Yale IV: Impacts & Podcasts

So what triggered me to think of intervention’s two levels in the first place was the thus-far entertaining podcast that Bietz, Cruz and the Admiral have been doing for the last couple of weeks.   So far their thoughts and conversations have been great fodder for my daily commute, and they haven’t engaged in that annoying podcast habit of their first three episodes being all about podcasting; how to set it up, what microphones they’ve bought, etc.   They’ve even managed to avoid awkward dead air and talking over one another (too much, anyway).  So that’s to the good.

They committed one minor sin that I find is common, in that they don’t know how Dropbox works — Admiral advised that you keep a copy of your data somewhere other than Dropbox, since the cloud could disappear at any minute.  That’s actually not necessary at all.  The data in your Dropbox is on your hard drive.  It synchronizes changes upstream to a repository when it sees them, but if the Dropbox service were to go under, or Amazon S3 (which it uses) were to explode in a ball of flames tomorrow, your data would still be on your hard drive; you’d simply lose your ability to share and sync changes all of a sudden.  That’s why the Dropbox files are there even if you don’t have an active Internet connection.  And, if someone changes something you don’t like, you can always revert back to an earlier copy.  The only time you’d be screwed is if someone made a change you don’t like, and immediately afterward, Dropbox disappeared forever.  Unlikely.  So no, don’t bother keeping multiple copies of files, one outside of Dropbox and one inside — that defeats half the point, which is to avoid having to think about which computer or which copy of something you’re working on.

But that aside, I was interested when they were talking about their analysis of the November-December LD topic, which is about whether the government should compel individuals to get immunizations for harmful, potentially pandemic diseases, or thereabouts.  At one point, Cruz said that the impacts for the affirmative side were quite huge, but the negative impacts are minor: namely, on the affirmative side you can argue that big sweeping pandemics could threaten the livelihood of millions and the survival of the species, while on the negative side you only have the individual rights of a very few religions’ followers and other various conscientious objectors, who fairly or not are usually lumped in with tin-foil hat paranoids in our society.  The general consensus on the podcast was that there was little negative ground to match the affirmative’s harms of sweeping pandemics.  In the context of debate rounds, that’s absolutely true.

However, in this real world of ours, those sweeping impacts don’t exist.  The number of people who refuse vaccinations for pandemic diseases is tiny.  Despite the H1N1 vaccine’s very shallowly testing, the real worry is making enough to meet demand, not people refusing it.  Mandatory vaccinations to attend school are likely more to defeat laziness than refusals.  There hasn’t be a serious vaccine yet which hasn’t had nearly universal adoption among those who can afford it.  And, after a vaccination is made essentially universal, even if some few Christian Scientists opt out, the threat of a civilization-threatening pandemic is removed — any contagious disease will likely eventually die out if only a small percentage of the population is susceptible to it.  Smallpox exists only a test tube these days, and measles continues on only because vaccinations administered before the mid 70s turned out to have a shelf life.  Many other diseases continue unchecked only for want of money; in no case do diseases rage because huge populations refuse vaccinations except perhaps in some areas through a deeply harmful lack of education.

So, in the real world, the policy of allowing religious exemptions has worked just fine.  Pandemics are prevented where populations can be immunized, and we’re more in danger from diseases and conditions we cannot vaccinate against.  There are spotty threats to religious communes; in 1985 three Christian Scientists died of the measles.  But no one else did, because everyone else is immunized.  The threat on the affirmative is not to society, but to the objecting individuals themselves.  The impacts on affirmative are really not that vast, in this world we actually inhabit.  The question then boils down to one of individual choice.  Should the government force a private citizen to betray their own biological choices in order to immunize them against a disease they are unlikely to get because everyone else is immunized against it?  And does it change when you’re not talking about an adult, but that adult’s children, whose choices are made for them?

I think, perhaps, in much of the country and the NFL voting public, this is the debate that will occur, and this is the debate that was voted for.  The Circuit, as it were, will debate these huge impacts of some hypothetical world in which a large denomination decides that H1N1 vaccines are the path of Satan, and that therefore a sweeping pandemic comes out of nowhere and kills us all because that denomination refused to get immunized.  That’s lovely and all, but it leaves that central question unexplored in the noise, the question that really confronts our society and ourselves — do you force people to immunize themselves, and their children, therefore exposing them to a very minor chance of developing a preventable deadly disease?  How much right do we have to threaten our own survival?  How much does that right, if it exists, extend to our children?

Fascinating debate.  I wish we could have it.  But there are ballots to be won, alas.