Fermi Paradox solution: Superbugs

The arms race against pathogens is a losing proposition.

What if all the effort we put into killing bacteria, fungi and viruses only serves to evolve those microbes into variants that will eventually kill us off?

“Kills 99.9% of germs — Woo-hoo! Ninety-nine point nine percent, that’s great.”

“Uh, what about the other 0.1%?”

“Bah, they don’t count.”

Humanity has been fighting a war-on-microbes for more than a century now. And it’s been a boon to the eradication of illness. What used to kill us, infection, poor sanitation no longer does. I realize that not all of us have benefited, though. Lack of proper sanitation is still one of the top killers in economically challenged nations. Education and enablement of good hygiene and public health remains a top issue there.

Yet, I wonder what one hundred plus years of killing *nearly* all the microbes—leaving their most robust, heartiest brethren to evolve, repopulate and spread—has accomplished.

Wouldn’t it be ironic to learn that all of our germ-o-phobe behavior has actually been developing superior strains of super bugs. Wash your hands with soap and warm water (leaving the strongest bugs to live another day.) Wear deodorant that kills almost all of the odor causing bacteria (leaving only the smelliest to persist). “Kills 99.9% of germs on contact” — mouthwash, sanitizers, wipes…

  • 99.9 percent reduction is the EPA’s arbitrary cutoff for sanitizer performance.

What if our efforts, for a century, has been creating an army of Killer Pathogens Set On Humanity’s Destruction!

Sure enough, the list of antibiotic resistant pathogens grows yearly. The more we fight the stronger they become.

Is this a war we can never win?

A war we will eventually lose, ending human civilization.

If it happens to us, this desire to protect ourselves by eradicating pathogens—which only escalates their evolution—might it not happen to most intelligent alien races? Killing them off, thereby solving Fermi’s Paradox?

Here comes SuperBug to save the day!

 

 

Am so — R-Naught

As we speak, COVID-19 is raging through Indonesia.

Now, normally, I’d not pay too much attention to this bit of information except that, my friend and artist/illustrator, Yulian Mulyono (https://www.instagram.com/yulianion/) lives on the island called Lombok (just east of Bali) and has had a rough time of it. His story is, well, tragic and I feel for him. His mother died of the disease in January, he caught it, probably at the funeral, and spent a month in the hospital trying to recover. He still suffers long-hauler’s symptoms and his entire existence is now living in his tiny apartment, telecommuting, leaving his door unlocked so that if he dies the authorities don’t have trouble retrieving his body — his words!

He’s pretty much lost the desire to do anything but work (funny how that survival instinct permeates us humans). I try to call him from time to time, he’s 15 hours ahead — scheduling is rough — but he’s trying to keep his spirits up.

OK, now, why all this?

I got to thinking about the delta variant of COVID that is shredding that country and many others similar in economic and political station. We, in the US, in progressive states where our vaccination percentages are 70% or higher, are feeling pretty good about the situation. We’re rational beings. We’re protected. If you’re too stupid or stubborn to get the vaccine well, good riddance.

Folks in places like Indonesia are not so lucky as to have the choice of getting vaccinated or not. And herein lies the rub, in places that continue to be decimated by COVID, the disease continues to evolve.

First we had Wuhan’s variant. Then the:

  • Alpha (Britain),
  • Beta (South Africa),
  • Gamma (Brazil) and
  • Delta (India) variants.

Now there is the Lambda (I think they’re skipping around with the Greek alphabet) from Peru. And undoubtedly there are other variants in the works.

“I am so immune.”

“You R-Naught”

Huh?

The CDC estimates that the R-0 (R-Naught) of the Delta variant is around six or seven. For every one person who gets that strain of COVID, roughly six or seven available, unvaccinated, previously unexposed folks will also contract the disease. And this disease is less than two years old. It’s got ages to continue to recirculate within the world’s population, evolving, mutating into variants even more virulent and deadly than Delta. We, the vaccinated, will not be protected for long.

So, sorry Yulian. You’re getting a shitty deal. Keep at it, though. Get back to drawing — your so damn good at it. And if there are other folks out there who find your instagram account, maybe they’ll heart your recent efforts.

-Mole

One of Yulian’s illustrations that is included in my novel The Gribble’s Eye. Here the “Gribble”, Argus Panoptes of Greek myth, helps build Gobekli Tepe — the ancient Anatolian temple. Pretty cool, huh?

Reflecting on COVID’s impact

Nobody wants to read about COVID-19 anymore. It’s like mentioning the IBI (incoherent bloviating imbecile) “Bad form, son, bad form.”

But, we still talk about COVID amongst ourselves. The new variants—will we need a booster for the zeta variant this fall? Will the more virulent variants finally eliminate the anti-logic conservatives? Will Fauci run for President? Should I keep wearing my mask, after all, it saved me from getting any air-born illness, including the seasonal flu.

And indeed, there are various societal changes, many of them beneficial, from having survived COVID-19.

  • Reduction in influenza. Incidents of the “flu” are nearly non-existent. Swapping out a much more deadly disease for our yearly fever-body-ache-runny-nose may not have been a wise trade. But, the near elimination of the “common cold” has proven humans really can change their behavior.
  • Millennials learned to cook. (And thousands of tons of Blue-Apron/Hello Fresh Styrofoam containers now fester in our landfills.)
  • We connected with our immediate families. (Like one long Thanksgiving dinner.)
  • We taught corporate management working from home will not render us all slackers and destroy businesses.
  • Home schooling became the only way to learn — but who would want to? Except, if you can get a college degree online
  • We bought more exercise equipment (that’ll wind up on Craigslist this summer). We turned Jeff Bezos into a mega-billionaire — by all means, order that shit online! We drank ourselves silly, wallowed in depression and discovered many of us have Ciliac disease.
  • Professional sports died. Geeze, I wish. By-all-means, keep paying those buffoons the millions they (do not) deserve.
  • Pharmaceutical companies expanded vaccine technology. The impact of future diseases will hopefully be reduced due to advances in how vaccines are designed and produced.
  • Proved we can live a less planet-attenuating lifestyle. I mean, I don’t care if Global Warming roasts us all alive. The planet is not a thing that needs saving. (Remember, I’m 90% Nihilist.) However, if we wanted to extend the Holocene out indefinitely, 2020 showed that humanity can live a less rapacious lifestyle.

And, of course, COVID showed us a few shifts in behavior that are nonsensical or downright unfortunate.

  • Fewer cars on the road resulted in MORE deaths? Yup. It seems that wide-open highways induced the idiots of the world to drive way faster, without their seat belts and while under the influence.
  • The CDC became unreliable. The United States’ preeminent health agency turned into a factory of lies.
  • We learned to shun our neighbors. “Stranger! Quick, cross the road. They might be infected.”
  • Theaters died, restaurants vanished, hundreds of thousands of small businesses withered away.

However, recall that after the Black Death, the plagues of the mid-1300’s, life became better for the survivors. The labor shortage allowed wage increases for the poor and the shift in power is thought to have led to the the Renaissance.

And the best example of success from calamity, from the ashes of the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs, mammals arose, and with them the greatest vermin—humanity—this side of Tau Ceti.

roses of success chitty chitty bang bang
“Up from the ashes, grow the roses of success.”

Four weeks later…

Four weeks later, after my joyous exposure to life’s tenuous grasp on existence, we get to see what my mortal coil is worth, monetarily speaking.

All told? About $90,000. Below is the bill from the second hospital. The first hospital, the one through which my original insurance is through, has yet to send us all of the damage reports. Talk about one HOT weekend. The hotel room was ta-rashed!

Dwell on those cardiology charges. $22,400 for a “Revasc Acute Mi W Des/antherectomy/pcta Single – C9606 (HCPCS).” Damn! I’m glad I didn’t need like a dozen of whatever those are. And remember, I was on the Cardiologist’s table for maybe an hour. Wow, that’s the business to be in. And you know, business is booming. Something like 7 million people die every year, on the planet, from coronary heart disease — leading cause of death.

Last point: I had a followup Virtual Doctor’s Appointment today. The thing the doc drove home? I am permanently broken (my word). For the rest of my life I should be mindful of any little butterfly kisses that land on (or inside) my chest. Oh, and make sure you ALWAYS carry one (or three) nitro glycerin pills with you, ‘cuz, you never know.

Fuck Me, Alex!

The Tattletale Heart

The problem originated from an assumption, as many problems do.

The assumption became compounded by an ignorance of physical sensations. However, the implications of the problem induced by the assumption remains vague.

Yeah, I had a heart attack—a strangling of blood feeding heart muscle which induced an excruciating pain (the heart has feelings too). But this pain, like Iron Man crushing it with his fist, certainly did not feel life threatening. Had I been stabbed or shot or had a compound fracture and seen the evidence of the pain, I would have immediately thought, shit, get to the hospital, pronto.

But it wasn’t like that. Still isn’t. With an obvious wound your mind will rationalize the threat. With a heart attack, especially one like mine, center chest pain (no jaw or shooting pain down the arm), the threat seemed incidental. “It’ll pass,” I thought. Although it took four hours from start to stent, I never thought it was serious. I had my phone and took video from within the ambulance. I asked to photograph the catheter procedure but the surgical nurse said no pictures. I could breathe, talk, walk… It was just the crushing pain that I wanted to go away.

Only the words of the cardiologist, taken at face value—afterwards, communicated the intensity of injury. “Many people would have died from this.”

Ah, good to know.

The assumption? I’d assumed I was healthy.

The ignorance? I had no idea what a heart attack felt like.

Perhaps I sound flip, that I’m not taking this to heart (cough). I assure you I understand the fallout from this incident, mostly the impact on my family had the situation gone sideways. There was a moment, however, where all the Absurd Universe blather filtered into my psyche.

Laying face up, staring at the strange equipment, my right arm strapped down and the sensation of wires worming through my arteries, for just an instant I thought, if this is it—so be it. Not once did I experience fear.

Bravery? Hardly. Stupidity? Possibly. I’d rather equate my fortitude to the understanding I’ve gathered, here and elsewhere, regarding my interpretation of the Universe.

~~~

I’ve enjoyed reading the comments to this event. Thanks to those who voiced concern or commiseration. I suppose it’s strange to expose one’s life in such a way, “How I spent the Summer of 2020.” Just goes to show I’m a bit more human than I let on.

Cheers,
‘Mole

20200829_085409