Ebola Demands Science First, not Politics

Nassim Taleb: What People Don’t Understand About Ebola”
Shane Ferro

Business Insider
October 17, 2014

One of the reasons that it is unconscionable to take a gratuitously partisan position on the current Ebola outbreak is that genuine dialogue is obscured by politically-motivated posturing. Let’s be blunt: anyone taking a position on Ebola to either attack or defend the current administration is taking away from our ability to address the problem, and you would be advised to shut up. You’re not helping.

And let’s be clear: some of the rhetoric being tossed about in an effort to calm the hype has shot into logically-indefensible territory. Shane Ferro quotes Nassim Taleb, he of The Black Swan, in the latter’s effort to shut down the “nothing to see here” crowd.

The argument that the US should be more worried about a disease like cancer — which has more stable rates of infection than Ebola does currently — is a logic that Taleb calls “the empiricism of the idiots.”

The basic idea: The growth rate of Ebola infection is nonlinear, so the number of people catching it doubles every 20 days. Because of this, you have to act quickly at the source of infections, he says. “The closer you are to the source, the more effective you are at slowing it down … it is much more rational to prevent it now than later.”

Isolate the source of the disease, address it there. The longer we wait to do these things, the more pain we are buying the planet.

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Author: David Wolf

An adviser to corporations and organizations on strategy, communications, and public affairs, David Wolf has been working and living in Beijing since 1995, and now divides his time between China and California. He also serves as a policy and industry analyst focused on innovative and creative industries, a futurist, and an amateur historian.

1 thought on “Ebola Demands Science First, not Politics”

  1. Agree agree agree.

    On another note, regarding the US media coverage of this, German has a wonderful word for that insidious disease which spreads faster than anything else, and is more debilitating than all the others combined: pockenangst, or “fear of the pox”.

    It’s worse than any actual disease, and its symptoms (verbal diarrhea, bleeding of the brain out the ears, etc.) make us incapable of fighting any other disease.

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