damages can be calculated. In the case of cigarette manufacturers the defence argued that the consumer could always refrain from buying the product. This argument however does not exist for the viruses. The hundreds of millions of computer users do not have anything to do with the authors of viruses or those who break into programs. Where the fault lies is completely obvious. The only issues lie in educating the public and the legislative bodies and ensuring that action is taken.

However, it does look that something is beginning to happen and finally those in the medical profession have begun to take an interest in the harmful effects of computer programs. Using functional magnetic imaging (fMRI) it has been shown that bad computer programs have the same effect on the user causing heart effects as painful and dangerous in its consequences as other shocks that cause heart attacks and other irreversible physiological ailments. Using unfriendly programs produce the same reaction in the brain as is caused by a physical pain or wound. It is therefore safe to assume that the shocks associated with virus invasions, loss of data and harm done to programs are likely to cause much worse effects. The medical profession hopefully will take this problem up shortly.
Iím not exaggerating when I say that ailments connected to
the virus epidemic have quickened the death of many internet enthusiasts, and are probably the direct cause of death of many people with weakened physical or mental states. Using a proper medical analysis the issue is slowly reaching the point where solutions are being searched for, such as those for the produces of cigarettes and harmful narcotics. I am sure that some time in the near future, the producers of bugged computer programs will be standing in courts, in the very same way as the producers of cars that endanger the lives of passengers, and the authors and distributors of viruses will be treated in the same way as the jokers that throw bricks at moving vehicles.



witrynÍ prowadzi
© R. Antoszewski
Titirangi, Auckland, 
Nowa Zelandia

(translated by E. Antoszewska)

maerzec 2005


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