Monday, 17 September 2012

Parasite therapy

What to do if you have an over-active immune system - and are suffering from auto-immune self-strikes, in the form of allergies, lupus, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, etc.

One idea is to dose youself with parasites - and give your immune system some real work to do.

This interesting idea is discussed in the book An Epidemic of Absence.

The challenge is to find parasites that will give your immune system a good work out without actually causing too many serious problems. Intestinal nematode worms seem to be a favourite parasite - and are used in helminthic therapy. However, the idea is a controversial one.

Reading about it, I quickly found myself wondering whether there a memetic equivalent. Scepticism, suspicion and conservatism act against bad memes. If we systematically wipe out the worst memes in the world, is there a risk that these defense systems will turn on the good memes, just so they get some exercise? What about the possibility of these defense mechanisms attacking the psychological infrastructure of their hosts?

These are interesting questions - but perhaps not pressing ones. We seem far from wiping out the worst memes in the world. Memetic parasites are widespread, and I don't think there's really a shortage of work for our memetic immune systems to do.

However, we do have people with hyperactive memetic immune systems - who have various learning difficulties as a result. Could "parasite therapy" help them?

Maybe. We do already teach people about bad ideas, to help them better appreciate good ones. We tell them about phlogiston, pyramid schemes and cults. However, this seems more like vaccination than "parasite therapy". In the organic realm, vaccination and "parasite therapy" are rather different - but perhaps in the cultural realm, they are more similar.

Anyway, "parasite therapy" for auto-immune disorders is an interesting idea. I'll bear it in mind.


No comments:

Post a Comment