Monthly Archives: September 2014

Ebola: fetid transmission

Ebola could be considered a pandemic virus with the travel of cases across continents to the US; except that transmission has been limited to West Africa. The outbreak started in Guinea; reported to WHO on 23 March 2014; and  spread to four other West African countries: Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone. Whilst Nigeria and Senegal seem to have contained the spread, the three other countries continue to show an increase of cases, as at mid September.

Ebola may be amongst the most fatal viruses for humans; but relatively easy to prevent its spread, as cases are not infectious until after they become sick; unlike measles or influenza that are usually infectious before full-symptoms. The 2003 SARS virus outbreak was controlled because most cases were not infectious before fever onset; with Ebola virus transmission looks even more restricted and requiring close contact with infected body fluids.  Of course, the virus could change at any time to become airborne! I am not sure if/how one estimates the probability of its doing so, but to me it seems more likely not to do so, but how can I say that?

Ebola virus was not ‘designed’ (or adapted) to infect humans as its primary host); bats being the prime candidates.  Fruit bats, if it matters to you.  SARS is believed to have also originated from bats (probably via the civet cat in markets that really should not exist in the 21st century).  We are at risk of more new animal virus as human activities encroach on other species, and the kinds of contacts humans have with dead animals.

It is hard to predict what will happen with the spread of this virus in these three countries in West Africa; many other countries are at risk of importing a case; or perhaps a new outbreak from ‘bush meat’.  But it seems possible that the outbreak will be contained by changes in behaviour that are currently enabling spread: at root the lack of trust in government, inadequate health resources, and ritual practices.

The world has been slow to respond, and the response could have been more strategic.  The costs to health systems yet to be measured, but if the result is improvement in health delivery, perhaps the outbreak has a silver lining.  Meanwhile, are you and your family ready for the next  emerging disease outbreak?  Remember, it will be human reactions and not the virus that causes the most damage.


Chance, Trust, and Faith

Please don’t read!  :)t’will only upset thee, yet likely not thy worldview.

I fear ’tis humanity’s false worldview at root of our ailments: self-destructive tendencies poison & destroy our home planet with industrial efficiency; social injustice with needless suffering & loss from preventable poverty & disease.  But I think there is a way forward: Truth, Justice & Beauty!

The first step is to understand the problem, then, address its root causes. Is Climate Change a major threat that humanity must address?  

Humanity does not seem to share a common view, despite clear scientific consensus on most key points.  Daily more Carbon [C] enters the air (as methane [CH3], dioxide [CO2] and a whole range more]. The impact of these atmospheric changes are well established, and we are already experiencing more extreme climate events.

Of greater concern is the perhaps universal phenomenon of unpredictable threshold effects: after years of slowly progressive change, a ‘tipping point’ leads to dramatic and radical change of a different nature.  So why is there such little demand for action; and so much opposition?

Probably, the same reasons tobacco companies continued to insist that the science was not conclusive on the harms of smoking.  But in addition to the myopic self-interest of the rich, is a false assumption that many share: that all solutions are found in the Divine.

Which they are, of course.  But think of Divine action not as the cause, but the result of ours.  As key instruments of the Divine,  humanity itself must first act.  Not expect salvation just by Divine grace; by G-d’s whim?

Humanity created from the fact of its existence a Divine Order, and in many cases a personal Creator.  But Science can now explain our existence from simple molecules without the need for a Creator.  Science may not have the whole story, and could be wrong; but so far the story is pretty compelling if you are able and willing to pay attention.

It may have taken most of Earth’s 4.5b year history to get to the stage of proteins and DNA being able to replicate each other; from this, and after the Cognitive Revolution of about 70k years ago, human consciousness and self-awareness emerges. And with it a demand for stories, perhaps because they are good learning tools.  And stories demand moral meaning, the Creation story more than most. The value of moral teachings apply, whether or not the underlying story is true .  This is the mythos of ancient greeks as opposed to the logos or rational, empiric evidence.  We need both, as physics not only has no direction to time, nor provides any moral compass.

The world is probably all random chance; chance can cause miracles.  If you calculated the odds of life-like-us emerging, how likely do you think it would be?  Well, actually we know the answer is 1; the miracle of life has occurred.  As far as we can tell form no more than a set of relatively simple chemical combinations between a few common molecules [C, H, O, N, P, S providing the basic scaffolding for life’s biochemical reaction] that are able to replicate and make mistakes.

Natural selection of the ones who survive, leads to our ancestors’ and our survival.

Sadly, we are today poorly differentiated to the different content and critique of these two kinds of stories, and perhaps not hearing enough stories that help us live life, without necessarily correctly understanding it.  After all, life is mostly illusion; as is the ego that you are convinced is you; as am I.  Of course, there is a body which being and reflection seem to require writing this.

The amazing complexity of this Earth and the Universe, all originating from a single point of pure energy, is beyond conception.  But that burst of energy is an image of a Creator that we can have: truly indifferent to human affairs?  And the fabric of the universe somehow woven of consciousness; when humanity can focus its collective energies on helping others, what solutions and gifts will we find?  One gift is that we will have proved G-d’s existence, a positive Divine order, through our actions.

It seems to me more likely to me that Humanity created G-d in its image, rather than vice versa.  (Have you heard of the two creation stories in the Bible?  One equal creation; the other story better known from Adam’s rib.  The later insertion, possibly related to the patriarchy taking over the traditionally female domain of gathering from the fields in the agricultural revolution.)

If we embrace the beauty of our creation, G-d and His unconditional love for us; can we build on that and ‘prove’ the existence of G-d, not through metaphysical experience, but by the collective good that we create as humanity?

We have the potential to recognise the true unity of not just all human life, but all life on this planet and the preciousness that comes from a single brief period of existence, on this most remarkable Earth, at a time when we have the capacity to create a new Eden. (We need to re-form the bonds that join all of us together on this strange mission of life; and now we have the tools to do so.)

Yes, perhaps there is some Divine personality that is the driving force of this strange and wondrous, still expanding at an accelerating rate, Universe.  Our ancestors, with increasing consciousness, and the development of ‘fictive language’ found or invented angels and spirits of nature and the gods of limited powers (today’s superhero).  But all of these supernatural beings were subordinate to the Divine Way, the Tao.  When the many gods were replaced by a single G-d, people had to create the devil to make any sense of an all-knowing, all-seeing, and-good and all-powerful God; else how to explain evil?

Declaration of Independence

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for people to re-form bonds which connect them one with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the different yet equal station to which the Laws of Humanity entitle them, a decent respect to those most in need requires a Declaration of Independence.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all life is created equal, that the power we have as humans comes with responsibilities and duties. That government is established only to guarantee all peoples their Rights. Chief among these Human Rights are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

WE depend on each other in increasingly complex and interconnected ways as global networks develop. These networks were initially developed as a government military tool has now generated a new economy a new generation of billionaires. Most of the world is connected; and now we need to complete the process of linking every person in the world to each other. And build the global systems to provide local resources and control.
How would this work?

With a global network for all, all can contribute to global decisions. And create global governance with local control.

What do we need from government: safety and security; stable currency with secure transactions; regulatory oversight to protect consumers and prevent cheating. We have also got used to the benefits of government provided services for health and education; perhaps this needs to be extended to provision of housing, food and sex, given the importance of both to health.

Communities can decide on how best to provide such services, and perhaps even which services to provide. As long as certain agreed global standards were achieved in outcomes.  But there is a need for global infrastructure: war, money, regulation, and more.  I touch on the first three.

A truly global military force, by definition, would means no more war between nations. The military resources of the world could be directed to internal security and community building, with a focus on preventing any abuse of Human Rights abuses such as actions of the so-called Islamic State and Warlords like Kone.

A single global financial system for money exchange and storage enables easy introduction of the fairest tax system with virtually no transaction costs: financial transaction tax. It could eliminate the need for income taxes, especially if ‘vice taxes’ were also used. The distribution of tax revenue to  communities would also be automated and based on the source of the revenue; implicitly requiring communities to be financially viable to continue to get funding.

Any grouping of at least 150 people can form a community; but such small communities may not be viable for delivery of social services. Probably there should be no upper limit. Whilst there may be some dangers if any single community gets too large/powerful, the principle of local control must prevent interference by system design. This will need careful building; other safeguards may be needed?

People are not limited by geography in the communities that they can join; there may need to be some transaction costs to prevent excess mobility; or perhaps incentives will become common to encourage people to join certain communities.

The need for market regulation is reduced by the consequence of a single global financial transaction system, that removes the need for much of the current financial sector.  The new information infrastructure would include many other elements, linked to the financial transactions and the capacity to use Big Data to monitor commercial activity to prevent abuse and cheating.  The IT would be developed and run by those currently doing this in the private sector, rather than government. But reconstituted into a global public good company, whose primary role is to keep the interweb safe, monitor and prevent unproven claims, and ensure smooth operation for the increasing demands of data. Specialised agencies for medicines etc. will be more efficient as a global network, rather than as multiple national agencies, each repeating each other’s work.

At present, most new money is generated by private bank lending. The global financial transaction system can create money with the flick on an electron. But the amount of new money generated must be linked to overall economic activity to help maintain the stability of prices. Investment decisions will be made mostly by local communities, but there is also a need for global infrastructure and indeed of a global governance. One vote per community; no elected officials except those chosen at random to limit lobbying influence. A professional global bureaucracy to support communities in developing service delivery models to meet their needs; and to manage the global infrastructure, including financial transaction system.

Pandemics? It’s all about people (demics)

Pandemic: Actually, I just wanted to call this site ‘pandemic’, but that and its various iterations were already gone.  So, I came back, in reverse order:  to Justice, Truth, and Beauty as my core values.

The ugliness we have to face today, is the Soul Virus causing the spread of the Ebola virus.  Weak health systems (due to lack of support or funds) and lack of Trust in government authorities lead to the spread of a virus that is easily contained with the most basic of infectious disease control: hand hygiene and other close contact measures are all that are needed for a disease that is usually only infectious after the person is already very ill with the infection.

As usual, humanity focuses on the symptom and not the root cause: poor management and governance of public resources.

Maybe we need a pandemic to teach us the obvious; but I hope that we can be wise enough to learn from past mistakes.  If the H1N1 flu had been more severe, we have proven that we have the wrong model for vaccine manufacture.  Yet, not change to that – nor the banking system that seems, to some, to be at the root of all evil in our society.

As parents, we need to separate the behaviour from the child.  This is why it is inexcusable to use physical discipline, for with that we attack the latter rather than the former. We change negative behaviour by focussing on, and encouraging,  the positive.  Every five minutes, I am told!

The world is sick.

A soul virus, I believe, has infected our beings.  Or perhaps our doings.  We are the corrupt children of a vicious world where all that counts in the end is raw survival. When we can truly see ourselves, and perhaps understand why we will always need government to control that element, despite the potentially despotic nature of our governments (said, Tom Paine the inspiration for Jefferson).

There are always bad eggs.

The more important truth for humanity is that there is no individual; it is part of the story we tell ourselves.  Helps survival; but bears little relation to the limited part of what we can understand reality might be.  I like to keep repeating this consoling fact for the strange thoughts in my head:  “The world always makes a lot more sense in your head than it does in reality”.

But back to pandemics.

The world’s governments have shown themselves incompetent to prevent the spread of an easily controllable disease.  Who is accountable?

And far worse, the carnage and suffering in Syria and Gaza.  To whom does the account go?

Perhaps to each one of us who allow such a global system of injustice to persist.  When all it would take would be for each one of us to say: No more.  We can have today a single global exchange system that will make all national money redundant overnight.  And with this system not only prevent most crime and tax evasion, but also generate the funds needed for delivery of public health, education and income support without needing to any more resort to income taxes.

A new form of money that works across the globe, without political interference and providing for local control of use of  public funds for health, education and so on.  Money can be the new unifier across the world, and bring peace to the world.