Tuesday, April 28, 2009

No Immunity for This Disease

The Swine Flu is probably not something to panic over, but here's my problem. There is an asteroid out there with our name on it. There is a supervolcano ready to blow. And there is a potential pandemic that could destroy Civilization. So what are we doing about it? Do we even care?

If humanity were able to speak for itself, if we were able to produce a coordinated response to challenges, to take an enforceable decision and to actually protect ourselves, what would we be doing now?

Oh, I know this is crazy, but here's my take. One long term policy: We should not allow the people of the planet to integrate into a single unified global continuity. We can't afford, IMO, to be aligned into a single vulnerable monoculture. You can see what happened to our unified financial community. The "global meltdown" is, however, a risk we are going to be facing continuously from now on. In the past, economic problems in one place could be partially ameliorated by success in other places. Not so any more. In a sensible world, this would at least be a topic of serious conversation. The key phrase would be: "What are we going to do about it?" And the implication would be that a solution was naturally forthcoming.

One theory about the success of European society, my reading of Jared Diamond actually, is that there were multitudes of semi-independent societies. The geography of Europe protected them from each other for a while and allowed them to develop in isolation. These societies were able to evolve, make mistakes, make discoveries, lose or win. Oh, they copied each other, no doubt about it. Everybody had to have a cathedral and a clock tower, but they were also different from one another. They had variation and, as a consequence, there was natural selection going on. Some groups were subsumed by others, and then promptly separated again. People didn't move more than a few miles in their lifetimes, but their societies ebbed and flowed. And their little societies lived or died based on the hereditary benefits of their meme system. OK, they started from a very low place, but they developed systems that were robust, resilient and effective. Unlike China, Europe was memetically unfragile. Unlike America, Europe was epidemiologically unfragile. (But that was another story, one that we shouldn't like to repeat.)

Right now, the US has a version of the Swine Flu that is relatively mild. If it turns out to be something more than a statistical fluke, Mexico may well have a dangerous strain. So what should we do about it. I'm reading a lot of nonsense that it's "too late" to close the borders. I don't think so at all. If I were in charge ... I know this is even crazier ... I would be doing my best to be sure that everyone were exposed to the American strain of the virus as soon as possible ... before the Mexican strain gets here and before the American strain mutates into something more virulent and destructive. There's no vaccine in the works, but there is the next best thing -- a mild version of the disease.

This is the kind of counter-intuitive decision that we are incapable of thinking about now. That's why we need to apply conscious changes to our own society. We need to be capable of marshaling our thoughts. We need to recognize that we are a product of evolution, understand the mechanics of evolution on all its levels, and apply its deepest lessons. Once again, that is where I see my double pyramid system fitting in.

I'm not saying that my rather radical approach to the Swine Flu is the best one, or even a good one. I don't really know. Better minds than mine should be thinking about it. All I'm saying is that we are presently incapable of processing the idea. If, however, we could determine that it was the most beneficial course of action, would we be able to grab it close, to own it, and make it happen? I don't think so. I think, as we are now, we would rather accept our death with "dignity", meaning without too much thought.

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At Friday, May 08, 2009 12:41:00 AM, Blogger jj mollo said...

It seems that someone else has got the idea of spreading a mild form of swine flu. It apparently comes from the anti-vaccine community, which I find depressing. People have taken it upon themselves, reviewing their options with a handful of friends, Luddite self-centered scientifically backward suburbanite H2 drivers for the most part. This represents, to my mind, only a small portion of the review process, though I would not condone the exclusion of such groups.

These people have now clasped the risk close to their own bosoms and everyone else's as well, at least if they don't plan to spend the next three weeks effectively isolated from the general public.

Although I thought of the exact same idea, I would never support it without a consensus opinion of the entire society. People who would take such a risky step on their own initiative are criminally foolish.

I certainly hope they didn't get the idea from me.


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