Vaccines, Duct Tape, Linear Thinking, and Spherical Time.
2021-05-06 21:31:00 » blog, covid, ethics, medicine, philosophy
Yes, yes, two articles on the same topic in a row. Complain, but it’s topical, and if you ask me, it’s a fantastic case study in how different philosophies result in radically divergent material viewpoints.
Because there are these different material viewpoints, arguing on the surface about ‘facts’ will be wholly unprofitable. We already know the facts and can reasonably extrapolate other ones from them: there are identifiable risk factors for severe COVID outcomes, new strains are developing, and it took a year under expedited process to develop vaccines for the original strains of COVID.
Let me just lay this out clearly: vaccination is like slathering on epoxy to fix a leaky pipe. Sure, it works. I’ve fixed racecars this way. It works for a while. Any “antivaxxer” needs to admit that vaccines can, at least in principle, foster immunity. A strong antivax argument has not much to do with efficacy. It has something to do with safety. But the fundamental argument to be made is about strategy: vaccination as a primary path to immunity is not a ‘proper’ solution. It is not sustainable. It is not robust to new strains or entirely new diseases. It doesn’t consider why the pipes are leaky. The leak can burst right through the epoxy if it doesn’t set fast enough. Rust will propagate beyond the epoxy patch. The fundamental strategy of vaccination is not sound. A vaccine that requires some sort of ‘herd immunity’ is obviously utopian rather than robust and pragmatic.
I’m not even saying that vaccines “don’t work”. To reiterate: it’s about using them as a primary path to health. It’s about waiting to mix up epoxy and wait for it to sit, rather than inspecting all the pipes, making sure to use good quality tubing, and keeping the salt and acid levels low to avoid corrosion. The epoxy might hold, but stop relying on it.
I don’t think a lot of people have explored the variety of stances on this front. The driveby media portrayal seems to be something along the lines of ‘some people think vaccines are safe and effective, some don’t"…. but that really isn’t what’s going on.
Strategy requires perspective.
If we’re to create strawmen, when it comes to a lens of history (and facts, in general), there are those who believe that “history always repeats itself”, and those who believe that history is a tale of ever-forward “progress”.
Both these visions are simplistic and, to some extent, true. If history repeating is a circle, and progressivism is a line (or, more accurately, a ray), then the fuller picture might be something resembling a circle tangent to a line, in contact with it, rolling forwards.
Guillaume Faye in Archeofuturism gives a clear explanation of this sort of thinking and dubs it 'spherical’:
“Let us imagine a sphere, a billiard ball moving in disorderly fashion across a surface, or moved by the (necessarily imperfect) will of a player: after a number of spins, the same point on the surface of the ball will inevitably touch the cloth. This is the ‘eternal return of the identical, but not of the ‘same’. For the sphere is moving and even if that very ‘same’ point is touching the cloth, its position is not the same as before. This represents the return of a ‘comparable’ situation, but in a different place. The same image can be applied to the succession of the seasons and the historical outlook of Archeofuturism: the return to archaic values should not be understood as a cyclical return to the past (a past that has failed, as it has engendered the catastrophe of modernity), but rather as the re-emergence of archaic social configurations in a new context. In other terms, this means applying age-old solutions to completely new problems; it means the reappearance of a forgotten and transfigured order in a different historical context.
(Archeofuturism is a tough work. I highly recommend it.)
The difference between the 1-D circle-tangent-to-a-line picture and a sphere is interesting and important as well. A sphere is multiaxial. In reality, we should be talking about something that is supremely multidimensional- a twentydimensional hypersphere, if you will. The recurrence of history is not always at the same pace or cycle. At times certain currents wade, and some rise. Some in sync at times, others not.
Beat frequencies, of course, are the real devastating ones.
The circular view of history leaves no room for advancement or progress. Everything is outside our control. “We’re all going to get COVID, it will just have to run its course.” The pipes will burst, we’ll have to replace them, again. But, we won’t resort to that nonsense that is epoxy.
The linear view of history is easily blindsighted. Everything is within our control. “Vaccines helped us rid polio, let’s just do that again, what could go wrong?” The epoxy won’t always hold, and we’ll have to keep applying the goop. Ugh. Oh, and the rust is still getting in the water.
Spherical history will allow us to have real, genuine progress, but also maintain dynamism and reaction to the circumstances at hand. “Let’s look at what happened, but extract the key aspects. We must then also remember that our circumstances are different than in the past.” Yes, the pipes failed, if we do nothing, they will fail again. The reason they failed wasn’t a lack of epoxy, it was because of chemical incompatibility between the caustic brine being pumped through them and the shoddy black iron pipes. Let’s filter our water better and switch to stainless steel. Maybe we even upgrade to glass in some key regions so we can inspect for buildup. Or we switch to polysulfone.
Is there risk to the spherical view? Yes, definitely. That glass upgrade has obvious risk of fracture under additional loads. And we aren’t entirely sure how the polysulfone reacts with the special blend of water we’re putting through it…
Hey, Faye has another word for that: Heterotelia: “what we intend does not always result in a perpetuation of that state when put into practice”. The spherical, multi-dimensional view of history allows for this and anticipates it.
A lot has changed in the course of a century. Untangling and decoding the waves to find true models (think strong AI rather than weak AI) is tough. We’ve come a long ways and we must be certain to not misattribute successes and failures.
Our health in developed nations is simultaneously staggering and perilous. Lifespan is at record highs, but so is rates of heart problems and cancer. To say that this is a result of simply living longer is spurious as many markers of vitality are on the decline as well. The point of living is to be vital, not simply to consume as many years of air as one can.
The path forward is not doom and gloom or more hotfixes. A rethinking is necessary.