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THE ART OF PATHOGENIC WARFARE
Within human social and economic systems, pathogenic behavior is spreading. This is particularly true among powerful, successful, and wealthy people (finance, economics, politics, etc.) in the developed world. What specifically do I mean by pathogenic? An ever greater number of these people are adopting behaviors that are actively hostile to the human systems we rely upon. They actually think it is OK to put these systems at risk for personal benefit. Obviously, this is very dangerous. Given the massive amounts of network, technological, and financial leverage that's currently available to these people, even a single bad actor can wreak global havoc like never before (as in, they could cause an economic collapse that's so severe that it could kill more people than every war we've ever had to date, combined).
So, why is this happening and how can we prevent it? This has been a tough section of the book I'm currently writing. Fortunately, I think I'm starting to unravel it. Here we go. In order to understand why some bad actors are willing to do grievous harm to the complex systems they rely upon, we need to visit the cutting edge of microbiology. Let's start that exploration with a look at an amazing article by Brett Finlay in the Scientific American called, "Stopping Infections: The Art of Bacteriological Warfare."
Good, Neutral, and Bad Bacteria
First, it's important to understand that our bodies are filled with bacteria. There are 10 bacteria for every cell in our body. This horde of bacteria in our bodies falls into three camps:
commensals (they benefit from being there but no harm comes to us)
symbiotes (we both benefit) or
pathogens (they benefit from us, but do harm to us).
Fortunately, the vast majority of bacteria in our bodies are commensals and symbiotes. Only a small number of the bacteria in healthy bodies are pathogens. In fact, of all the tens of thousands of known bacterial species,only about 100 are renegades that break the rules of peaceful coexistence and make us sick.
It should be pretty easy to see the parallels between human society and the bacteriological ecosystem described here. So, let's press forward with something more interesting: new insight into bacteriological warfare.