As panic theory, this text is high art. Crunched for maximum alarm-intensity:
There are a lot of very lethal viruses in the world, and Ebola is not the most lethal or most easy transmittable, but the main thing which makes me worry about it is the steadiness of its exponential infection curve. … The main stunning feature of it is that the curve is moving straight forward (small downward bump in May-June may be explained by the efforts of existing medical services in Africa to curb the epidemic before services had been overwhelmed). This exponential growth must be stopped, or humanity will face a global catastrophe, and it may start a downward spiral towards extinction; moreover, some estimates suggest that pandemic doubling time is actually two weeks (because of underreporting of actual cases), so in five months, seven billion will be infected: total infection, by July 2015. … Such catastrophes may not mean total human extinction, as only around 70% of people infected currently die from Ebola (and even less because we don’t know, or share, asymptomatic cases), but still, this means the end of the world as we know it. This virus is the first step towards the road of full extinction … If the virus will mutate quickly, there will be many different strains of it, so it will ultimately create a multi-pandemic. … Some of the strains may became airborne, or have higher transmission rates, but the main risk from multi-pandemic is that it overcomes defenses provided by the natural variability of the human genome and immunity. (By the way, the human genome variability is very low because of the recent bottle neck in the history of our population. …) … We are almost clones from the view point of genetic variability typical for natural populations. […] The Human race is very unique – it has very large population but very small genetic diversity. It means that it is more susceptible to pandemics. […] Also, a large homogenous population is ideal for breeding different strains of infection. … If the genetic diversity of a pathogen is bigger than human diversity, than it could cause a near total extinction, and also, large and homogenous populations help breed such a diversity of pathogens feeding on the population. … [embedded link] … “The Ebola virus can survive for several days outside the body” [link] … “It is infectious as breathable 0.8 to 1.2-μm laboratory-generated droplets” … “Also many of the greatest plagues mankind has ever known were not airborne: e.g. smallpox.” …
Don’t be alarmed: “Ebola now has its first diagnosis in the U.S., and while concerning, it’s not entirely surprising. Given how interconnected our world is, the CDC has long said that it’s possible Ebola could make it here, though it’s unlikely it would spread widely. Here’s what you need to know …” (Well, maybe just a little alarmed. (Or …))
Ezra Klein is on my unbelievably annoying people list, but he was only a kid when he got there, and this (interview) is really good work. Some additional recent articles, in escalating order of panic, plus some geopolitical complication.
The Ebola outbreak could blow over, and eventually be seen as a major health crisis, but one that was ultimately controlled. On the other hand:
MONROVIA, Liberia – Liberian officials fear Ebola could soon spread through the capital’s largest slum after residents raided a quarantine center for suspected patients and took items including blood-stained sheets and mattresses.
The violence in the West Point slum occurred late Saturday and was led by residents angry that patients were brought to the holding center from other parts of Monrovia, Tolbert Nyenswah, assistant health minister, said Sunday.
Up to 30 patients were staying at the center and many of them fled at the time of the raid, said Nyenswah. Once they are located they will be transferred to the Ebola center at Monrovia’s largest hospital, he said.
West Point residents went on a “looting spree,” stealing items from the clinic that were likely infected, said a senior police official, who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the press. The residents took medical equipment and mattresses and sheets that had bloodstains, he said.
“All between the houses you could see people fleeing with items looted from the patients,” the official said, adding that he now feared “the whole of West Point will be infected.”
(Incredibly, it gets worse.)
ADDED: Bryce sent this along.
Linking this on Twitter catalyzed a far more animated discussion than I had anticipated. Fundamental question: Is Bane NRx?
Outside in has no settled position on this (yet), and hadn’t expected to need one. A tentative proposal though: The League of Shadows is so radically neoreactionary it doesn’t relate to the Left as a political option, but solely as a mindless pathogen — as germ warfare to be guided against a decaying social order. That militant leftist activism will produce nothing but ruin is an assumption held so firmly it doesn’t require explicit acknowledgement — and the movie audience has to tacitly identify with this analysis for Bane’s strategy to make any sense. The Left is a disease, and therefore a potential bioweapon.
To try to work something like that outside a movie, it would really be necessary to be the functional equivalent of the League of Shadows (manipulating mainstream politics dexterously, from above, or beyond). It’s probably agreed that NRx isn’t there yet … unless what we see hides something else.
ADDED: In the Twitter chat, it has pointed out that my understanding of the background story is profoundly confused (especially regarding Bane’s troubled relationship with the League of Shadows). Hopefully, by the time people have finished with me in the ensuing comments thread, I’ll have been properly schooled. This (suggested by @CineRobert) might help.
Anarchopapist has triggered a twitter storm with this. It is a post that has many different threads running into it, and through it. The most relevant compliment I can pay it is to say that it is potentially disturbing, in something far more than a psychological sense. It will be interesting to see how contagious it proves to be. (As this post demonstrates, Outside in is already infected.)
Laliberte asks: “is there a difference between Prometheus’ fire and Pandora’s box?” Given everything said about the Promethean, and the very considerable ideological-theoretical work that it does, is it not strange that the Pandoran is scarcely recognized as a term, or a concept, at all? To talk about fire is mere shallow bedazzlement, in comparison to any serious examination of boxes. Boxes not only have a shape, but also an inside and an outside, which means — at least implicitly — a transcendental structure. They model worlds, and suggest ways out of them.
Pandora’s box, of course, is significant above all for its content, which is released, or gets out. Promethean flame, which is stolen, is contrasted with Pandoran plague, which escapes. Laliberte seizes the opportunity to discuss memes (and the ‘hypermeme’). An infectious being is set loose, in the shape of a Neoreactionary Basilisk. (On twitter, Michael Anissimov deplores the irresponsibility of this outbreak.)
Some nonlinear cybergothic strangeness to accompany you during these long winter nights.
ADDED: Direct access to the Creepypasta Wiki.
A prompt by @hugodoingthings to explore the spook-dense crypts of Roko’s Basilisk (which, inexplicably, has never latched before) led straight to this enthralling RationalWiki account. The whole article is gripping, but the following short paragraphs stand out for their extraordinary dramatic intensity:
Roko’s basilisk is notable for being completely banned from discussion on LessWrong, where any mention of it is deleted. Eliezer Yudkowsky, founder of LessWrong, considers the basilisk to not work, but will not explain why because he does not consider open discussion of the notion of acausal trade with possible superintelligences to be provably safe.
Silly over-extrapolations of local memes, jargon and concepts are posted to LessWrong quite a lot; almost all are just downvoted and ignored. But for this one, Yudkowsky reacted to it hugely, then doubled-down on his reaction. Thanks to the Streisand effect, discussion of the basilisk and the details of the affair soon spread outside of LessWrong. Indeed, it’s now discussed outside LessWrong frequently, almost anywhere that LessWrong is discussed at all. The entire affair constitutes a worked example of spectacular failure at community management and at controlling purportedly dangerous information.
Going Pro asks “for a chaos patch regarding the desire for something to ‘catch on’. Where does this desire come from? Maybe this would slow down the torch-raising ideology, and speed up the humility in fatalism … which speeds up speed.”
(‘Pliability’ is my middle name.)
Here‘s the link to a recent short ‘essay’ of mine on philosophy and war, written for an intriguing art project, themed by the Stuxnet worm. The PDF also includes a piece by John Menick and an interview with David Harley. (I haven’t had time to properly digest the whole thing yet — but it looks extremely interesting.) Lars Holdhus, who initiated the project, has generously given me permission to share it.