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What is stopping terrorists from creating a super virus to wipe out all of humanity?

All the while vaccinating themselves to be immune to their bio-engineered virus. Its like an invisible nuke, there is no proof who made it or released it.

Since we can't stop the progression of technology, bio-engineering will only get cheaper, more wide spread and easier to do. For me it seems like, its only a matter of time.

Also North Korea could create these bio-weapons or a random distraught bio-engineer college student.

Dr. Michio Kaku had warned us of the dangers of bio-engineered viruses with the advent of new technology.

Stephen Hawking made a statement humanity will most likely destroy it self either through nukes or weaponized viruses.

Please tell me there is a light of hope for humanity & give me some ideas on how humanity can overcome such an obstacle.


Edit:

I meant more like 10-20 years from now or even 50 years from now.

The greatest weapons of mass destruction were only made possible through Science & Technology.

If "Science & Technology" = "Weapons of Mass Destruction" and since we can't stop the progression of "Science & Technology", eventually "Weapons of Mass Destruction" will get into the wrong hands.

It feels like humanity's inevitable fate. The trickle effect of knowledge doesn't have to flow far.

"Two North Texas College Students Listed as ISIS Fighters"

Talmeezur Rahman, a computer major at Collin College in McKinney, disappeared from the U.S. in 2014, and his "fighting name" was listed on ISIS documents"

"Omar Kattan, whose family apparently still lives in Denton, attended UNT from 2007 to 2011 and graduated with a degree in biology"

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    $\begingroup$ Usually terrorists are fueled by ignorance and religion, someone with a brain doesn't have that fuel. $\endgroup$ – άλεξ μιζέρια Jul 27 '16 at 8:25
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    $\begingroup$ @άλεξμιζέρια yeah, no. They have many chemists, strategists, communicators, etc. among them. There are typically not the one who explode themselves in the middle of the streets, but many international terrorist organisations include clever people. $\endgroup$ – clem steredenn Jul 27 '16 at 10:48
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    $\begingroup$ @άλεξμιζέρια - the human mind doesn't work that way! It's not like people have a certain amount of brain and only lower amounts are susceptible to religion and ignorance while a higher amount is required to develop biological weapons... $\endgroup$ – colmde Jul 28 '16 at 8:06
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    $\begingroup$ @άλεξμιζέρια "2 North Texas College Students Listed as ISIS Fighters" nbcdfw.com/news/local/… "Omar Kattan Kattan, whose family apparently still lives in Denton, attended UNT from 2007 to 2011 and graduated with a degree in biology, said UNT spokeswoman Margarita Venegas." $\endgroup$ – Dana Ng Jul 28 '16 at 9:21
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    $\begingroup$ Madagascar closes its ports at the first sign of danger. Game over. $\endgroup$ – Kys Jul 29 '16 at 14:06

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Terrorists are not out to destroy humanity. Terrorism is a way of fighting a war against a stronger power using a combination of stealth and demoralization. They aren't stupid (well, some might be, but those ones are the pawns, not the leaders). They aren't going to do something that has a high chance of killing themselves.

The thing about vaccination is that it requires the immune system to be capable of fighting the virus to some extent. You give the body a weakened form of the virus so that it learns to recognize it and learn its chemical weak points, thereby allowing it to make a "first strike" upon infection by the real thing. If there is a virus that can completely bypass the immune system, it is impossible to effectively vaccinate against.

There are some nasty engineered viruses out there, but there's always a trade-off between their ability to spread and the ability to control them. It's basically impossible to make a virus that will wipe out a significant portion of humanity without killing yourself as well. They are a deterrent, like nukes, not a practical weapon.

The real danger is that one of these deterrent-intended super-viruses escapes by accident... fortunately there are very strict safety codes to prevent this kind of thing from happening. We hope.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure about your initial point. Imagine if everyone had a button that could destroy the entire world. I am sure that someone would press it. Some people are stupid, insane and/or both. $\endgroup$ – Max Williams Jul 27 '16 at 11:48
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    $\begingroup$ @MaxWilliams I had a similar thought, but you need an educated and financed organization of many people to create it in the first place, so there would need to be multiple people repeatedly pressing the button over several years, while cash is being stuffed in their pockets to allow them to continue to push their buttons. $\endgroup$ – Ranger Jul 27 '16 at 15:09
  • $\begingroup$ @NexTerren oh yeah, i don't think it's likely to happen! I just disagree with the idea that everyone would refrain from destroying the world if they had the chance. $\endgroup$ – Max Williams Jul 27 '16 at 15:10
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    $\begingroup$ @MaxWilliams I didn't say everyone would refrain from destroying the world, just that the people who would don't generally end up becoming leaders (or scientists). People seem to have this idea of terrorist leaders being Saturday Morning Cartoon super-villains who are out to destroy civilization just because they can. They aren't. They are leaders of organizations who are willing to use underhanded and immoral tactics to accomplish their goals, but they aren't insane - the goal still has to benefit them in some way. $\endgroup$ – IndigoFenix Jul 28 '16 at 5:18
  • $\begingroup$ I meant more like 10-20 years from now or even 50 years from now. The greatest weapons of mass destruction were only made possible through Science & Technology. If "Science & Technology" = "Weapons of Mass Destruction" & since we can't stop the progression of "Science & Technology". Eventually "Weapons of Mass Destruction" will get into the wrong hands. It feels like humanity's inevitable fate. $\endgroup$ – Dana Ng Jul 28 '16 at 9:13
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  1. Making a biological weapon, you are limited by the constraints of biology. Genetic engineering can't just invent some magical new properties of viruses. Viruses are limited in what they can do. If the virus takes too long to kill its host, then the human body is amazing at defending itself. If the virus kills people too quickly, then it won't spread and the epidemic will die out.

  2. Also don't trust everything you read. Michio Kaku and Stephen Hawking are physicists, not doctors or biologists. Yoshihiro Kawaoka made a virus based on H5N1 (bird flu) not H1N1 (swine flu). Also, bird flu killed ~375 in its 2007-2008 'epidemic' and swine flu killed ~17,000 in 2009-2010. Meanwhile, all influenza viruses together kill ~250,000-500,000 a year. So, neither bird flu nor swine flu are particularly scary.

  3. There is a real life event where a massive pandemic caused by dozens of previously un-encountered viruses eliminated 90% of a population. It was the advent of old world epidemic diseases into the new world after the Columbian Exchange. While very deadly, there are still Native Americans around, so it didn't 'wipe out humanity'. In contrast, if even one novel disease showed up today, it would immediately be combated by health organizations to prevent its spread, and scientists to develop a cure.

  4. Diseases are scary, but its the routine ones that are scariest. Malaria still kills millions, I've seen a friend (American) get malaria and have his eyes turn yellow in africa. Food poisoning kills 3000 a year in the US. Flu kills many. A lot of people in the first world still die randomly from disease. But compared to the numbers for mundane diseases, 'epidemic' diseases kill very few. The ability of the world and the human body to defend itself is great these days.

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  • $\begingroup$ Point 3: Except in the United States, where the Legislative and Executive branches will fight over whether it's worth spending as much money as necessary to combat it, while the virus continues to spread... $\endgroup$ – Rayanth Jul 30 '16 at 2:45
  • $\begingroup$ Well according to Wikipedia 9 people have died of Zika in the world, and according the CDC 0 people have contracted it in the US. So I'm glad the government is just wasting my tax dollars on the normal things, like corruption, untested military hardware, and old people. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Jul 30 '16 at 3:38
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    $\begingroup$ The news today stated several in Florida have contracted it, and not from visits overseas (mosquitos in Florida are actively spreading it. New York has also seen a few cases) to the point they have shut down two counties' blood banks. And deaths is not the only problem a virus can cause. Sure, only 20% of people even experience symptoms of Zika, but a significant percentage of fetuses with it are born with microcephaly, which is bad enough it may as well be death for that child. $\endgroup$ – Rayanth Jul 30 '16 at 4:08
  • $\begingroup$ The CDC is more reliable than 'the news'. Locally acquired cases in the 50 states are 0. Meanwhile about a 3 people died of food poisoning since your last post (based on the average rate). Which one is more important? $\endgroup$ – kingledion Jul 30 '16 at 12:42
  • $\begingroup$ the CDC link is also 2 days older than the news article, which had quoted the CDC... $\endgroup$ – Rayanth Jul 30 '16 at 20:34
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The first rule of biological warfare is develop the antidote or vaccine to whatever biological weapon you intend to deploy. That your enemies perish and people on your side can survive.

Your basic biowarfare genius terrorist has to first develop his evil super-bug, then spend decades of research to create the antidote or vaccine. That's the real reason why super-virus weapons are unlikely, even if it's super easy to create new and deadly viruses it takes forever and a day to come up with an anti-super-virus vaccine.

In the past when biological warfare was part of Cold War arsenals, establishments responsible for bioweapons claimed they weren't doing research into biological warfare. No, instead they were doing research into vaccines against deadly bacteria and viruses. Do you want to guess why?

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I'm surprised that everyone is thinking about ideological terrorists and disputing why they would or wouldn't introduce a super-virus, when the people with the motivation and the know-how are plainly obvious, so I'll keep my answer short and sweet:

Eco-terrorists who view humanity as a disease would relish the opportunity to erase our species from the earth, themselves included.

This was featured in an episode of The Blacklist.

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  • $\begingroup$ good point, and few words of hope, why we still alive? $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Jul 29 '16 at 23:07
  • $\begingroup$ While eco-terrorists may like to eliminate humanity, they may still be constrained by ethics (specifically the involuntary nature of said extinction). Consider VHEMT, the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, which supports human extinction, but would rather prefer humans to voluntarily choose to die off than to "forcibly" cause human extinction. $\endgroup$ – Left SE On 10_6_19 Aug 13 '16 at 16:36
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Lack of Motivation

Terrorists are not out to terrorize or destroy just for kicks and laughs. If terrorists were only out to make life miserable for others, there are myriads of ways they could do that. One of the most efficient ones would be to attack the power grid. So why does that not happen more often?

It is because terrorists have goals they wish to achieve with their terror. Terror is not a goal in itself; it is the means to a goal. And no terrorist has "Hey, let's get rid of everyone except me and my buddies" as their goal.

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    $\begingroup$ Isn’t that what the Taliban and any religious extremist does want? Hey, let's get rid of everyone except me and my buddies $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Jul 27 '16 at 10:50
  • $\begingroup$ @JDługosz Only in really brain-dead Hollywood production, and politicians' speeches. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Jul 27 '16 at 10:55
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    $\begingroup$ Then what did Osama bin Laden want, actually? “Motives for the attacks were stated before and after the attacks in several sources, Osama bin Laden's declaration of a holy war against the United States, and a fatwā signed by bin Laden ” from Wikipedia. “comply with God's order to kill the Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they find it.” is what he announced. Are you saying the leaders have some other motive not stated? $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Jul 27 '16 at 11:06
  • $\begingroup$ @JDługosz I am saying that you went quote mining and did not read the entire maniestos. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Jul 27 '16 at 11:16
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    $\begingroup$ From informed discussion about Osama bin Laden. He wanted political reform and revolution in Saudi Arabia mainly. The USA was a strong ally of Saudi Arabia, so having failed in Saudi Arabia they took the fight to the USA. Basically attacking the ally of their enemy. MichaelKarnefors is correct. You can't label Al Quaeda as simply a wipe-out the West movement. Without knowing it many Western countries are the allies of oppressive regimes & this is the oppressed fighting back. This doesn't make them nice or fluffy or right. They have their reasons which we often fail to understand. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jul 28 '16 at 7:29
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2025–2035 would in my opinion will see a spike in Bio-terrorism, as technologies advances it would be countered by introducing compulsory nanobots (almost like vaccines today) into blood streams it almost all countries.

Technology and Knowledge

The biggest problem is creating a super-virus, even though bio-engineering is possible no one know how DNA works, people/medical community have rough idea as to which genes correlate to which properties, but technology isn't perfected enough to create a virus with multiple desired properties.

An Ideal super bug would have to be

  • Very contagious, airborne and waterborne
  • Non suspicious, during times of spreading
  • Long dormancy, so gives enough time to spread around the world
  • Deadly, once the effect starts it should have high % casualties and quickly.
  • Capable of surviving a long time outside a host
  • Restrictions to mutations

We aren't technological advanced to design a super virus, even most developed medical labs and military research are having hard introducing simple planned genetic changes. Knowledge to design not only a new bug but a vaccine is highly unlikely, and there is a inherent fear the virus might mutate and kill the terrorist themselves.

People can still use DNA synthesizer to create bubonic plague, yellow fever, or even ebola with some effort. But you would specialized equipment, lab, temperature regulated setting, which all are tracked by most government organization. Even if a terrorist organization creates such a virus, most delivery methods aren't good enough,virus wouldn't be fast spreading. By the time a virus has 100 causalities, quarantine would be declared, leading to rapid solution in affected areas.

But I believe this would change around 2025, with increase stress of climate change and start of unemployment due to technological advancements, increase in technology coupled with publicly available data, bio terrorism will be a real threat.

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    $\begingroup$ Actually if the goal is to eliminate humanity without a time frame, probably the strategy with best chance of success is if it doesn't affect the directly infected at all, but sterilizes the offspring. The effect will be completely invisible until at least 16 years later, and even then it will be a long time until the cause is discovered, as the infertile offspring may not itself carry the virus. If the virus by then has spread to everyone, humanity is doomed. $\endgroup$ – celtschk Jul 28 '16 at 10:19
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It's the same as to why a zombie virus does not spread everywhere :) You need special circumstances for that, the infected has to spread it to others. While that disease can possible spread in the entire country, quarantine will stop it from spreading further.

Unless you plan accordingly, by spreading the disease in an airport for example, then a very large area can be covered. Also terrorists are brainwashed people. They want to make a impact. Blowing up something is better than coming up with a plan to invent a new super-virus.

However for countries who have been planning this, then they can easily pull this off: bio-warfare.

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  • $\begingroup$ Zombie Viruses usually aren't airborne. We're talking about a weaponized flu virus. The one that we get every year that no country has ever been able to stop the spreading of. But what about the mass murdering bio-engineering student? Or North Korea who's always threatening to nuke us? $\endgroup$ – Dana Ng Jul 27 '16 at 8:54
  • $\begingroup$ @DanaNg : In some stories, the zombie virus is airborne. Of course, if it is North Korea who has been planning for this ... then it definitely is possible (the apocalypse) $\endgroup$ – King of Snakes Jul 27 '16 at 8:58
  • $\begingroup$ @DanaNg - from previous experience, it sounds more likely that NK takes fake responsibility for a natural mutation of a virus. Or the IS. Perhaps then NK and the IS go to war against each other on the issue of who created the new virus? $\endgroup$ – Luís Henrique Jul 27 '16 at 9:11
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As noted, terror is a tactic in support of a goal, not a goal in of itself, so "killing everyone" isn't going to be high on the goals of the terror group's leadership. Even the most fanatical Islamic Radicals of today are out to convert as many people as possible, enslave the Dhimmi and destroy anyone who is apostate or could threaten the Ummah. Dead people don't make very good slaves.

Outside of motivation, there is also the issue of how virii behave in the wild. A virus which is too virulent will "burn out" since the population will die before it has time to spread into new hosts. Even genetically engineered virii will mutate and the ones which are less virulent will survive and propagate. Based on historic norms, the upper limit of deaths will be about 1/3 of the population.

When dealing with creating a virus, there is a lot of other things which might deter a terrorist organization. Biosafety is a huge issue, you don't want your science cadre to kill themselves or be killed in what is essentially an industrial accident. If you do have an accident in the lab, you ask wiping out your own organization first. Finally, bioweapons are not controllable in the way conventional ones are, and you will not be able to target a specific population, country or region.

Terrorists are also constrained by the need to be under the radar and quite mobile, buying all the various equipment needed for a level 4 biohazard lab will start raising flags, and it is difficult to see how they could quickly pack up and move all that specialized equipment when the police or army start to close in.

One exception to the rule:

There is a very dangerous movement of radical "Greens" who are convinced that the human race has to be "culled" by 5 billion people or more in order to "heal" Gaia. These fanatics are far more dangerous than any Socialist dictator (Hitler only killed 6 million, Stalin 20 million and Mao is estimated to have killed as many as 65 million; all small fractions of the billions Green fanatics believe necessary to achieve their Utopia), and are probably to going to be unmoved by the danger, unpredictability or uncontrollability of the virus. Indeed, they would probably be content to die in their lab while developing and releasing the weapon.

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  • $\begingroup$ A virus which is too virulent will "burn out" since the population will die before it has time to spread into new hosts. we live in pretty dense groups, like cities, where tech production and such going - so burning out isn't such a problem. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Jul 28 '16 at 11:37
  • $\begingroup$ @MolbOrg Not necessarily whether a virus will spread rapidly, extremely slowly or even burn out has a lot more to do with the R0 which is a value for the average number of people one infected person will subsequently infect. Values greater than 1 spread rapidly of course since the infected increases exponentially, a value of 1 would spread very slowly since the number of infected wouldn't explode exponentially and would stay rather flat. Anything bellow 1 would mean the virus is has a death rate > infection rate and it would burn itself out. $\endgroup$ – MttJocy Jul 29 '16 at 22:04
  • $\begingroup$ @MttJocy premise said it is high virulent. When it burn out - it's even better sort of control. I glad we do not know how to create such, and probably do no have enough information about humans to create, because we are not able to defend ourself at the moment. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Jul 29 '16 at 23:06
  • $\begingroup$ Margaret Atwood described how the purpose built virus in the hands of mad greenies would work in The Year Of the Flood. They intended for everyone to die, and the book describes how it happened and what the few survivors did. $\endgroup$ – RedSonja Jan 17 '17 at 12:39
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Creating novel viruses is now within reach of terror groups. As pointed out here:

Eradicating smallpox, one of the deadliest diseases in history, took humanity decades and cost billions of dollars. Bringing the scourge back would probably take a small scientific team with little specialized knowledge half a year and cost about $100,000.

This opens up a vast range of possibilities. One can e.g. consider a virus that infects dogs causing only a mild disease or no disease at all, but which can also infect humans causing a deadly disease. This then ensures a rapid spread of the disease via the dogs, the fact that the human hosts are killed does not impede the rapid spread of the disease.

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Another factor that hasn't been touched on:

We don't have the biological knowledge to simply write a super-virus. Creating such a super-weapon will require a lot of human testing, first to develop your super-bug and then to create a vaccine for said super-bug. This will be an awfully big project to keep secret, not to mention the number of people you will have to kidnap for your testing.

Furthermore, as others have said, terrorists are normally about imposing their ideas, they don't seek to destroy the world.

Others have said that biology doesn't support such bugs but while a 100% kill is out of the question I think it would be possible to effectively destroy it: Take about the nastiest (lethality + spreadability) bug we know--smallpox. Take your sample population, vaccinate them. Take a supply of smallpox (note: I've run into the complete genome on-line. Modern tech can convert that back to the virus) and mutate it. Infect your test subjects with the mutated virus. Repeat until you get a deadly result--something with similar lethality but for which the vaccine doesn't work.

Now you want to make a killed-virus vaccine. They're not the best and they're not easy to mass produce and they're not 100%, but they're much easier to do than modern stuff. Immunize your group.

Prepare a bunch of dispensers, place them in airports around the world. Simultaneous release. The medical systems will be totally overloaded and effectively useless. Survival will be the same as in the old days--roughly a third will die. I think the grid (trade, not merely electrical power) will collapse--and that will take the kill to upwards of 99% and could reach 100% as you end up with an awful lot of desperate people who will fight for food now rather than produce food for months down the road.

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