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The Amazing Human Immune System

Updated on April 15, 2017
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Jack is currently a volunteer at the Westchester County Archives. Jack has worked at IBM for over 28 years.

Introduction

As someone who has worked in the computer industry all my life, I am pretty sophisticated when it comes to computer Operating system software and hardware. One of the key programs Is anti virus. The computer can be disrupted or disabled with a software malware or a virus. Similar to a human virus, it can kill the host by infecting the good cells with bad and replicate it to the point of killing the host. To deal with human virus, our immune system is even more sophisticated.

- Apr. 2017

Background

When we teach some subject, it is often a good idea to use analogies. Let me explain how a computer virus works so as to demonstrate how a human virus does something similar hence the origin of the name.

A computer works by instructions that are programmed by a human designer who understand the architecture of the system. There are a set of basic instructions that matches the hardware in the computer CPU. These instructions or code is very primative in nature. As simple as load register, add register or shift register...These are called assembly codes. From these, a much higher set of instructions are created called a programming language. These higher function instructions might include things like addition, and subtraction or multiplication and division.

A computer program which performs some application is written by a programmer using these high level languages which then gets compiled into assembly codes and loaded into memory of the computer to be executed or run. If all goes well as designed, the program allow the humans to perform actions that are useful such as a spreedsheet like excel. What can go wrong is if the original program had a bug, and the programmer did not account for all possible occurrences. In that case, a system crash might occur or at least an abort of the program that is running. For example, on a calculator, if you try to divide any number by zero, you won't get an answer.

A good programmer will trap these bugs or errors and create some kind of message that tells the user there is a problem. However, another type of problem that may occur is not of the programmers doing. In this case, a virus sofware was created by another, whose soul purpose is to disrupt whatever is running. These software are usually very small set of instructions injected into the programming stream that causes the computer to do things that are destructive of data integrity.

To combat these viruses, the anti-virus software runs in the background and checks the application codes to make sure these viruses does not occur. This is not a one time job. It is a continuous monitoring of the system. Because, there are new viruses created every moment and the software needs to be updated periodically to include new viruses in addition to existing one.

Sample Virus Code

The Human Immune System

As sophisticated is the anti-virus software on your computer, it is primative compared to the human immune system.

Think about it, the computer anti-virus sofware has to be constantly updated by some programmer and installed or downloaded into your computer on a regular basis to insure you computer won't be infected. Even then, it is not 100%. Ther are new viruses that may not be detected until an outbreak is discovered and then the programmers will modify their code to catch it.

The human immune system does not work that way. It works on its own and adapts to new conditions. When a new pathegen is detected, it surrounds it with these white blood cells and isolate it.

The main difference between a computer anti-virus system and our human immune system is the architecture. In one case, it is centralized and top down. In the other case, it is local and distributed.

Why is the human immune system so much better? You don't need a programmer at all times. It is designed to work without instructions coming from the brain. It is designed to detect any external entity that enters our body. Since it is in our blood stream, it is distributed through out our body. It does not need to run in the background, like a computer anti-virus program, it is part of the routine.

Summary

We humans are very lucky. Our body is engineered to be a great tool for us for mobility but it is also engineered to be self healing for the most part. Our immune system plays a big role in keeping us safe. Our modern technology of computers and AI does not evn come close to imitating this.

© 2017 Jack Lee

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      17 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Totally agree, my friend. I trust my immune system. I don't take unnecessary drugs of any kind. I have pretty good DNA because I'm never sick, but if I do have a cold or, on rare occasions (like once in ten years) the flu, I just allow my body's immune system to fight the good fight.

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