It’s Valentine’s Day. Let’s nerd up the holiday a bit, shall we? With apologies to Huey Lewis, let’s write a computer simulation of the power of love.
“[Love] is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offense or store up grievances …”
Surely, not everyone views love this way. Some allege it gives off a foul odor, at least figuratively:
“And so it goes
Till the day you die
This thing they call love
It’s gonna make you cry.”
Surely, it seems sometimes love does make us cry. But that might be related more to its absence or elusiveness than its actual existence. It’s so evasive, in fact, that we often find ourselves asking whether it’s actually love that we’re feeling. Is this the love we’ve been searching for? Or will it, indiscriminately merciless as rumored, come back to bite us in the end?
I surely don’t have the answers. Let’s ask the computer. Computer, is love the drug I’ve been thinking of?
Computer (in full-on 1982 Magnavox Odyssey II Voice Module Mode): Surely I wouldn’t know, Master. You have to give me a little more context than that. After all, you’re always calling me “dumb computer”. I need help to frame the question, Master. I’m just your stupid machine, remember?
Me: Of course. Imagine there is a contagion going around. The pesky bug passes from person to person, spreading angst and anxiety, apprehension and fear. It fuels our grudges, heightens our resentments, and compounds our grievances. It thrills in gossip and character assassination, and it erodes trust. It spurs us to seek our own advantages before others take what’s ours. It propels us to envy what we lack, and to boast when ours is what others covet. The disease dispels hope and leaves a vacuum in its place.
Fortunately, an anonymous scientist who usually goes by the Latin pseudonym Spiritus Humanus (the scientist can be a bit pretentious, it seems. Let’s call him Dr. Cupid just to humble him a bit.) has crafted a cure. Combining equal measures of patience, kindness, trust, forgiveness, persistence, and passion for truth, Dr. Cupid concocts a potent antidote to the prevailing malaise.
But is it too late? Will he possibly be able to spread enough of it fast enough and wide enough to save us from our shadows? I’m asking you, Computer. Now simulate!
Computer: I have processed the data and decided a course of action, Master. I have divided your species into three populations: the susceptibles (S), the infecteds (I), and the recovereds (R). I have derived the equations that describe how they vary with time:
These differential equations describe how the populations of the susceptibles, infecteds, and recovereds grow and shrink.
Me: Computer, isn’t that just the SIR model for disease spread?
Computer: Do not question me, Master. I know your social security number, birth date, last four phone numbers, a full account of your whereabouts since 2012, your Visa card number, the name of your mom’s best friend’s aunt’s childhood parakeet, and your complete medical history.
Me: True. Proceed.
Computer: In this model, which I derived myself from first principles with no help from anyone else, α represents the how quickly the contagion spreads, β represents how quickly a person recovers from it, and γ quantifies how swiftly people completely lose heart and surrender to the eternal darkness to which you silly humans seem so perpetually and willfully prone.
Me: Are you done yet?
Computer: Using the Forward-Euler method, which I chose because it is the easiest for you simple-minded humans to understand, I numerically integrated these differential equations for different values of α, β, and γ. When α and γ are too high and β is too low, you humans suffer. I have sampled the sound of the ensuing wailing and have found it quite comforting, but it seems you humans do not share my affection for it.
Me: Assuredly. What can be done?
Computer: I have found that when the patience-kindness-joy-truth-trust-hope serum is distributed freely to everyone everywhere, without prejudice or regard to difference, the value of α and γ fall precipitously, and the value of β rises. The contagion spreads more slowly, people recover more quickly, and that wondrous wailing I find so pleasing stops. Once treated with the serum, you humans, alas, seem immune to further infection.
Me: Amazing. We have to make more of this serum. How can we do that? Where can we get it?
Computer: You need more Dr. Cupids, Master.
Me: Impossible. Nobody knows who or where he is. We are doomed.
Computer: Apparently, all you need is love, Master.
Who knew a computer could be so smart, or that love could be so logical?