RE: Ebola

From: altamira (
Date: Tue Aug 08 2000 - 08:06:22 MDT

> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> []On Behalf Of Paul Hughes
> So the golden question is - can we really survive one of these
> plagues, let
> alone dozens of them? And if a few of us did manage to survive, would it
> matter? Would there be any modern civilization left? Would the
> transhuman
> ambition become a bygone fantasy no longer capable of being pursued in any
> practical manner?

In the past, epidemics caused by virulent pathogens newly introduced into
human populations have tended to play out within a human generation due to a
couple of factors. One factor is the evolution of the pathogen into a form
which is nonlethal to the host, the second being that the pathogen kills
susceptible individuals, leaving the population as a whole resistant. My
present understanding of molecular genetics doesn't lead me to believe that
the process of natural selection would fail due to the presence of alien
genes, so I would expect epidemics of the near future to follow the same
course as their historical predecessors. However, during the generation when
the pathogen is at its most lethal, past civilations have changed beyond

There are other challenges facing us in addition to the risk of disease
epidemic. These include the wide-spread destruction of top soil,
historically positively correlated with the fall of civilizations; dwindling
amounts of easily extractable petroleum; and the cultural weariness of an
over-mature civilization. One of the things I like about the Extropians is
their determined sense of optimism, but I sometimes sense that it's being
purchased at the price of denial of the magnitude of the changes we'll be
dealing with in the coming 50-100 years.

A while back I read an interesting book called _How the Irish Saved
Civilization_ about the role played by Irish monks in preserving the written
works of the Romans as the western portion of the Empire crumbled into
illiterate pre-feudalism (for lack of a better term). The monks hid the
books in out of the way places, and although there was a period of time in
which the Roman knowledge lay dormant, it was there when later generations
were ready to appreciate it.

IMO, it would be wise for those of us who can see what may be coming to take
steps to preserve what knowledge we can, just in case history takes the
downhill road. Someone recently joked about installing Eliezer in one of
the missile silos. Possibly in another 30 years the idea won't seem like
such a joke after all.


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