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In my short story I have a character that has access to gene editing. They want to cancel work and school with another pandemic however this character does not want to kill or make people suffer with a disease. So this character chose to make narcolepsy infectious.

So would infectious narcolepsy be a danger to society like Covid was? Would it cause global lockdown like Covid did?

Also, just to specify the disease would spread via air like Covid did.

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    $\begingroup$ In many ways it would honestly be worse then covid, people would just fall asleep randomly, you couldn't drive cars, fly planes or do anything involving heavy machinery. What do you think would happen if someone just randomly conked out while managing a nuclear reactor? $\endgroup$
    – Masakan
    Commented Jan 13 at 22:12
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    $\begingroup$ Why would work and school be cancelled unless the disease is both extremely dangerous and easily transmitted? The economic and social impacts of lockdowns were severe, the only reason they were employed was because the alternative was perceived as worse. If the character is that smart then they will know that there will be no lockdown for a disease that does not cause suffering and/or death. (BTW, COVID is still around causing suffering and death, albeit less since vaccines were developed, so using the past tense to describe it is incorrect.) $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 14 at 3:59
  • $\begingroup$ Nowadays we have automation, autonomous cars etc, I guess there is no more excuses for those are reluctant to make the switch🙄 $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Commented Jan 14 at 6:24

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Work backwards from the desired result, adapt as you see fit

Narcolepsy does not have a fixed diagnosis; it has a spectrum of symptoms and severity, everything from your bogstandard "Cannot stay awake during boring meetings/lectures" to "Drop to the floor as you are standing on it".

Plus here we are talking a fictional version of it, meaning you can tailor this to whatever you want.

As is often the case with world-building (and story-writing), think of how you want this world to be... of what result you want for it to work... and then reverse-engineer the illness from that to achieve the result you are looking for.

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    $\begingroup$ Absolutely, the world needs to be tailored to fit the needs of the story. (In this case at least.) $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 14 at 4:27
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Think of all the things in this world that are:

  • Big
  • Dangerous
  • Cannot be operated under the influence of Alcohol or even certain Prescription Drugs.
  • Now make it that the people operating these might randomly fall asleep.

Congratulations - you've probably crashed a bunch of Aircraft (some perhaps spectacularly so) - Driving on the road is now like playing dice with the Devil, OSH is going to have some many random deaths on job sites (think construction, Oil and Gas exploration, Foundaries etc. etc.) that they are going to have to stop anyone from using so much as a Hammer. Power Plants might suffer catastrophic failures, the list goes on.

The problem is that someone who has no history of the disease and doesn't know they have this new disease until the first time they randomly fall asleep and since you don't have any control over when/where/how that happens It would be much more dangerous than Covid

I mean - even if we eliminate all those heavy industry things - simply walking along a concrete path, falling asleep and hitting your head on the wrong angle can be a fatal injury.

What if you are carrying your child?

So in terms of Danger to society - it would be much much more dangerous (for the record - getting Covid was the biggest let down - I expected a good week long flu - I had to wear a blanket for a day).

In terms of Global Pandemic response - this is where I think you can have a more interesting world/story:

I looked at the Draconian, Immoral and Tyrannical measures taken by various governments (My own included - May Stalinda meet an untimely demise and rot) as wrong from the outset (I'm a staunch Libertarian) and I did not comply with the policies as far as it made sense not to (wearing a Mask was stupid in 99.9% of situations - but when I had to visit a Hospital, in that scenario it was reasonable to do so).

A lot of people, in hindsight, have looked at the data, realised Covid was mainly an issue for over 65s (and didn't effect Children - which was it's one saving grace) and those with Co-Morbidities and they have then had a look at the societal, financial, economic impacts of these policies and gone 'Wow, that wasn't worth it'

There were instances where certain countries came close to revolting against their Governments of the Covid Tyranny.

I say all this to make the point:

In order to cause a Global Lockdown that has the compliance of the Populace, the next Pandemic has to be orders of magnitude more deadly than Covid ever was.

And so if you have that as your aim, you are going to have to reconcile your character that in order to do that, he's gonna have to indirectly (but causally none-the-less) kill a lot of people.

That makes for an interesting story.

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    $\begingroup$ While your own position is very clear, do you have a source for this: A lot of people, in hindsight, have looked at the data, realised Covid was mainly an issue for over 65s (and didn't effect Children - which was it's one saving grace) and those with Co-Morbidities and they have then had a look at the societal, financial, economic impacts of these policies and gone 'Wow, that wasn't worth it' […] In order to cause a Global Lockdown that has the compliance of the Populace, the next Pandemic has to be orders of magnitude more deadly than Covid ever was. [cont‘d] $\endgroup$
    – Narusan
    Commented Jan 14 at 11:30
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    $\begingroup$ The overwhelming majority opinion in my bubble is: Wow that came close to the total collapse of the healthcare system as a whole, and a lot of young people have died / are chronically ill now. Look for example at this testimony from the first wave in NYC. So given that, I‘m not certain the new pandemic needs to be more deadly for people to accept measures - but there should be public opinion polls about the sentiment wrt covid measures $\endgroup$
    – Narusan
    Commented Jan 14 at 11:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Narusan - Look at all the Governments that supported heavy Lockdown policies and have face elections or are facing elections. They got voted out or are looking like they are going to get voted out. I'm not sure what your Bubble is - but I feel I could safely presume a number of things. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 14 at 20:07
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    $\begingroup$ Very opinion heavy language you use there. Draconian, Immoral and Tyrannical measures. along with "unwell wishes" May Stalinda meet an untimely demise and rot. Can I convince you to take those out/modify them, as this site is not a political discussion forum and I think at least your "unwell wishes" go quite against the rules on this stackexchange. $\endgroup$
    – datacube
    Commented Jan 15 at 12:22
  • $\begingroup$ @datacube No, you can't. Firstly it's how I genuinely feel (and given the freedom protests globally, not a unique perspective) secondly (and why I included it) for a story about a global Lockdown to be believable - it would have to be a significant threat to humanity - which violates the intent of the author. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 15 at 18:12

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