[ Robert J Bradbury and John Clark discuss Star Wars, nuclear bombs, fertilizer, and Ebola. ]
Except for extreme scenarios involving a massive Russian launch -- madman gets a hold of launch codes, launch-on-warning triggered after computer failures on 1/1/2000, etc. -- any nuclear attack is going to be isolated. One or very few bombs, in one or very few locations.
I'd rather not have a nuclear attack, but it is unlikely to affect me or our society irreparably. Given that I live in a minor city, the odds are that I'm not going to be close enough to be affected by immediate bomb effects. I may face a slight long-term hazard from blown-in fallout, which I can mitigate by appropriate steps. I may lose a loved one who was coincidentally too close. The consequences to society need not be substantially different than a severe, local natural disaster, like the earthquakes in Taiwan or the hurricanes in Florida.
Ditto for chemical warfare or conventional explosives. What's common to them, and similar hazards, is that they are (a) space-limited, (b) they are time-limited, and (c) you can easily determine if you are at-risk or affected.
It's pretty obvious that the attack has occurred, where it is, and whether you or anyone you care about is anywhere near. People in the affected area can be helped by people elsewhere. Life goes on, and the timetable for the future is unchanged.
What scares me is biological warfare. The scenario in Clancy's _Rainbow
Six_. Find or engineer a biological agent that has a very high mortality
rate and a fairly long incubation period. Spread it through airports or
(inter)national events. Better still, develop and release several
different agents, or different versions of the same agent (perhaps with
different transmission vectors) -- making it more difficult for society to
For all we know such a scenario has already occurred, and we are still in
the incubation period.
For all we know such a scenario has already occurred, and we are still in the incubation period.
If something like this happened, you have a severe hazard that is not space-limited, not time-limited, and you can't easily tell if you are at-risk or affected. The consequences to me personally, and to our society, are dramatically greater.
It would dwarf health-care capacity. If it was spread world-wide, one region would not be able to help another. It could lead to draconian martial law. People would be fearful of each other, and isolate themselves.
In the worst-case variant, it could be successful in killing 95-99% of the world's population through direct effects. Some would not contract the disease; some would be immune to it. But many of them would die as well, due to secondary effects: the absence of all the goods and services provided by the ones who had died, additional hazards from the presence of so many corpses, etc.
You and I are most likely dead, along with everyone we care about, and we're not on ice at Alcor. Life, for the survivors, is irreparably altered. The extropian vision of the future is delayed indefinitely.
Please, Bob, convince me that this can't happen....
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