Zombies revisited

Back in September I wrote about a study by researchers at Carelton University about humanity’s chances in the event of a zombie uprising.  Those Canucks were pretty pessimistic about our chances and basically said that if we wanted any hope we’d need to move fast and not get too worked up over collateral damage.

Well, Blake over at the Tortosie’s Lens is having none of that and argues that humanity, in fact, might survive just fine.

If you ask me, though, the Ottawa team’s model leaves something more profound out the equation: human capacity for ex-post organization and response. When accounting for these things, I can find scenarios of large initial zombie outbreaks that, when followed by quick adoption of strong anti-zombie defense policies may help pockets, or even large fractions of civilization to ward off the impending doom of mass zombie infection! How exciting!

He’s even got a video explaining his theory (it’ll be the best 5 minutes of geekness you’ll spend today, trust me):

This has spawned a bunch of additional commentary rounded up by Dan Drezner over at Foreign Policy (nice work if you can get it).

But that’s not the end of the debate.  Rossman says any model needs to include the inevitable temptation for someone to sabotage the survivor community.

Thus you’d have to add another parameter, which is the probability in any given period that some jackass sabotages the defensive perimeter, steals the battle bus, etc. If such sabotage eliminates or even appreciably reduces the “safe area” efficacy then human survival in the “safe areas” is contingent on the act of sabotage not occurring. If we assume that p(sabotage) is 1% in any given month, then the probability of sabotage occurring at least once over the course of two years is 1-.99^24, which works out to 21%. That’s not bad, but if we assume a p(sabotage) per month of at least 2.9% then there’s a better than even chance that we’re fucked.

Drezner then brings it all home to imagine how our bureaucratic interests might end up being our worst enemies in the fight against the zombies:

If bureaucratic conflicts and organizational pathologies hamper effective counter-terrorism policies, imagine the effect they would have on anti-zombie policies.  The bureaucratic turf wars would be significant.  Quelling the rise of the undead would require significant interagency coordination.  In the United States, one could easily envisage major roles for the Departments of State, Defense, Justice, Homeland Security, Transportation, and Health and Human Services.  This does not include autonomous or semi-autonomous agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration, Center for Disease Control, and the myriad intelligence agencies.

And you thought you just needed a shotgun and a chainsaw…


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