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Plague 2016

219-2016-06-50-18-evolved-timelineHas anyone out there ever played Plague? That’s the game where you try to make the human species go extinct using biology. It’s not as easy as you think. It took me a couple tries to get the hang of it.

First, you have to design a pathogen that’s easy to spread. I like to make it affect the lungs. Then gradually you add more lethality to it and make sure it can be introduced from place to place via multiple transportation methods. Start the bugger off in a crowded developing nation, like Indonesia or China. That way it can infect a lot of people at the outset and mutate. It can take out millions in the manner of the Spanish Flu before we develop resistance and the bug dies out before people do.

I tried making the pathogen hot right away but if you make it too much like Ebola, it quickly peters out when there are no hosts in the immediate vicinity to hitch a ride on because they’re all bleeding out. No, it’s got to be more subtle than that. You need to keep the host feeling ok and moving from place to place before he sheds his pathogen.

The trick to winning plague, from my limited experience, is making sure that the people collaborating on a cure never meet while turning up the volume on civil unrest. Just crash the plane with the researchers on it. Or make sure that telecommunications are disrupted and do this everywhere on the globe. Wherever there is an attempt for the humans to rally and fight back, squash it immediately and without mercy. Then watch as civilization dies and the species is reduced to a few wandering bands of hapless cannibals.

The first time I made the species extinct, it was awesome because, you know, it’s just a game. The second time, I stopped sabotaging the scientists a little sooner and started to root for the home team to make a comeback late in the 4th quarter. But it was too late. Once the population has reached some kind of extinction event horizon, there’s nothing that can be done to bring it back. Then I watched in horror as those little struggling bands dwindled to unsustainable numbers then winked out. It made me feel responsible and guilty so I had to stop playing.

2016 has that feeling. I feel like we’re in the hands of some diabolically bratty kid who is determined to see how much damage he can wreck on us. And for whatever reason, all our attempts to resist him so far have been feckless as one by one the safety valves and emergency systems are disabled.

It’s not like we don’t see the danger coming. You’d have to be a hard ass with malice in your heart and a ruthless ambition for power to think anything good is going to happen when Trump takes office. And even though the number of people who didn’t vote for Trump exceeds the number that did by something like 12 Million people, it’s going to take a while before the majority of Trump’s mislead supporters get a clue. Meanwhile, the Democrats are fighting with each other when finding common ground is not only easy but critical, and the Republicans are about to take a chainsaw to Social Security and Medicare.

The world’s geography hasn’t changed. The chokepoints that existed during WWII still exist today: the eastern Mediterranean, the south China Sea, the Nato countries on the eastern front. Funny how they all seem relevent again all of the sudden.

And yet, we’re powerless to stop it. Not only powerless but powerless for the cheapest of reasons. It might look unseemly.

Most of us do not want this man. He’s capable of massive destruction in every conceivable way. Yet we keep getting pushed closer and closer to getting him, like we are strapped to a conveyor belt that steadily inches towards the laser aimed between our legs.

Cue the binary solo:


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