reply to post by nite owl
Life is always scary when you realize how incredibly robust and fragile it is.
Our society is very robust and very efficient in terms of communication. I'm not talking about cell phones - I'm talking about the "six degrees of
separation." It's a sort of mathematical concept that, at most, six people stand between you and another person.
Numerous studies have been done involving this - including several experiments where packages were dropped off in random places around the globe. The
challenge was to relay the package back to a given person using only people you know. Within six exchanges, the package always makes it back to the
designated person using only personal relationships.
Whether we realize it or not, it's a law that governs everything from cellular chemistry to our power grid and highway system. It is node-based
networking. You may only know a few people - but you have almost direct contact with someone who is a 'node' - a person who knows other people. By
using these nodes, we can transition information quickly and efficiently regardless of how large the network becomes.
This works against us in the way of outbreaks/pandemics. Mathematical studies were done regarding transmission of pathogens. The focus was mostly on
air travel - the moment any infectious agent hit an international airport - it was unstoppable despite any measures taken. Since most illnesses
caused by pathogens have substantial incubation times and subtle symptoms of onset while remaining communicable - this means any outbreak has the
potential to become a world-wide pandemic before the first person ever gets admitted to the hospital with symptoms.
It's a truly terrifying prospect.
Let's say it's a virus with a 20% infection rate and a 2% mortality rate - you're looking at 1/5 of the population of any given country getting
sick and potentially requiring hospitalization. Most hospitals already operate at or near full capacity - that should give you an indication of how
absolutely mind-boggling that is going to be. Then, you figure one out of every 250 people will die - or, for a nation like America, about 1.5
million people - a very small percentage of the population, but way beyond what we are prepared to deal with. Bodies would stack up in the
Interestingly enough - more people would die from collateral than the actual pandemic. Some will lock themselves in their homes and seal it with
duct-tape and other creative attempts to prevent infection, only to suffocate. Rioting will break out - some people will refuse to go to work, and if
the power starts to go out due to lack of support from workers; you can kiss modern, civilized life goodbye. About the longest we can expect order to
be maintained is three days. That is about the average amount of food on-hand in any given household. After that - looting and gang warfare start up
and begin to overwhelm law enforcement (if they aren't busy getting their families out of harm's way - or attempting to do so).
So, yeah - they over-react to a lot of things... but it doesn't take a killer virus to threaten modern society - it only takes one that scares us
into not performing our duties. Look at public reaction to Swine Flu. What do you think would have happened if it was a more infectious virus and
had a lethality above 0.01%?
Honestly - if I had to deal with an emerging pandemic, I would issue vaccines that were, honestly, just saline solution just to make people feel like
they can go to work. That may sound somewhat cruel - but far more people will die in the attrition following collapse of modern society if people
lose faith in the concept of society.