A Brief History Of The Brilliancy Virus

by Michael R. Warren © 2002

Here is what I can tell you about the Brilliancy Virus.

In the world of man, before a bridge is built, an opera staged, or a war fought, they are first ideas. Belief systems are the core ideas that human cultures use to define what is proper to think about, what is verboten, what is possible, or absurd to contemplate. Societies are naught but an aggregation of ideas. Societies modify their environment; men modify societies, and ideas modify men.

A virus works by attaching itself to a cell, usually a specific type of cell, penetrating it and replacing the cell’s reproductive capability with its own. The cell becomes a reproducing virus, resulting in systemic infection.

Analogously, ideas are infectious. A viral-idea attaches itself to a host-idea, infiltrating it, mutating it, and finally using it to reproduce itself. This process is discernable in the birth of most so-called "new" religions. In fact, history is replete with examples of viral thought-pandemics, ranging from benign infections–worship of trees, Beatle haircuts, and a belief that health-foods are beneficial--to grievous ones–Nazism, the Spanish Inquisition, and the otherwise unexplainable popularity of Jerry Lewis films.

As everyone knows, the Brilliancy Virus originated as a spontaneous thought mutation that occurred in graduate philosophy student Merle J. Watson while he was sitting in the student cafeteria reading Kant’s "Prolegomena To Any Future Metaphysics" and eating cold French fries dipped in salsa. Merle, trying to find an original theme for his doctoral thesis, was angst-ridden; he had discovered that the great verities of life had been covered, in-depth, many times, by other aspiring philosophers. The muddy tracks of their screeds covered the field like the droppings of a flock of dyspeptic geese.

Merle’s viral thought came in the form of a syllogism, the conclusion of which--for those with the intellectual capacity to understand both semiotics and statistics–was inescapable: existence was not just futile, it was impossible! This induced an instant ontological crisis in Merle. Within a day he was bed-ridden, and in three days, dead--but not before he had infected several other unfortunate students in the philosophy department.

The Brilliancy Virus swept through the nation, decimating the upper tiers of the Bell Curve like a scythe mowing ripe wheat. If it had been confined to the ranks of philosophers, perhaps no one would have noticed; however, since all that was needed to make a host susceptible to infection was an IQ of 150 or above, alarm set in when scientists in government laboratories and private research facilities began keeling over by the hundreds.

The infected subject is immediately contagious. Symptoms include extreme volubility, emotive rants, and a slight, persistent cough. In the second phase of infection, the subject becomes lethargic and a disaffection for existence sets in. This miasma of nihilism results in ennui so severe that the afflicted party becomes bed-ridden and soon dies.

Within six months, the virus jumped semantic and cultural barriers and infected individuals in Europe, China, Africa and most industrial societies--with the notable exception of France. There were some surprising pockets of immunity: both hard-core rationalists and religious fundamentalists possessed core belief system that contained cyst-like defense mechanisms which automatically attacked new or extraneous ideas.

The Brilliancy Virus also provided surprises to virologists about our intellectual assumptions. In the field of mathematics, for example, the ranks of accountants were seriously thinned by the virus while theoretical mathematicians were virtually unscathed. First glance would suggest that, of the two jobs, greater intellectual acumen is required for the theoretician.

The disparity in infection rates seems to be accounted for by the effect each job had on initial IQ.

Accountants have to be creative with numbers, yet--due to fear of legal repercussions--have to maintain fidelity to orthodox principles of numeration. The theoretical mathematician is not constrained by fear of legal consequences of number bending, No one goes to jail over an unprovable theorem or an unbalanced equation. Safely ensconced in his academic tower, the theoretical mathematician may freely indulge in flights of mathematical fancy, throwing super-string equations and theorems about like a drunk circus juggler. Such laxity dulls the intellect.

Quite a number of writers, both famous and aspiring--humiliated at being passed by the Brilliancy Virus--were believed to have faked symptoms of infection in public and then feigned their own deaths, apparently hoping they would be posthumously regarded as geniuses and their works as intellectual marvels.

The entertainment industry was largely bypassed by the virus. Hip-hop groups, speed-metal bands, and depressed-folk-singing girls with acoustic guitars, thrived, and movies were made faster than before--since there were less egghead writers around to gum up schedules by disputing script changes.

After the Brilliancy Virus’ passing, the world--if not a better place--was a simpler one. It was realized, belatedly, that high IQ’s are inversely proportional to decision making ability–the truly intelligent tend to fluctuate at critical junctures, express ambiguity about almost everything; bask in paradoxical thoughts, and are content to hang around for months waiting for lab results; hence, a lot of radical ideas that had heretofore confused the public were finally decided after their demise: Matter is a particle during the week and a wave on the weekends; both speed and position of elementary particles can be determined by a using a tiny version of the police radar-gun; and no–don’t be silly--you can’t add infinities.

And what effect did the culling of the intelligentsia have on America? The economy surged. Monster Truck rallies experienced renewed popularity; Madonna hit the charts again, Ice-T received an Oscar; Chevrolet released a commemorative edition Camaro to celebrate the virus’ passing; chess tournaments lost their stuffiness and became fun again; computer software became user friendly and, best of all, Microsoft went out of business.

Excuse me–that’s all I can write for now. My cough has been getting worse and--to tell the truth--I’ve been a little depressed all day. Everything seems so . . . meaningless. I think I’ll go lay down until the feeling passes.

x x x

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