Carl Zimmer: ‘Our viral future’


Author Carl Zimmer: Our Viral Future from Singularity Institute on

ONE QUIBBLE: Viruses are not ‘bad news wrapped in protein’.  The vast vast vast majority of the viruses out there want nothing to do with humans at all. Even the ones that do infect humans, lots dont actually cause us any real harm, or when they do, it is by accident (HSV causing cancer).  We exist today because of viruses, and they will be saving us from genetic/acquired/pathogenic diseases now and in the future.  Even the ones that do harm us can be domesticated for ‘good’.

Vilification of all viruses is unwarranted.

But because this is a talk by Carl Zimmer, that is the only quibble I have 🙂


  1. #1 Divalent
    October 30, 2012

    “bad news wrapped in protein”? PETV will be after him for sure! 🙂

  2. #2 mo
    October 31, 2012

    Ugh, “Singularity Institute”. Seem legit.

  3. #3 Claudiu Bandea
    November 2, 2012


    I just left a comment on Carl’s blog (The Loom) about his talk ‘Our Viral Future’ and his book ‘A Planet of Viruses,’ both of which I enjoyed very much.

    I’m posting below this comment, and I hope that as one of the biggest fans of viruses on our planet, you’ll cosider sharing your thoughts (BTW, your ‘quibble’ about the role of viruses is right on the money!):

    “In a comment to a review of your book in Nature by Robin Weiss, I asked: “What is a virus Dr. Weiss?” (
    This question has its roots in a paper I published almost three decades ago in the Journal of Theoretical Biology ( in which I outlined the scientific and academic constrains associated with the dogma of viruses as virus particles, and proposed a new model for the origin and nature of viruses (an open access update of this model is available at:

    Given you interest and fascination with viruses, I wonder what do you think about the comment and about the alternative paradigm on the nature and evolutionary origin of viruses?

  4. #4 Ignacio
    November 2, 2012

    I’ve been wanting to pick one of Zimmer’s books for quite a while, would you have a recommendation for a virii neophyte? My background is AeroEng w/o any formal biology training but to give you a marker, I had no issues following most of Nick Lane’s Mytochondria book.

  5. #5 ERV
    November 2, 2012

    Claudiu– I will look that up!

    Ignacio– Carls book ‘Planet of Viruses’ is a great option! Its not a textbook, but lots of stories about lots of different kinds of viruses! He tells you what you need to know (and in all doubt, you can leave a Q here, hehe!).

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