Does a virus know that’s it’s a virus? Probably not. Preoccupied with its own survival, it proliferates as widely as it can without conscious thought for the effects its behaviour might have on others. After all, why should it worry about such matters when the world was clearly created solely for its own benefit?
Remind you of anything?
As a thought experiment, take James Lovelock’s Gaia theory seriously and imagine the earth as a self-regulating organism – a living being sensibly concerned with its own health and welfare, which in recent times has begun to show severe physical symptoms of distress. Its ability both to breathe and to regulate its bodily temperature are impeded because some insanitary agent has contaminated its atmosphere. That pathological condition is aggravated by the simultaneous depletion of its forests. Meanwhile, its waters, on which its life depends, are drying up or fouled with intrusive plastics and pollutants.
Clearly, its entire metabolic system has been invaded by a successful virus which remains obstinately unconscious that its activities threaten the health and vitality of the very organism on which its own survival depends.
A solution to this problem presents itself. The virus can be allowed to proliferate until it burns out to manageable levels because millions of its carriers have died, taking their share in the virus with them. Then time will pass, the sky will cleanse itself of filth, the forests will regenerate, and the waters will run clear again. Planetary health will be restored.
This option is ruthless, yes, but it will be favoured unless and until a feasible alternative emerges.
What are the chances of that? Possibly slim. But the root of the problem seems to be a lack of consciousness, and there is a growing body of evidence that it is exactly the kind of consciousness of which this particular virus is quite capable. This eventuality gives rise to a slender hope that, once it wakes up and admits that its own survival is at stake (and the symptoms are drastic enough to warrant such a conclusion), the virus might decide to change its ways. It might even do so in good time.
Writing as a partially conscious representative of the virus, I hope I speak for us all in saying that, of the two options, the latter is by far the more preferable. We should do more than hope that it works.