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TRIZ-Ingenieur comments on The map of global catastrophic risks connected with biological weapons and genetic engineering - Less Wrong

7 Post author: turchin 22 February 2016 11:18AM

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Comment author: TRIZ-Ingenieur 24 February 2016 02:26:05PM *  3 points [-]

All risks from existing viral/bacterial sources are proven to be of non-existential risk to humanity. If the mortality rate is close to 100% the expansion is slowed down by killing potential disease distributors. In addition global measures will prevent mass spreading.

Regarding human/AI designed bio weapons: The longer the incubation period the more dangerous a bio-weapon will be. To extinguish the entire human race the incubation time has to be in the range of years together with an almost 100% successful termination functionality. From observation of the very first deaths to finding cure may get faster than with HIV for two reasons: Technology is more advanced now, and facing extinction the humans will put all available energy into cure.

What remains is a Trojan horse infection that is waiting for a trigger. If 100% of humans are infected the trigger molecule could be spread into the stratosphere. This could be it for us.

Comment author: turchin 24 February 2016 02:40:19PM 1 point [-]

Ok, lets me be a devil advocate. The map is about future possible biowepaons created using genetic engineering, not exiting.

Lets imagine that a rogue country created 100 different pathogens with 50 per cent lethality each which seems to be possible with current technologies. These pathogens include different variants of flu, smallpox, anthrax and so on, total 100 species.

Than the rogue country send 200 letters with mixture of all these pathogens in each large city in world.

In result there will be multipandemic with mortality 1- (0.5 power 100) = 0,99999... Such multipandemic would wipe out most of humanity and survivors will die of starvation.

By playing with incubation periods and different environment carriers, as well as adding artificial fungi infections which are known to wipe out species, this rogue country could make such multipandemic very difficult to stop. The map include many more ideas how make such multipandemic even stronger. All these means that we should take such possibility seriously and invest in its prevention.

Comment author: The_Jaded_One 14 April 2017 09:06:13PM 1 point [-]

AFAIK Anthrax is not human transmissible. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthrax

In result there will be multipandemic with mortality 1- (0.5 power 100) = 0,99999

I don't think that's what would actually happen. Most likely, there would be a distribution over transmission rates. Some of your pathogens would be more infectious then others. The most infectious one or two of them would quickly outpace the transmission of all the others. It would be extremely hard to balance them so that they all had the same transmission rate.

The slower ones could be stranded by the deaths and precautions caused by the faster ones.

Comment author: turchin 15 April 2017 11:17:12AM 1 point [-]

I oversimplified to illustrate the idea of the multipandemic - that is many pandemics could happen simultaneously, either deliberately or because of explosion of bad biohacking, like it happened with computer viruses. Many pandemic will interact non-lineary, competing for dissemination ways, but their interaction could make also situation worse, as they could potentiate one another.

Anthrax probably could be made human transmittable by means of genetic manipulation.

I wrote long article about it, now under send it to Risk Analysis

Comment author: The_Jaded_One 16 April 2017 10:25:15PM 0 points [-]

But then why have we not seen a multipandemic of computer viruses?

Mostly (I assert) because the existence of an epidemic of virus A doesn't​ (on net) help virus B to spread.

Parasites which parasitize the same host tend to be in competition with each other (in fact as far as I am aware sophisticated malware today even contains antivirus code to clean out other infections); this is especially true if the parasites kill hosts.

I think a multipandemic is an interesting idea, though, and worthy of further investigation 👍

Comment author: turchin 17 April 2017 08:07:09AM 0 points [-]

I think that there are a multipandemic of computer viruses, but most of them now are malware which is not destroying data, and they are in balance with antivirus systems. However in early 1990s loosing data because of virus was common, and any computer user has experienced computer virus infection at least once.

"Nearly 1 million new malware threats released every day" http://money.cnn.com/2015/04/14/technology/security/cyber-attack-hacks-security/

Comment author: The_Jaded_One 18 April 2017 05:25:27PM 0 points [-]

I think that there are a multipandemic of computer viruses, but most of them now are malware which is not destroying data, and they are in balance with antivirus systems.

Well............ I don't know about this. If it's "in balance" and not actually destroying the hosts then it's not really a pandemic in the sense that you were using above. (Where it kills 99.999% of hosts!)

Comment author: turchin 18 April 2017 07:59:51PM 0 points [-]

There is a difference. We can reboot a computer, or reinstall an OS, but for a human it will be permanent damage or death.

Comment author: Vaniver 24 February 2016 03:03:01PM 1 point [-]

In result there will be multipandemic with mortality 1- (0.5 power 100) = 0,99999... Such multipandemic would wipe out most of humanity and survivors will die of starvation.

Surely the survival chance against multiple diseases won't be independent? It's suspected Europeans are more likely to be HIV-resistant than non-Europeans because of repeated epidemic-caused culls. (One description.)

Comment author: turchin 24 February 2016 03:29:56PM 0 points [-]

While it will not be independent, such dependency could be estimated statistically or using complex math model. If it will done statistically I guess it will result in that total mortality will be 0.25 from each specie, but given large enough number of different pathogens the result of multiplication will be the same - total extinction. Some humans could be resistant to some species of microbes, but no one will be resistant to all species.

If attacker will be sophisticated enough, he may calculate how different stains will combine. Quick ones will result in panic and people movement and help to disseminate the slower ones. Some of them may be asymptomatic but carry HIV genes. Some may live in environment for decades. Some may infect food with poisonous fungi.

Multipandemic may also result accidentally if many "bad" biohackers will get "bioprinters" in their hands almost simultaneously, as a result of tech progress. In this case it will be milder, but almost unstoppable. Millions of computer viruses are written each year and the same could happen with bio viruses.

We should also add that genetic diversity of humanity is very small because it passed through bottle neck 70 000 ago. Chimps are much more diverse

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 27 February 2016 04:36:59PM 0 points [-]

Such multipandemic would wipe out most of humanity and survivors will die of starvation.

The survivors will not all die of starvation-- there will be stored food, and there are people who know how to do low and moderate tech agriculture, not to mention hunting and gathering.

I think you've talking about something that will end most of our civilization, not the human race.

Comment author: turchin 27 February 2016 06:34:54PM 0 points [-]

If all fields will be covered with anthrax and botulism producing environmental organisms, agriculture will not be possible... By remote groups of people I meant people in Antarctica Polar station or undocked ships. The final result will depend of ability of dangerous agent to cover large distances by air. (birds could do it and they are transmitting birds flu).