To date we have been discussing how technology, in the right hands,
holds great hope for humanity, and how, without foresight, or in the wrong hands (sometimes even our own) technological advancement has the potential to cause great destruction.
We will continue that discussion today…
USAMRIID, Fort Detrick, MD is the United States Army Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. Their mission is “to provide leading edge medical capabilities to deter and defend against current and emerging biological threat agents.”
Note that their mission is different from that of the World Health Organization
“…to direct and coordinate international health within the United Nations’ system.”
And from the Centers for Disease Control
“CDC works 24/7 to protect America from health, safety and security threats, both foreign and in the U.S. Whether diseases start at home or abroad, are chronic or acute, curable or preventable, human error or deliberate attack, CDC fights disease and supports communities and citizens to do the same.”
Global Catastrophic Risk
How big are the risks really?
Estimates from some of the largest pandemics:
• 541-750 Justinian Plague – 25M deaths (initial outbreak) 50M (two centuries of recurrence)
• 1347-1453 “Black Death” – 60% of the European population – 75M total deaths worldwide
• 1855-1959 Modern Plague – 12M deaths
• 1918-1919 H1N1 pandemic aka “Spanish Flu” infected 1/3 of world pop, 50M – 100M deaths
• 20th century Smallpox – 300M – 500M deaths
• 20th century TB – 100M deaths
• Malaria today – 200M – 500M cases per year, roughly 500,000 deaths per year
• Influenza today – 23,607 deaths per year (average of 1976 – 2010)
• Influenza today – 32,743 deaths per year (average of 2000 – 2010)
• 2009-2010 H1N1 – 43.3M – 89.3M cases 12,469 deaths
• Ebola 2014 – present – 11,314 deaths
Bill Gates: In summer of 2008, Gates left his day-to-day role with Microsoft to focus on philanthropy. Holding that all lives have equal value (no matter where they’re being lived), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has now donated staggering sums to HIV/AIDS programs, libraries, agriculture research and disaster relief — and offered vital guidance and creative funding to programs in global health and education. In considering world health and potential future outbreaks Bill says, “There’s no need to panic … but we need to get going.”
Natural Outbreaks & Pandemics
• In America at least, don’t we already have the necessary systems Gates is talking about?
• Are we really as unprepared as Gates makes us seem?
• What diseases naturally pose the greatest risks for large outbreaks?
• Which of them can spread in the air?
• Is there/was there any reason to ever fear an outbreak of Ebola in the U.S.?
• Don’t we have a drug for treating Ebola?
• Are we at much greater risk from influenza than from something like Ebola?
Intentional & Accidental
“The likelihood of at least one powerful actor being insane is not small.”
– Global Catastrophic Risks, Oxford University Press
• What is USAMRIID’s role in bio defense for both the military and general public?
• How easy/difficult would it be for terrorists to make and deploy bioweapons?
• What are some of the agents that could be used as bioweapons?
• How great are the risks of accidental release from labs like USAMRIID?
• What about the risk of intentional release?