Archive for Richard Lewontin

Homeland

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza with tags , , , , , , , , on December 16, 2013 by Rob Wallace

BSL-4 WorldA new report shows an increasing global population exposed to the risk of accidents from biosafety laboratories studying some of the world’s most dangerous diseases.

Princeton University post-doc Thomas Van Boeckel and colleagues show the population living within the commuting field of BSL-4 labs increased by a factor of four from 1990 to 2012. The fields encapsulate nearly 2% of the world’s population, but by virtue of infectivity any one escape pathogen may turn epidemic.

The team mapped friction surfaces of the commuting time over which a potentially infected lab worker would carry an infection home. The resulting isochronal belts were used to determine the population within the direct vicinity of each lab.

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The Red Swan

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza, Revolution with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 28, 2013 by Rob Wallace

Cover RG Wallace 'Red Swan' Full Version PDFThe following is an excerpt from our first e-single, available here as a PDF. Consider the single, on the political economy of Nassim Taleb of ‘Black Swan’ fame, a freebie. We do ask that those who can afford it consider donating to Farming Pathogens. Your help is greatly appreciated. The full version adds explorations of Taleb’s animosity towards science, his anti-theoretical theory of history, his assumptions about human nature, and, for good and for ill, applications of Black Swan thinking to disease modeling.

Perhaps by chance alone Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s best-selling The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, followed now by the just released Antifragile, captures the zeitgeist of 9/11 and the foreclosure collapse: If something of a paradox, bad things unexpectedly happen routinely.

For better and for worse, Black Swan caustically critiques academic economics, which serve, more I must admit in my view than Taleb’s, as capitalist rationalization rather than as a science of discovery.

Taleb crushes mainstream quantitative finance, but fails as spectacularly on a number of accounts. To the powerful’s advantage, at one and the same time he mathematicizes Francis Fukuyama’s end of history and claims epistemological impossibilities where others, who have been systemically marginalized, predicted precisely to radio silence.

Power, after all, is the capacity to avoid addressing a counternarrative. Continue reading