Further to my last post about the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Stupid Patent of the Month, here’s an analysis of the ongoing pain being caused by so-called patent trolls, more politely called non-practicing entities (NPEs.) That’s a term to describe entities that hold patents but don’t use them for anything, except sometimes to sue people who are producing things.
Not all NPEs are patent trolls, though. That would be too simple. Some of them are universities that do research but don’t directly try to employ their discoveries. So, they hold patents but don’t use them, the very definition of NPE. All this makes it difficult to fashion solutions to the patent troll problem. Nearly everyone agrees that the trolls are a problem. Other than from the trolls and their lawyers, you don’t see much justification for their parasitical behavior. But lawmakers have to be careful that they don’t damage innocent bystanders along with the trolls.
From the Christian Science Monitor article:
Tech companies faced a growing wave of patent suits in 2015 from so-called non-practicing entities, which hold patents but do not create products based on them.
Universities … (say) … the proposals go too far by potentially categorizing them as patent trolls.
… contrary to the perception of NPEs as mostly patent trolls, some inventors have also repeatedly filed claims, particularly for software and hardware.
Once again we have to find that fine line between rewarding innovation and creativity, and letting it turn into a farce that punishes those who do and rewards those who sue.
The effect of a parasite can sometimes go beyond the immediate health of the host. Sure, a tapeworm can steal nutrition, making the host weaker. Wasps sometimes lay their eggs inside other living insects, where they grow while eating their host. But some parasites go even further. Some of them can actually control the behavior of their host. It has to do with the life cycle of the parasite. If it’s presently in an ant and the next stage of its life cycle is in a grazing animal, for instance, the thing to do is make the ant climb to the top of a blade of grass where it can be conveniently eaten.
Half of all humans have in their brains a parasite of the type which is known to control the behavior of other animals. If they can control other animals, can they control humans?
We shouldn’t tar all parasites with the same brush. Some of them are fairly benign, even useful, as in the case of the pig whipworm. While the human whipworm infects half a billion people and can cause some problems, the pig whipworm doesn’t survive long in people. Just long enough to do its job, which is to treat inflammatory bowel disease, where the immune system gets overactive. Treatment involves drinking a concoction of pig whipworm eggs. It works by giving the immune system something to do, something it’s accustomed to doing like dealing with parasites, so it doesn’t attack the body’s own tissues. The results so far have been very encouraging. While drinking worm eggs might seem repulsive, it’s a lot better than an inflamed bowel.
Now back to the mind control parasites. There are hairworms that make grasshoppers jump into water so the worms can continue their life cycle there. There are flukes that make fish attract the attention of predatory wading birds. The flukes need to get into the birds. And there are the grass-climbing ants mentioned before.
The parasite which infects half of us humans is called Toxoplasma gondii. A version of T. gondii lives in rats and cats. Rats which have their brains infected are less likely to be scared off by the smell of cats and are more likely to be eaten. The parasite carries on in the gut of the cat.
Can this parasite affect the behavior of humans? There seems to be a link between it and schizophrenia. And drugs used to treat the disease halt the growth of the parasite in lab dishes. In the rats above, when they got the drug they became properly alarmed by the smell of cats again. It seems as if stopping the parasite also stops the strange behavior.
It’s time to break the strings of our parasitical puppeteers.