The Virus Prophets of Doom: The future may not be so gloomy
“The sky is falling!” Chicken Little was wrong. But we can learn from children’s stories and folktales.
Experts abound these days on TV, the internet, and all other forms of media. If you believe them, or some of them, you could become depressed, anxious, or hopeless. Too many are predicting a dystopian society where touching will be minimalized and kids will have little interaction with peers.
Strike all of that from your mind and analyze what might happen after the coronavirus has morphed into yet another virus. Yes, it will mutate into another viral form as the flu does each year. Accept that fact.
Yes, things will change. But didn’t the lightbulb and the automobile change society? Work changed, families changed, and our lives went on, not as before, but in novel ways, forging new opportunities. A pandemic can do the same thing.
Was it better for all of us, or did we dive down into the depths of depression? Want an amusing refresher on this? Watch the film, “Back to the Future” and see how Marty McFly realizes how things change and how people adjust.
We rejoiced at new-found freedom to work different shifts, travel at our discretion, and interact with whomever we pleased. Some people found the bicycle a device of the devil and danger to women’s virginity and wanted it banned, but what do we love today? Yes, bikes and we want them back in our cities.
Cars may not have the attraction they once did. But, if they pollute less and stop crowding city streets, we may not frown on their presence. They have a place, and they, too, will emerge in new forms thanks to technology.
The newest cars will allow us to travel without thought and talk to our passengers because algorithms will control them, powered by long-life batteries (think Elon Musk) or solar power, and require little maintenance. The design will push their utility ever forward.
The cost of land pushed city planners to urge architects to construct buildings that went upward instead of outward. Voila, we had skyscrapers, and that led to the design of elevators.
Cramped quarters, however, also brought more illness and accidents. Currently viewed as virus-breeding and anxiety-provoking because it forces people to stand close, elevators brought designs that could be utilized on mountainsides and world tourist sites
The Good Virus, Germs, Bacteria
The COVID-19 virus caused hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide. Everyone agrees the virus is a menace that must be stopped or tamed. However, viruses can be manipulated into serving us for good rather than causing our destruction.
This virus brought a previously unseen need for vast numbers of ventilators. The demand led to new methods of ventilator manufacture and at a lower cost. An all-girls robotics group in Afghanistan worked on building a ventilator from old car parts. Others devised ways to have two patients share one machine.
As we struggle through figuring how to contain this virus until we have a vaccine or a cure, has anything good come of this situation? Consider the enormous inrush of funding for virus and gene research. Viruses can be used as transporters for genetic material into cells to treat disease.
The rush to conquer COVID-19 has also brought enormous interest in CRISPR as a means of testing for the COVID-19 virus within an hour, possibly at home. Biotech companies are utilizing gene editing that may result in such at-home tests for the virus.
One result of the need to quickly identify persons with the virus and to take appropriate measures to quarantine them has produced remarkable results. The lab run by Dr. Feng Zhang at MIT is closing the gap on testing and costs. Equipment in his lab operates at warp speed.
“The high-horsepower machines read out hundreds of millions of bits of DNA at once. Last week Zhang’s lab described an approach in which they could add individual molecular bar codes to patient samples, pool them, and then sequence them all at once. In theory, one sequencing instrument could test 100,000 samples at once, in about a day, for $7 each.”
Not All Bleak
While the experts predict hundreds of thousands dead, we must try to stem this terrible loss of life. But we can also look at the bright side. I’ve provided information on some initiatives that offer hope rather than despair.
Research is ramping up. Organizations are stepping up where the government has floundered, and they are making unexpected discoveries. The results now supply environmentalists with substantial evidence of what our Earth can be if we stop pollution.
And stay-at-home orders have resulted in less pollution. Photographers provide a view of major cities in India that few have known in much of their lifetime.
What about birds? One item of note is “birds in cities have been shown to sing more on Saturdays and Sundays because the level of disturbance from humans is lower than on weekdays.” As cities locked down, the birds began to sing again, replacing the noise of auto traffic.
The changes will be subtle, but they will come with the realization that change can be a good thing even if it’s difficult and uncomfortable initially.