America is now treating its citizens like smartphones
by Mary Harrington
Did a US Federal Agency Really Compare Its Citizens to Smartphones? A new campaign by the agency that regulates food and drugs in the United States, the FDA, calls in people “install that update” and #UpdateYourImmunity, with a bivalent Covid-19 booster vaccine.
Then yes. And that? Isn’t this just public health communication in a language that people understand? Most of us have applications for smartphones or computers and are familiar with the idea of updating software according to new developments.
The analogy, however, triggered echoes in the anti-vaccine memeplex, where a widely publicized memes he stated that “Covid-19 vaccines are an operating system designed to program humans and hack their biological functions.” No wonder, the meme suggests, that Bill Gates is so excited: now he can program us too!
What Reuters points out, this is far from being literally true. But you don’t have to be an anti-vaccine conspiracy monger to understand that the paradigm shift implicit in this analogy has unsettling consequences for the relationship between citizen, state, and Big Pharma.
The pharmaceutical industry itself has used software development as a metaphor for how mRNA technology works. modern pharmaceutical company described this on their website as “software for the cell,” writing that “recognizing the vast potential of mRNA science, we set out to create an mRNA technology platform that works much like an operating system on a computer.” And while it’s not literally true that Bill Gates is reprogramming our bodies for nefarious purposes, it doesn’t have to be for the analogy to have disturbing implications.
First, it implies a profound paradigm shift: in the new view, bodily health is no longer the default human state, defined by the absence of any need for medical interventions. Now, health is reached through interventions, like a smartphone that gets better the more apps we install. “In our case, the ‘program’ or ‘application’ is our mRNA drug, the unique sequence of mRNA that codes for a protein,” Moderna said.
And once we accept the principle that health is not intrinsic to us, but something that is achieved through active medical intervention, the second step is to affirm that such “updates” are not single events but (like applications) something more like a subscription service. So, in two moves, we accept a paradigm where “health” is not our default state, but relies on input from a for-profit biotech company, and second, we sign up for a subscription for life to that dependency.
It’s annoying enough to find out that a software product you once bought with a one-time payment now forces you to be on the hook every month if you want to keep using it. Applied to our physical health, the model of lucrative upgrades in perpetuity has deeply disturbing implications. Consider, for example, the sight patients now go blind againbecause the company that made their eye implants has declared the technology “obsolete” and has stopped supporting it.
Big Pharma has been widely criticized for profiting from the pandemic. We should ask ourselves if we really want to accept a transition from Covid immunity as a one-time purchase to “immunity as a service”. More deeply, we should ask ourselves if we really want to accept a vision of “health” that reinvents our very organisms as structurally dependent on our continued willingness to pay a subscription to for-profit biotech companies, and the willingness of those companies to maintain “ supporting” our physical “technology”.