Going viral

March 19th, 2015


Each day, the human brain processes more information and executes more orders than any modern computer during the same amount of time. For all of the technological advances societies have made in recent years, the human body contains the most complex iteration of a “computer” in the world. And while this fact might sound shocking or staggering when it’s vocalized, it really shouldn’t surprise anyone.


Consider your walk to class this morning: Did you fall? Did you run into anybody or accidentally forget to breathe? Chances are, you didn’t encounter any of these issues. If you did, or if you saw someone who did, it would’ve seemed incredibly strange.


That’s because our brains ensure that functions such as walking, breathing and talking all take place effortlessly. To execute these functions, the human brain must sift through a staggering amount of stimuli each second. It ingests, analyzes and reacts to the chief among those stimuli in nearly seamless and instant fashion.


The finished product of these dizzying mental calculations are the mundane actions taken by people each day like swallowing food.


Each time your foot strikes the ground at the perfect angle, allowing you to continue walking, your brain works to make that happen by analyzing your surroundings. But people don’t give attention to each time they successfully take a step. In fact, it’s only when our brains aren’t operating flawlessly that we ever give conscious thought to our own minds’  endless tasks. The unobservable efforts of our brains only grab our attention when we stumble in our speech or stove a finger. Then, of course, people grumpily wonder what caused their clumsiness.


Our minds shield us from all sorts of harm that might come our way. Predators, accidents, climate and other calamities are hardwired into our mind to be recognized and avoided. And for all these survival instincts that it contains and uses, our mind still can be painfully vulnerable.


Regardless of all its safety efforts, the mind is incredibly impressionable. This leaves people open to coercion and persuasion from less overt threats.


In modern societies, natural predators don’t readily threaten our well being. Evolutionary and technological advancements protect us from these immediate external threats. Instead, newer, discreet dangers plague us.


In modern societies, masses of people fall prey to these slowly creeping and seemingly innocuous dangers. In fact, they’re accepted and interacted with every day. I’m talking about the governing bodies of the states in which some humans live.


While doing homework for a class, I happened upon the notion of “democratic diffusion.” This hypothesis essentially argues that different governmental models can spread to surrounding states and countries. This hypothesis suggests that democracies and other governmental structures might not only spread influence, but also might plant firm roots in surrounding states.


When I read about this hypothesis, I instantly became alarmed. Having spent my entire spring break studying German history while in Berlin, Germany, I could only think of the historical problems that Germany has had with their own governmental structures. But such viral spread of dangerous beliefs is not confined to the past. Today, threats from crumbling states in the Middle East and the expanding great of the Islamic State group make this hypothesis seem more applicable than ever.


So, what’s the common theme between radical leadership of the past and present? Governmental systems, for better or for worse, are like infectious diseases.


They can germinate within their own borders and plague the people therein before breaking out into larger areas. Because borders are porous structures that allow for movement between them, beliefs about governmental structures can jump between borders and find a home in a new state.


And the hosts that spread disease from border to border? Well, that’s us. Humans are the unwitting carriers of political, social and religious beliefs. While most beliefs are harmless, more radical ones certainly pose threats. These represent the darker implication of the democratic diffusion hypothesis.


This hypothesis suggests that governmental structures in one state can influence the development of governmental structures in surrounding states. Humans transmit the influential force to make this phenomenon occur.


As a result, people should always take care to identify the threats that are slower and more sinister.


Stop and weigh the arguments and beliefs of those around you. Humans need to take individual responsibility in guarding against the acceptance of extreme or harmful beliefs in order to prevent the spread of beliefs that endanger others.