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Proximal Origins - the movie - Pt 2 (General)

by dulan drift, Sunday, June 14, 2020, 16:07 (19 days ago) @ dulan drift

All of the group are obsessed with modelling - it's the glue that binds them. They swap models with each other - discuss them - tweak them - chatter on forums. Most of these models show mortality from viruses could be emphatically reduced with human dna and gps surveillance. However, they know it’s a sensitive subject that is unlikely to gain public approval. Even within the scientific community there is minority, but heavyweight opposition. Lindstrom avoids advocating for it publicly, though three of his colleagues collaborate on a paper in Nature arguing the concept has merit and should at least be discussed, just to float it into the mainstream. It attracts some criticism, but not much. When they are alone, they discuss it openly. The discussions go deep into the night with wine and weed. Not unlike a virus, the ideas start to get a foothold in a host body - take shape as a mental matrix, culturing a destiny of their own.

In 2014, Obama declares a moratorium on gain-of-function experiments pending an investigation. He then shuts down most of the bio-defence programs due to a slew of accidents in the US. Lindstrom's department is abolished. Funding for his colleagues is cut-off. This is a blow to their research, but not the end of it. Ultimately it would prove to be a launching pad. The group were already collaborating with scientific institutions from China - it had become the nature of the business. No ban on gain-of-function experiments was instituted in China - in fact it’s encouraged.

10 years before, Lindstrom already had powerful contacts in China.
He first went there at the invitation of the government in the aftermath of SARS in 2003 - became friends with a microbiologist who was later promoted to Minister for Science and Technology. He was taken in by Chinese hospitality, the culture, and they loved him. Lindstrom admits to himself that he’s prone to vanity - he’s also self-aware enough to know that Chinese like to flatter guests - but even knowing that - it was still a comfortable fit.
Beyond this positive vibe, they were interested in discussing his ideas on virus outbreak planning - a topic that he's always eager to expand on. But this time, when he warned about ‘the big one’, and how to go about preparing for it, the Minister got it.

After his initial visi,t Lindstrom received an email from George Gu, the S&T minister. Would he be interested in coming back to further discuss his ideas? He was.

His simple mantras were:
1. Centralize data. Let the scientists see what the doctor is seeing in real time. Virus control is all about surveillance. The sooner the information is available the sooner it can be fed into the modelling, the sooner we know where to deploy resources.
2. Implement lockdowns around affected areas - with armed soldiers if necessary - it’s the only way to stop it spreading.
3. In the meantime - invest money in bio-security research institutes - try to predict what the next virus might do through gain-of-function research. Enable researchers to discover a vaccine (or at least therapeutics) through predictive science.

Working with Minister of Health and Minister of Science and Technology this was the system that was largely adopted.

In the process, Lindstrom became the bio-security architect of the world’s most populous country. For his contribution, in 2008 he was presented with the country's highest honour for foreign scientists at the Great Hall of the People. President Xi attended the ceremony - he was later summoned for a private meeting. The discussion was informal - the President said the country would never forget his service - that he hoped the relationship would continue to prosper for both parties - that if he ever needed anything then he should contact him directly.

From that meeting, Lindstrom rose to a level of respect within the corridors of power that no outsider had achieved since Marco Polo. He was already famous in his own country, a fame he enjoyed, the persona, but here, in China, he has a seat with the big boys. He is in a position to change the world for the better. This feeling, the manifestation of a feeling that had burned inside him since he was a child - that is more alluring than playing the celebrity. It gives playing the celebrity a purpose other than ego - it's a messaging platform for a larger ideal.

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