Using Technologies of Cooperation, Knowledge Commons, and Foresight to Avert Pandemic

By SamuelRose, published at 10 May 2007 - 8:12pm, last updated 12 years 17 weeks ago.

O'Rielly networks published some articles today on using rapid deployment of open source telephony tools to help survive a possible pandemic.

The introduction For SARS Press 1, for Bird Flu Press 2... discusses the possibility that "social distancing" may be necessary if there is a widespread outbreak of H5N1 virus. The introduction states that:

With these articles, you will learn how to:

* Build an Internet-based teleconferencing system capable of handling every student in your school or university, at a cost of only a few dollars per student.
* Build large-scale, autonomous teleconferencing and instant messaging systems so that you can continue classes and meetings, even if your entire facility is closed for weeks at a time.
* Upgrade or jury-rig your business telephone system so that your call center employees can telecommute from home.
* Create electronic surrogates for real-world gathering places, so that people who are physically quarantined or under curfew can freely socialize with people online.
* Some practical tips for prioritizing and triaging critical business functions, so that you can focus on essential business and maintain some sense of normalcy, even if half your workforce is out sick.

The rest of the articles are here: How to Implement Telecommuting in a Hurry, and here: Building Your Own Teleconference System with Asterisk and Gizmo

Another related online resource that has been quietly and steadily growing over time is the Flu Wiki. The focus of the Flu Wiki is also around preparing for and surviving a Pandemic outbreak of H5N1. This site is a welath of information, including brainstorming different localized scenarios, and pooling huge amounts of knowledge on how to survive in conditions of social distancing, food shortages, etc.

These are great uses of technologies of cooperation and Foresight, and a great application of cooperation around a knowledge commons to help spread vital knowledge and possibly decrease the worst case scenario human tragedy. Systems that help people help themselves during disaster and crisis are desperately needed. The recent Hurricane Katrina reponses by US Federal and State governments were a were tragic indicators that we cannot put faith in government institutions alone to help us survive disasters.

Thinking about this has also made me wonder, however, if there is a way to use Foresight, Technologies of Cooperation, and effective cooperation around a knowledge commons to actually avert and avoid the worst case scenario human tragedies altogether. Can we use these tools, along with Foresight principles to collectively figure out what we can do right now that we are not doing? Where are the biggest risks, or the possible beginning flashpoints? What could we do now, globally, regionally, locally, to decrease the risks? In which ways is H5N1 most likely to begin jumping from human to human, and how can this possibly be prevented? Perhaps we can use our existing technologies of cooperation to accelerate finding answers to these questions, and to keep track of our progress in averting global disaster?