Thursday, 11 October 2018

Weaken host immune system by creating a diversion

I have a previous article about cultural immune deficiency disorders. I've also written about cultural opportunistic infections - the cultural version of the well knnown phenomena, opportunistic infections.

I've long recognised the possibility that infections could attack the host immune system to create a hole to penetrate host defenses - and that such a hole could then let in other parasites. Clearly these dynamics apply in cultural evolution as well - as is seen in cultural immune deficiency disorders.

This article is about a related set of strategies involving diverting host immune system resources elsewhere. Rather than directly attacking the immune system parasites may be able to create a diversion. One strategy would be to absorb host immune resources via deliberate immune stimulation using expendible, fake targets. Another strategy might be to liberate suppressed persistent infections already present within the host by making holes in the immune system for them.

The former strategy has some well-studied examples. Some parasites release what are known as superantigens - which act to stimulate the immune system, sapping its resources.

A couple of analogies illustrate the proposed effects. Invaders sometimes liberate prisoners from the territories they are invading. The reason is not always clear - but they may be creating a diversion which saps the resources of the defenders. They may also engage in arson. Causing chaos can help them to achieve their own goals. Another analogy involves the saying that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend". It is widely recognised that uniting against a common enemy can result in strength gains. Orwell wrote about this in the book "1984". Unrelated parasites may effectively gang up on their hosts - since they have a shared interest in a weakened host immune system.

I don't have much in the way of concrete evidence or examples in the cultural domain to offer in this post. However the possibility that these dynamics might also apply to cultural evolution seems intriguing.

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