Interview with Mark Ludwig
(Alive Magazine)

Reading the following text from the article published in Crypt Newsletter No 22, I got curious. Yes, I have heard the name Mark Ludwig earlier, but it always had some negative connotation. This article was somewhat different...


Just after Christmas, on December 27th, Addison-Wesley France was served with a temporary legal notice prohibiting the distribution of its recently published French language edition of Mark Ludwig's "Little Black Book of Computer Viruses, Volume 1." Entitled "Naissance d'un Virus" or "Birth of a Virus," the French edition was selling for about $50 cash money. The company is also distributing a disk containing copies of Ludwig's TIMID, INTRUDER, KILROY and STEALTH viruses separately for a few dollars more.

However, before the ink was dry on the paper a French judge dismissed the complaint, said Ludwig between laughs during a recent interview. Addison -Wesley France, he said, subsequently worked the fuss into good publicity, enhancing demand for "Naissance d'un Virus."

Almost simultaneously, Ludwig has published through his American Eagle corporation, its follow-up: "Computer Viruses, Artificial Life and Evolution," which will come as a great surprise to anyone expecting "The Little Black Book of Computer Viruses, Part II."

For those absent for the history, "The Little Black Book of Computer Viruses," upon publication, was almost uniformly denounced - by the orthodox computer press - as the work of someone who must surely be a dangerous sociopath.

Most magazines refused to review or mention it, under the working assumption that to even speak about viruses for an extended length - without selling anti-virus software - only hastens the digital disintegration of the world. Ludwig found himself engaged in a continued battle for advertising for his book, losing contracts without notice while the same publications continued to stuff their pages with spreads for cosmological volumes of pornography. This has always been a curious, but consistent, hypocrisy.... ]

...Later in the same text there were few words about the author...

[...Not surprisingly, the controversy has kept sales of "The Little Black Book" brisk since its initial printing and financed the expansion of American Eagle.

Which brings us, finally, to "Computer Viruses, Artificial Life and Evolution," a book which takes a hard scientific look at life and the theory of evolution, and only incidentally contains working viruses.

To grapple with the underlying philosophy behind "CVAL&E," its helpful to know Ludwig was a physics major at Caltech in Pasadena, CA, at a time when Nobel-laureate theoretical physicists Richard Feynman and Murray Gell-Mann were in residence. The ruthlessness with which these scientists dealt with softer disciplines not up to the task of thorough theoretical analysis coupled with the academic meat-grinder that is Caltech's reputation, casts its shadow on "CVAL&E."

Ludwig writes in the introduction:

". . . Once I was a scientist of scientists. Born in the age of Sputnik, and raised in the home of a chemist, I was enthralled with science as a child. If I wasn't dissolving pennies in acid, I was winding an electromagnet, or playing with a power transistor, or . . . freezing ants with liquid propane. When I went to MIT for college I finally got my chance to totally immerse myself in my first love. I did rather well at it too, finishing my undergraduate work in two years and going on to study elementary particle physics under Nobel laureates at Caltech. Yet by the time I got my doctorate the spell was forever broken . . . I saw less and less of the noble scientist and more and more of the self-satisfied expert."...]

...Well, at this point I decided to contact Mark Ludwig and ask him some questions. Here is he, answering exclusively for "Alive":

Why did you get interested in computer viruses?

When did you start to deal with computer viruses and could you describe shortly your work?

Why did you write "The Birth of a Virus" ?

Why did you write "Computer Viruses, Artificial Life and Evolution"?

Do you think that your work is unethical or illegal?

What problems did you have in presentation of your work?

Why people are willing to reject the concept of beneficial viruses or artificial life in general?

Are there persons in virus/anti-virus field that you respect and why?