2013-09-17, 02:25 AM (ISO 8601)
Bugbear in the Playground
Re: The literary merits of Alien Intelligence
I edited my original comment and removed the part about ecological niches before I noticed this reply since that part is in fact inaccurate, just as you describe.
Originally Posted by Porthos
However, the positives of smallpox eradication construe from eradicating the disease, not from eradicating the virus. And this has already been done.
What then is the positive benefit of eradicating the virus in a world where the disease is already eradicated?
That benefit is entirely in risk reduction. There is in fact NO immediate benefit, NO immediate direct difference between eradicating the disease (already done), and eradicating the last few inert remnants of the virus, trapped in high security government labs, unable to infect anyone.
And when assessing relative risks, we have to compare alternatives. It is not merely a question of comparing a world with no smallpox with a world with smallpox in it. The alternative to eradicating the virus is keeping the existing stocks in tight security government labs. We can apply continuous technological improvement to make the labs increasingly secure.
So we are talking about making a risk that is already extremely small just a little bit more small. That is the only benefit that we gain from eradicating the smallpox virus now.
Also, smallpox does indeed only affect humans. It is ONLY because it infects only humans that we were actually able to eradicate it at all. If it infected anything else, eradication would have been essentially impossible. That is, among many reasons, why we will not be eliminating influenza any time soon. Smallpox has relatives that infect other species, but those are just relatives, not smallpox, and we have made no attempts to eradicate any of those (and frankly we cannot even begin to try, with our current technical capabilities).