Batman.

“What’s the point in even having money if you can’t use it to buy better health care?”

—Jonathan, my (late) brother, explaining why
he renounced his Canadian citizenship

I’ve been reading a lot about bats recently, in particular this review article from Nature. You can guess why, even if you haven’t hopped on the Batwagon yourself: bats appear to be the original reservoir of Covid-19. Those little flying furballs are notorious reservoirs for lots of pathogens: Rabies, Ebola, SARS and MERS to name but a few. Bats host more zoonotic pathogens than any other mammal on record. Frankly, given typical Human behavior, I’m surprised that everyone from WHO to the Shriners haven’t already launched a worldwide campaign to Destroy All Bats on epidemiological grounds alone. (Not that we’re not seeing plenty of rumblings along those lines, mind you.)

But bats turn out to be way cool along other axes as well. Metabolism, for one thing: high metabolic rates generally correlate with short lifespans (the hotter you run the engine, the faster you wear out the parts). But bats break that rule. They have to run hot much of the time to support the energetic demands of powered flight, yet they live over three times as long as earthbound mammals of comparable size. In fact, bats are the only species that live longer than we do, once you’ve corrected for body mass[1] (the only other mammal that can make that claim is the naked mole rat).

Also bats don’t get cancer. At least, not nearly as often as the rest of us mammals do.

All these traits appear to be tangled up with a common underlying cause. I’m no geneticist—my eyes glazed over the stuff about IFN-induction of RNASEL and the differential expression patterns of IRF7— but the broad strokes are straightforward. Bat metabolism involves a lot of something called “heat-shock proteins“, which facilitate metabolism when the engine runs hot. (Name notwithstanding, heat shock proteins help cells deal with a whole range of stressors, by enhancing the repair of damaged proteins or the creation of new ones.) Bats also pack a deluxe set of DNA-repair pathways, and their mitochondria produce less reactive oxygen that you would expect from mammals of that size. (Remember the whole antioxidant craze, when everyone was eating blueberries to stave off their inevitable senescence? Same basic principle.)

Don’t sweat it: it’s way beyond me too. From Irving et al 2021.

This suite of cellular repair traits, which presumably evolved in conjunction with the energy demands of flight, confer a variety of side effects. It allows the organism to withstand pathogen loads that would kill other species, without manifesting symptoms. It makes them resistant to that particularly scary form of cell damage known as cancer. It enhances longevity. And Irving et al do not gloss over these incidentals. They zoom in on them, excitedly pointing out that ongoing bat research won’t just pay off in terms of predicting and controlling diseases, but also in terms of “potentially combat ageing and cancer in humans”. There’s even wet-lab proof-of-principle in evidence:

In a bat–mouse chimaera model, an immunodeficient mouse reconstituted with a bat immune system appeared to be less prone to graft-versus-host disease than were other chimeric mouse systems reconstituted with immune cells from human and other mammalian animal donors.

So. We’re looking at tweaks in which elements of the chiropteran immune system are inserted into human beings, making them resistant to a wide variety of pathogens, cancer— and offering an increased lifespan to boot. What a glorious new chapter in the Human Adventure, eh?

Possibly. At least, such a scenario wouldn’t violate any laws of physics that I can see. It might strain the laws of Human Nature past the bounds of credibility, but it’s hardly inconceivable. And as Rick Deckard once opined about a different subspecies of gengineered Humanity: “they’re either a benefit or a hazard. If they’re a benefit, it’s not my problem.”

If they’re a hazard, it’s mine.

*

So let’s interrogate this scenario. Who is most likely to pioneer the research and make the breakthroughs that lead to this new golden age of healthy Methuselahs (or more precisely, who’s more likely to let some spunky start-up do all that, then ruthlessly swoop in and buy them out once the little guys have taken all the risks)? Big Pharma, that’s who.

How likely are the Pfizers and Johnson & Johnsons of the world to open-source the tweaks they’ve appropriated, for the good of all humankind? Not very.

Prediction #1: long life and good health with be copyrighted, trademarked, proprietary, and will cost the fucking moon—even if your factories can run off a dose for the price of a quarter-pounder with cheese. Because here on Capitalist Earth, it’s not the cost of production that dictates price: it’s the value of your product to the consumer. HealthyMethuselahTM will be extremely valuable. It will be a privilege of the very wealthy.

Blindingly obvious as predictions go, I’ll grant you. ‘Twas ever thus.

Prediction #2: there will be biohackers. There will be people with significant molecular smarts who, while not card-carrying members of the One Percent, can at least afford a thermocycler and whatever gene drives have upstaged TALEN and CRISPR this week. The code for HMTM will be cracked eventually, so that even we proles may benefit. When this happens, it will be a crime: HMTM is patented, after all.

Again, not an especially radical insight.

But here’s where it gets interesting: the fact that bats don’t get sick from all these diseases doesn’t mean they don’t have them; it just means they don’t manifest symptoms. That’s the whole definition of reservoir: your blood is swarming with bugs that are harmless to you, but which can transmit to all manner of more vulnerable hosts. Assuming that HMTM operates along the same lines (and the whole point of Irving et al‘s paper is that we should study bat strategies with an eye to applying them to Humans), our healthy wealthy won’t necessarily be free of disease. In fact, given the behavior we’ve recently observed among certain members of that elite even when they can get sick—brazen violation of travel restrictions, outright contempt for the most basic Covid countermeasures—we can take it as given that some of the ultrarich will use their new superpower to wander wherever they please, from melting tundra to tropical pesthole, without regard for the local pathogen count. Hell, eating meat that’s gone a bit off off might even become a kind of status symbol: what can a few miserable microbes do to them, after all?[2]

So Prediction #3: plutocrats will become, in their own right, massive pathogen reservoirs. Wherever they go, they will shed disease. Of course, that won’t bother anyone down at the country club or over on the private island; all those good people are superspreaders themselves, completely asymptomatic thanks to HMTM. But if any of the zero-pointers (or their flunkies) decide to wander down Yonge Street or take in a play on Broadway, the rest of us are fucked. The very presence of the wealthy on our streets will cause sickness and death among the larger population.

Legal restrictions? Criminal charges? Air pollution causes millions of deaths every year; how many captains of industry ever ended up in jail on that account? Does anyone really think we’re gonna charge Jeff Bezos’ limo driver for the crime of being contagious?

So, for a final narrative twist: being healthy in the midst of a street-level outbreak will, in and of itself, make you criminally suspect if you fall below a certain income threshold. It’s a mentality on sad display every time some cop pulls over a car that seems just a bit too upscale to be owned by the black person at its wheel. By the same token, if Josephine Sixpack finds herself wandering around asymptomatic in the midst of a Nipah outbreak—well, how did she pull that off, hmm? Maybe she had a bit of help. Ma’am, I’ll need to see to see a receipt for that immune system…

The story almost writes itself. If I had a bit of legal expertise I could even turn it into an episode of Law & Order: Twenty Minutes Into the Future. As it is I’ll probably need to come at it from a different angle—but I think you’ll agree it’d make a decent little short. We open with our protagonist in detention, waiting for someone to bring a gene kit over from the 58th precinct because the reagents in the one upstairs are past their expiry date. We go from there.

My only misgiving is that it might suffer from a lack of imagination. You barely even need the SF element: swap out “healthy in an outbreak” for “wearing a hoodie in a gated community” and you’ve got pretty much the same story. It’s hardly even a metaphor.

Perhaps the main reason I’ve traditionally written science fiction is because unlike mainstream literature, SF is vast enough to explore scenarios that most might consider “extreme”.

It’s strange to realize that in some ways, mainstream reality has always been so extreme that it’s swallowed science fiction in turn.


  1. The same reference suggests that the caloric restriction resulting from hibernation increases bat longevity. Hibernating predators with really long lives? Sound familiar?

  2. Don’t be fooled by the understandable focus on viruses: bats also act as reservoirs for various zoonotic bacteria, fungi, and metazoan parasites.



This entry was posted on Friday, February 5th, 2021 at 8:48 am and is filed under biology, biotech, scilitics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

42 Responses to “Batman.”

  1. Phil

    If we can save one person’s life by killing every bat in North America, it will be worth it.

    More seriously, I have no love for the very wealthy, but I have no deep love for humanity in general, self-important, self-interested little shits that we are. If the wealthiest 0.1% are able to survive an apocalypse of plagues, with the world inhabited by only 7 million of them when it’s done, I have no problem with that. I can think happy thoughts of them having to grow and cook their own damn food as I die from whatever gains a foothold…

  2. Paula Johanson

    In your story, it’s the Anabaptist communes that will thrive with some semblance of “normal” health. Not because most Amish, Hutterite or Mennonite communities tend to reject vaccination, but because all such communities have always from their founding rejected the sickness that is Western plutocracy. The people who founded and joined Anabaptist movements were well aware of the vampiric nature of governments and nobles in their European countries. Their descendants have never forgotten.
    Alas, Peter, plutocrats already are massive pathogen reservoirs, not only for infectious diseases but for infectious evil behaviours and goals.

  3. Mirik

    Phil,

    No it wouldn’t.

  4. Devin

    Phil,

    Very much like the cure for heart disease, that. You know. Cardiotomy. You won’t live forever after heart removal, but at least you won’t have to worry about heart disease.

    Even aside from the wild and impossible-to-predict effects on insect life, bats are major pollinators, far more important than bees. And of course bees are in trouble too… Have you figured out how we’re going to survive the collapse* of land-based life yet?

    *Collapse, not extinction. Sure, some plants will live, they ain’t all dependent on bats, or on insects affected by the bat-holocaust, or on ecological niches created by the above… But we’re talking species survival rates more like the Warsaw Ghetto than Hiroshima, here.

  5. popefucker

    Devin:
    Have you figured out how we’re going to survive the collapse* of land-based life yet?

    I dunno, but people have proven pretty adaptable in the past. I wouldn’t be surprised if we started getting up to some Fremen type shit.
    One way or another though, I can’t think of any plausible scenario in which more than a billion people are alive in 2100.

    *Collapse, not extinction.

    Mass extinction is never complete. The Earth is almost certainly never going to go back to being a sterile rock, at least not until the sun gets much much bigger. Even during the P-T boundary (which is a plausible reference point for how bad this could get and how global ecosystems might recover), there were vertebrates living on the surface.

  6. DiversityLoss

    @popefucker

    I think collapse really undersells the degree of anticipated diversity loss.

    Beyond that, drawing on SF for optimistic future scenarios? Are you sure you’re on the right blog?

  7. Jack

    Phil,

    The 0.1% growing and cooking their own food? These pampered hothouse orchids? Ha.

    I like the blood transfusion approach to anti-aging. Receive a “young persons” blood plasma. Don’t have $8000.00? DIY costs less. Definitely harder to pull off (and ill advised!) Probably not worth the hassle.

  8. Jack

    Mirik,

    We can no longer sit back and let the plutocrat bastards, with their massive pathogen reservoirs, infiltrate, sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.

    Well perhaps you are forgetting the provision in Plan R Sir? You must remember. Surely you must recall Sir. The idea was for Plan R to be a sort of retaliatory safeguard.

  9. Jack

    Paula Johanson,

    We can no longer sit back and let the plutocratic bastards, with their massive pathogen reservoirs, infiltrate, sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.

    Well perhaps you are forgetting the provision in Plan R Sir? You must remember. Surely you must recall Sir. The idea was for Plan R to be a sort of retaliatory safeguard.

  10. Anonymous

    DiversityLoss:
    @popefucker
    drawing on SF for optimistic future scenarios? Are you sure you’re on the right blog?

    I wouldn’t consider a world where people are forced to live underground and recycle as much of their waste fluids as possible to be “optimistic”, but to each their own.

    They *did* have cool drugs in that book though. I imagine anyone who lives in such a blasted hellscape will need to take strong psychedelics a few times to avoid depression.

    Jack,

    Lmao. “How I learned to stop caring and love the revolution”

  11. popefucker

    DiversityLoss:
    @popefucker

    I think collapse really undersells the degree of anticipated diversity loss.

    I agree

    Beyond that, drawing on SF for optimistic future scenarios? Are you sure you’re on the right blog?

    I wouldn’t call a future where people are forced to live underground and recycle as much of their personal body fluids as possible “optimistic”, but to each their own.

    One of the only optimistic aspects of that book is their ritual use of psychedelic drugs. Honestly I think it might be necessary to avoid mass depression from living in such a blasted hellscape. It already practically is.

    Jack,

    Haha, “how I learned to stop caring and love the revolution” or some such

    (apologies for possible double-post)

  12. Ashley R Pollard

    What happened? Am I lost? Is this the blog I was looking for?

    Humans are a pest upon the world. Check.
    The rich consume the poor. Check.
    Peter Watts writing stuff. Check.

    Okay, all good. Like the new look. White is right. That might not age well as a comment. 😉

  13. osmarks

    Anonymous,

    Which book is this? I’m somewhat curious now and you don’t appear to have mentioned its title or anything.

  14. Anonymous

    Mirik:
    Phil,

    No it wouldn’t.

    Hey, I like bats, but you can’t stop progress. They’re sanitizing everything already, and vaccinating for things that our immune systems used to deal with, so we might as well join the rest of the human race and continue the project. The problem isn’t that we’re destroying species and habitats, it’s that we’re taking a restrained approach to the matter. If we’re going to head down this road (and really, there’s no “if” about it) then we need to commit. With wholesale habitat destruction we could remove not only the higher animal disease vectors, but any possible hosts for viruses, bacteria, or anything else that could make us ill. And doing this would have the additional salutary effect of removing all the plants that cause allergies. We would need to retain a few safe crops, like soy and corn, but everything else presents a danger to us and should be eliminated. The aesthetic issues presented by denuded landscapes could be addressed by implants that allow us to “paint” any scenery we want onto the rock and sand.

  15. [ZUKUNFT]: Von einem Fachmann … - JOHN AYSA

    […] dem Beitrag mit dem simplen Titel Batman ↗ (lest mal seine SF-Romane Blindflug und Echopraxia und ergötzt euch an der genialen […]

  16. Jack

    Anonymous,

    Anonymous,

    In response to the “hey I like bats….”
    Long sigh. Me too. No more dynamite hickeys.

  17. popefucker

    osmarks,

    Dune. Very good book.

    Anonymous,

    “Committing” would end us up with a fully uninhabitable Earth. We do not have the technology, at this moment and probably not in the near future, to live without the natural nitrogen cycle (for instance).
    Basically consider how hard it would be to set up Mars so that it could support a population of billions. Now imagine doing that on Earth, where cultural and political conflict would arise, and all the life living here isn’t going to go down easy. That is the level of difficulty that such a geoengineering project presents, and there is no way it would eliminate diseases or crop blights anyway.

  18. xbat

    osmarks,

    They’re talking about “Dune”.

  19. Candas Jane Dorsey

    Huh. Actually, I’m already writing that story. About the DNA elite and the jailed biohacker. I was looking for the right DNA-hack to use when this fell into my in-box (I was looking at spiders, say, or hedgehogs — that latter is a joke, btw. The protagonist makes spiders, while in jail, but more for fun than anything.) So fair warning, bats may be mentioned as a shout-out…thanks. Of course, it will be nothing like your story, but that’s because you usually end all life on earth as we know it in under 5000 words, while I usually allow some broken fragment to survive and it takes me 8000 LOL.

  20. PhilRM

    What do you think the odds are that instead of ultra-rich Methusalehs we wind up with Cronenberg’s “Rabid”?

  21. Peter Watts

    Paula Johanson:
    In your story, it’s the Anabaptist communes that will thrive with some semblance of “normal” health.

    I suspect you may enjoy this.

    Alas, Peter, plutocrats already are massive pathogen reservoirs, not only for infectious diseases but for infectious evil behaviours and goals.

    Well, yeah. That’s what makes it a metaphor (albeit barely).

    Ashley R Pollard: What happened? Am I lost? Is this the blog I was looking for? … Okay, all good. Like the new look. White is right. That might not age well as a comment.

    Uh, yeah. This is the look you get when you refuse to upgrade WordPress for a decade because you’re afraid that the upgrade will break your plug-ins and your carefully-handcoded sidebar html, but then you get sick of the constant nagging to upgrade every time you log in to your dashboard, so you finally upgrade and guess what: it breaks your plug-ins and your carefully-handcoded sidebar html, so you desperately roll back to an earlier version of WordPress again but that doesn’t fix anything so in a fit of panic you grab whatever other theme you can find that at least lets people scroll back past “Raised by Wolves. Written by Idiots” without the whole window going black for some reason and then you also have to add some extra code because the New Improved WordPress stretches the aspect ratio on some of your images for no good reason and you still can’t stop WordPress from moving every comment you edit up to the top of the stack instead of leaving where you originally posted it.

    So yes. This is the right blog. But it still needs some work.

    Candas Jane Dorsey:
    Huh. Actually, I’m already writing that story. About the DNA elite and the jailed biohacker …. So fair warning, bats may be mentioned as a shout-out…thanks.

    Damn. Well, as I recall you ‘re a better prose stylist than I am anyway, so you might as well just run with it.

    PhilRM:
    What do you think the odds are that instead of ultra-rich Methusalehs we wind up with Cronenberg’s “Rabid”?

    I’m not entirely sure, but any future in which porn stars grew armpit proboscoses that attacked people would probably be closer to the Utopian end of the scale from where I stand.

  22. The K

    If Big Pharma gets that stuff working, i very much doubt they will only produce a super-expensive luxury version. No, they will also market a bugdet, pared-down version for the mass market, a version that, incidentally needs constant updates and refreshers to work/not fry your body.

    I mean, the big corpos dont act out of malice. They want to make money, as much of it as possible.

    Think Iphone, just for your body.

  23. popefucker

    The K,

    “I still have my Nokia genehacks. Gets the job done, and the darn thing’s indestructible!”

  24. has

    @Anonymous: “They’re sanitizing everything already, and vaccinating for things that our immune systems used to deal with”

    Err, our immune systems still do. Vaccines are just their Mandatory Training Days, so that Thing One and Thing Two aren’t standing around holding their dicks for the first week of infection.

    Maybe you were thinking of “breeding extra children”? That’s how we of the Privileged Lands used to overcompensate for potentially disastrous loss of our future precious genomes. (Turns out you don’t *need* to replicate like rabbits if you’re top of the carnivorous pile. Though I’m sure some will still do just for sport.)

    Honestly, vaccination is probably one of the more effective means toward human population control. After all, who wants to be doing any more 3am diaper changes than they absolutely must stand for? Except for the long-lived disease-ridden rich, who can just pay generations of serfs to do it for them, as they smear their life-sucking spawn over what’s left of this world.

    Peter’ll get his Vampires yet; at least that much is sure.

  25. Anonymous

    This provides the strongest argument I’ve heard so far for *not* eating the rich.

  26. Anonymous

    Anonymous,

    Especially avoid rich surgically enhanced trophy wives, bleh…the silicon gets stuck in your teeth and tastes most foulsome.

  27. Anonymous

    Anonymous: “They’re sanitizing everything already, and vaccinating for things that our immune systems used to deal with”

    Has: “Err, our immune systems still do. Vaccines are just their Mandatory Training Days, so that Thing One and Thing Two aren’t standing around holding their dicks for the first week of infection.”

    Caught me – vaccines don’t work without an immune system. My thinking on this is more along a continuum, and probably frames me as a sociopath. I see vaccines for things like smallpox and polio as entirely worthwhile – they protect young people from truly horrible diseases that affect them disproportionately. Flu vaccines, not so much. Most of us have immune systems that handily deal with flu and corona viruses, and until quite recently did so without public health agencies, governments more generally, and pharmaceutical companies telling us we need to get an annual flu vaccine for the protection of both ourselves and everyone else. Our society seems happy to create a moral obligation for us to get the flu vaccine, but sees any discourse to the effect that people should safeguard their own health by exercising and eating better, and observing rational sanitary practices (i.e. not extreme in either direction) as shaming and morally objectionable. I understand that herd immunity better protects both the immunologically weakest in our society, and infants who should not be inoculated, by helping to prevent the virus from being present in the first place, and this is where I think maybe I’m a sociopath because on a continuum running from protecting us from everything to protecting us from nothing, flus are where I draw the line. If you get the flu or a corona or rhinovirus, keep functioning until you can’t. Then go to bed until you recover. Most of us, including infants, will recover with strengthened immune systems.

    So, maybe I’m a sociopath because I’m not concerned about the health of a segment of the global population in the short term. I can count the people I really care about on one hand, and for the most part those people also have an understanding and acceptance of the impermanence of life. Maybe my attitude is tied to the fact that I’m pushing 60 and have had a chance to live my life. Maybe it’s because I figure none of us live forever, and that our global society is currently setting the bars for where we take action, and where we don’t, in the wrong places. Maybe there’s just something missing in me, I don’t know. I just see all of us focused entirely on our own short-term interests, and I have no sympathy for that, for myself or anyone else.

    I realize this has nothing to do with your post except the first line. Apologies to all for the spew.

  28. Fatman

    Anonymous: Our society seems happy to create a moral obligation for us to get the flu vaccine, but sees any discourse to the effect that people should safeguard their own health by exercising and eating better, and observing rational sanitary practices (i.e. not extreme in either direction) as shaming and morally objectionable.

    You’re not a sociopath. Nor is anything “missing in you”. However, lugging that massive strawman around for argument purposes probably wears you out and leaves you a tad cranky.

    Set it down. No guarantees, but it’ll probably make you feel better.

    Anonymous: I see vaccines for things like smallpox and polio as entirely worthwhile – they protect young people from truly horrible diseases that affect them disproportionately. Flu vaccines, not so much.

    While I won’t try to tell you how to see things, this is factually incorrect. Young people die from flus. Old people survive truly horrible diseases. Vaccines contribute to varying degrees of protection from diseases in general. This is one of the reasons why flus no longer kill millions.

    Anonymous: for the most part those people also have an understanding and acceptance of the impermanence of life

    Life is indeed impermanent. For me, that’s extra reason to not end it through blatant stupidity, such as allowing preventable diseases to run rampant.

  29. Peter Watts

    The K: If Big Pharma gets that stuff working, i very much doubt they will only produce a super-expensive luxury version. No, they will also market a bugdet, pared-down version for the mass market, a version that, incidentally needs constant updates and refreshers to work/not fry your body.

    If they’re really following the iPhone model, they should be going all the way: you don’t just need updates to keep the advertised hacks working, you need them to inactivate the other embedded hacks that induce cancer if you try switching to the competition.

    Assuming there still is competition.

  30. has

    “Most of us have immune systems that handily deal with flu and corona viruses, and until quite recently did so without public health agencies, governments more generally, and pharmaceutical companies telling us we need to get an annual flu vaccine for the protection of both ourselves and everyone else.”

    The 2017-18 flu season (worst in last 10 years) infected 45 MILLION Americans and killed 61 thousand.

    Hospitalized 810,000 too, which with the US healthcare system being what it is is probably only marginably preferable to being killed by it.

    https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/index.html

    SARS-CoV-2 has already infected 28M Americans and killed nearly half a million. But sure, if you are cool with all that pain and suffering then call yourself a sociopath, why not. Good way to flip off any sort of social responsibility if nothing else.

  31. Anonymous

    “Young people die from flus. Old people survive truly horrible diseases.”

    Some people die from lightening strikes. Most don’t. Some people survive skydiving falls when their chutes fail to open. Most don’t. I’m not sure of your point.

    “lugging that massive strawman”

    I don’t know where you live, but around here our government’s done a terrible fucking job on the prevention side of public health. It’s a lot cheaper to buy french fries than other vegetables, and if you want access to exercise equipment you need to buy it or pay a gym. (In Seoul I remember seeing chin-up bars and the like in public parks.) So, you’ll need to explain the strawman if you want me to agree with you.

    “For me, that’s extra reason to not end it through blatant stupidity, such as allowing preventable diseases to run rampant.”

    For me it’s a reason to pick the things I’m cautious of. The shit that scares you may not be the shit that scares me. And I’ll pick the people I look out for. And I agree, I guess that’s not sociopathic in relation to the iPhone approach to the HealthyMethuselahTM treatments for the rest of us under discussion here. Everything’s a sliding scale. Although, wouldn’t it be great to get in on the ground floor of THAT IPO?

  32. Anonymous

    “with the US healthcare system being what it is […] Good way to flip off any sort of social responsibility if nothing else.”

    I’m not American, and if I was I’d vote for the kind of state health care found in other developed nations. The difficulty your country is having changing the status quo indicates to me that your understanding of social responsibility isn’t shared by at least half of your citizens.

  33. Fatman

    Anonymous: Some people die from lightening strikes. Most don’t. Some people survive skydiving falls when their chutes fail to open. Most don’t. I’m not sure of your point.

    My point is that your “drawing the line at the flu” is completely arbitrary. Past vaccinations against the flu and flu-like diseases are part of the reason why we have “immune systems that handily deal with flu and corona viruses”.

    COVID-19 has already killed over a million people, and flus regularly kill hundreds of thousands. There is no “continuum” between worthwhile and non-worthwhile. Surely civilization has advanced past the point where we can’t tell the difference between a preventable disease and a lightning strike.

    We didn’t “get on just fine until recently” without the “global society” (whatever that may be) pushing vaccinations. We got along just fine because of that global consensus.

    Anonymous: So, you’ll need to explain the strawman if you want me to agree with you.

    I don’t need you to “agree with me”. You already apologized and implied that your post is based on your personal beliefs, rather than rational argument. Trying to change people’s religious views is both disrespectful and a waste of time.

    I am, however, calling bullshit on the strawman argument that the “global government” is trying to push people into taking unnecessary vaccinations while demonizing discourse aimed at improving public sanitation and nutrition. If you don’t feel morally obliged to take the flu vaccine and protect yourself and those around you (due to above religious reasons), the government can’t force you to do so. The relative prices of French fries and spinach are not the result of some nefarious health-shaming conspiracy.

    You also seem to be trotting out the unscientific and fallacious implication that living healthier lifestyles would somehow reduce the need for said vaccinations. It wouldn’t. Picking broccoli over fries is probably good for your overall health, but it doesn’t prevent people from dying in a pandemic.

    Anonymous: The shit that scares you may not be the shit that scares me.

    Precisely. Another reason why social responses to evolving disease threats should not be driven by fear, or ignorance, or some nebulous sense of grievance about priorities set by the “global society”. They should be driven by scientific evidence.

  34. Anonymous

    “Picking broccoli over fries is probably good for your overall health, but it doesn’t prevent people from dying in a pandemic.”

    Actually, it might. Not immediately, but down the road. Severe Covid 19 illness is correlated with obesity and type 2 diabetes (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-medical-conditions.html), both of which for the most part are preventable, or would be with public health campaigns that seriously promote healthy eating and exercise in conjunction with government subsidies to enable both. If you’re poor it’s a lot more difficult to do both for a whole host of reasons that probably don’t need enumerating here. Raising minimum wages and establishing guaranteed basic incomes would help in this regard, but I’m seeing no serious moves in that direction by any governments despite the clear correlations between severe Covid reactions and preventable health conditions. Instead, we seem to want to default pretty much entirely to the equivalent of taking a pill.

    “My point is that your ‘drawing the line at the flu’ is completely arbitrary. Past vaccinations against the flu and flu-like diseases are part of the reason why we have ‘immune systems that handily deal with flu and corona viruses’.”

    It’s not arbitrary. Unlike other vaccines which need boosting every ten years, or not at all, flu vaccines need to be reformulated annually, and their effectiveness is far less than other vaccines (https://www.cdc.gov/flu/vaccines-work/effectiveness-studies.htm). While I’ve been inoculated against many things, I’ve never had a flu vaccine, and if I’ve had the flu, I’ve been unaware of it. So, in my case, and a number of people I know, the vaccine has had nothing to do with our immune systems, although other people getting the vaccine may have reduced something the likelihood of our coming into contact with the virus in the first place. Mind you, as far as I can tell, they’ve only been giving the flu vaccine up here since 2004 (https://www.cpha.ca/immunization-timeline – the 1988 shot was for a bacterial version apparently). Your “part of the reason” qualifier makes your statement undeniable, but leaves open the questions of which part, and for whom.

    “I don’t need you to ‘agree with me’. You already apologized and implied that your post is based on your personal beliefs, rather than rational argument. Trying to change people’s religious views is both disrespectful and a waste of time.”

    I apologized to the forum for a possibly off-topic post. I’m not sure what you think the apology was for. And I know you don’t need people to agree with you as you’ve repeatedly referred to “Covidiots” elsewhere in this forum, which has about as much to do with changing minds as American actions in Vietnam. (Both do change minds, but only in the way that students learn from a bad teacher different lessons from what is being taught.) Not sure why you think I’m religious. I’m agnostic. If believing I don’t know what to believe is a sufficient personal belief to count as religious, then sure. And by all means, if you can show me anything to believe in with certainty, please do. I’m still waiting for something in this world to do that. Your argumentation in this forum is likewise predicated on a set of beliefs, as is all argumentation.

  35. Fatman

    Anonymous: both of which for the most part are preventable, or would be with public health campaigns that seriously promote healthy eating and exercise in conjunction with government subsidies to enable both.

    You keep reverting to oversimplifications. Not sure why, when all this information is easily accessible via around 10 minutes of googling.
    Type 2 diabetes is genetically predetermined. Reducing the incidence of Type 2 diabetes would be great, but would not eliminate severe COVID-19 illness. Severe COVID-19 illness is correlated (to a degree) with a host of other health issues, most of which are not preventable. People without any comorbidity risk factors also contract severe COVID-19 illness, and die of COVID-19.
    I think you’re trying to make some murky argument about personal responsibility, then undermining it by railing about the role of the government. Which is, you know, cool, if that’s your jam. But it really has nothing to do with vaccinations in a pandemic.

    Anonymous: Raising minimum wages and establishing guaranteed basic incomes would help in this regard

    Guaranteed basic incomes and healthy eating are great, and I’m all for them. However, they would not eliminate the need for vaccinations against preventable diseases. You keep hammering away at a point that has nothing to do with the discussion. Maybe you’re doing this out of ignorance, but I’m starting to suspect it’s just a bad faith argument.

    Anonymous: although other people getting the vaccine may have reduced something the likelihood of our coming into contact with the virus in the first place.

    Bingo. Also, google “inherited herd immunity”. While you’re trying to think about it, consider 50 million (recorded) deaths worldwide of flu in 1918, and compare that to flu deaths in recent years. And yes, your personal preference for vaccine A over vaccine B is completely arbitrary, as it is not based on a rational argument, but on your beliefs who should and who shouldn’t die from a preventable disease.

    Anonymous: I’m not sure what you think the apology was for.

    You apologized for “the spew”, which I took to include your basing your opinion on personal beliefs, rather than fact. Your post was not off topic, IMO. A post about immune systems made to order was bound to attract at least a handful of antivaxxer and antivax-curious responses.

    Anonymous: And I know you don’t need people to agree with you as you’ve repeatedly referred to “Covidiots” elsewhere in this forum

    Ah, so you’re butthurt about my use of “covidiots”. That does put things into perspective. “Covidiot” is not meant to change the minds of covidiots, but to irritate, belittle and offend them. Looks like it’s working.

    Anonymous: which has about as much to do with changing minds as American actions in Vietnam.

    Oooookay.

    Anonymous: Not sure why you think I’m religious. I’m agnostic.

    Now I have to apologize. I did not use “religious” in the sense of “follower of ritualized superstition”. What I meant is that your argument is rooted in personal faith (“we should let these people die of this preventable disease, and not let those people die of that preventable disease”), rather than in objective reality. That makes it impervious to change, hence “a waste of time”.

  36. Bob the Bilger

    Greg Egan already wrote this in the 90s – “Distress”, plus a couple of shorts set in the same future. Different basic mechanism, same outcome, although ultimately with a more utopian outlook than I expect you’d be able to stomach (and this in a world where the backstory includes one rebellious community of biohackers being literally nuked by the Copyright Owners).

    Also, the “iPhone version” was basically done by Repo: The Genetic Opera. Featuring an actual real life hereditary plutocrat on the cast, no less.

    Windup Girl also sails to within touching distance of this territory. Nobody in that book – apart from perhaps “Gibbons” – even gets healthy long life out of it… not even the plutocrat characters! (Although Lake in his most ironic moment does actually say “I’m inoculated against diseases that haven’t even been released yet”). But, it is easily possible to imagine that Healthy Methuselah(tm) probably does exist on the same planet, just far away from the human meatgrinder setting of the story.

  37. Jason

    How about this scenario, for how the 99-ish percent get by (I’m pulling all this out of my rear so don’t take it too seriously please):

    The mutation and spread of pandemics increase such that new vaccines become a monthly or weekly thing, and vice versa. Much like a credit score in the U.S., many employers and landlords start requiring satisfactory vaccination records before, and while, giving you a job or a place to sleep. People need vaccinations so often that they can’t make a doctor’s appointment for it, since all medical providers are swamped, so new markets open up for alternative delivery methods, self-vax kits, fast-vax clinics, vaccine vending machines. MED-BOTs. Can you smell the money? And the disaster, which leads to more opportunity to make money?

    And how do people supply vaccination records unless they have a primary care physician who keeps them? A lot of people here (U.S.) just go to urgent care. Aside from a black market specializing in false vaccination reports, maybe Google will store it for you? Make it available through an API to Facebook or Tinder or whatever. “Do you want Potential-Fuck-Buddy to see your Vaccination Report? Clicking Yes indicates that you have read the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. We reserve the right to disclose your data to select third parties for the purpose of optimizing your user experience and anything else we want.”

    And as the number of vaccinations and the population increase, the number of bad reactions increase, up to and including death. So people are dying to get jobs and apartments. Well, more than now anyway.

    As far as patents go, there are countries that ignore international patents and infringe on whatever the hell they want. Bootleg Ebola vaccine? Buy it on Ebay for $9.99. 99.1% seller rating. Negative reviews detailing what happened when theirs didn’t work. Fake vaccines. Ghost sellers that offer great deals and disappear after a few days. Customs that seize shipments. Desperate people taking stupid risks. Raging political debate that keeps everyone busy like it’s supposed to, while the world keeps turning and the money rolls in.

    You can still carry a disease you are immune to, at least until your immune system wipes it out, unless you’re like a bat in which case you don’t need to, but antibodies and white blood cells can only work so fast, and you can come into contact with a few people between exposure and elimination. It’s like hot potato or whack-a-mole. Maybe you only got a few germs on you, maybe you’re coated in them. Maybe the latter is rare, but with many billions of people that’ll still happen often enough.

    Advances(?) in disease detection: No more infrared thermometers checking people at doors. Thermal cams everywhere, auto-tagging people with elevated temps, mics feeding software that detects coughs and sneezes. Outdoor exercise becomes taboo. Can’t risk the false positive. Have allergies? Better telecommute. Asthma? Hahahahaha. Markets open up to supply countermeasures to get past detection.

    Maybe most pandemics will evolve to be largely asymptomatic until the final stages, so by the time you realize you’re sick you’ve already spread it. And maybe bats can be reservoirs because their diseases haven’t undergone enough selection pressure to clear the field for the really nasty bugs. But with the 1% batmanned and the 99% vaxing their paychecks away, how long until [insert comic book Batman nemesis here] shows up?

  38. Fatman

    Jason: How about this scenario, for how the 99-ish percent get by

    Would buy this in novel format 10/10.

  39. Bob the Bilger

    Jason:

    Maybe most pandemics will evolve to be largely asymptomatic until the final stages, so by the time you realize you’re sick you’ve already spread it.

    Uh, this one already is that.

  40. Phil

    Bob the Bilger: Uh, this one already is that.

    No, with this one many people are asymptomatic through all stages.

  41. State of Dystopia: February 2021 • PRESENT PUNK

    […] Rifters: Batman. […]

  42. Gordan Zelnicki

    This can become a weaponized system no matter who gets it first… and yup…Socialism was better than this thing we have now. At lest I remember it to be better. Profit driven economy and greed will wipe us out, It doesn’t matter how we call it-climate change, densely populated human virus factories…Or it will be the braking point-environmental pressure for all of us that will kick us into action. There is no going back now.