Biothreats, data science and storytelling

There are sentences that unavoidably produce the opposite effect to which they aim, “it is not a matter of if, but when and where” is one of them. In theory, it is a sentence that should motivate people to face inescapable, although unpredictable, events. In practice, it is more likely to evoke denial [1] as the old Latin motto Mors certa, hora incerta, which probably inspired it. Since 9/11, this sentence has been recited as a mantra each time an argument against implausible threats has been brought up, most notably in the case of biothreats.

Biothreats have always existed [2]  but they have always been local and small-scale [3]. Major biological disasters, or even bio-attacks provided with significant symbolic power, have never occurred. This is not a good reason to argue that they will never happen reply supporters of the “it is not a matter of if” argument, who substantiate their point of view by adding that today we face an entirely new state of affairs, characterized by the convergence between; 1) globalization, 2) biotechnology and  3) the world wide web.

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