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"Human beings hardly ever learn from the experience of others. They learn; when they do, which isn't often, on their own, the hard way."
- Robert Heinlein

Metavirus (Digital Metavirus)  
  Binary code that can infect computers or even hackers, through the binary nerve.  

“He also has a digital metavirus, in binary code, that can infect computers, or hackers, via the optic nerve.”

“How did he translate it into binary form?” Ng says.

“I don't think he did. I think he found it in space. Rife owns the biggest radio astronomy network in the world. He doesn't do real astronomy with it—he just listens for signals from other planets. It stood to reason that sooner or later, one of his dishes would pick up the metavirus.”

“How does that stand to reason?”

“The metavirus is everywhere. Anywhere life exists, the metavirus is there, too, propagating through it. Originally, it was spread around on comets. That's probably how life first came to the Earth, and that's probably how the metavirus came here also. But comets are slow, whereas radio waves are fast. In binary form, a virus can bounce around the universe at the speed of light. It infects a civilized planet, gets into its computers, reproduces, and inevitably gets broadcast on television or radio or whatever. Those transmissions don't stop at the edge of the atmosphere—they radiate out into space, forever. And if they hit a planet with another civilized culture, where people are listening to the stars the way Rife was doing, then that planet gets infected, too. I think that was Rife's plan, and I think it worked. Except that Rife was smart—he caught it in a controlled manner. He put it in a bottle. An informational warfare agent for him to use at his discretion. When it is placed into a computer, it snow-crashes the computer by causing it to infect itself with new viruses. But it is much more devastating when it goes into the mind of a hacker, a person who has an understanding of binary code built into the deep structures of his brain. The binary metavirus will destroy the mind of a hacker.”

“So Rife can control two kinds of people,” Ng says. “He can control Pentecostals by using me written in the mother tongue. And he can control hackers in a much more violent fashion by damaging their brains with binary viruses.”

From Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson.
Published by Bantam in 1992
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