2021 DEF CON Biohacking Village – Truth, Trust, and Biodefense

We all hope for a truly “post COVID” world sooner rather than later, but that can only happen if we learn from the past and apply those lessons to our future. Our institutions and our people were unprepared for the harsh realities of the medical, scientific, economic and social demands that an emergency such as the COVID pandemic entails. Our national biodefense program had been steadily diminished while at the same time its focus was increasingly dedicated to human/terrorist threats over two decades. Our decentralized “public health” infrastructure was quickly shown to be simultaneously redundant and ineffective, and our national response was critically hampered by political agendas and rampant propaganda at the greatest scale ever witnessed in US history. Despite the tragic loss of more than 600,000 lives in the United States and millions worldwide, infectious disease experts know that it could have been much worse and would have been, if the pathogen had been even slightly more deadly than the SARS-CoV-2 virus proved to be. Can we imagine the outcome if the COVID mortality rate was far greater than the 1.8% seen in the United States? What if coronavirus infections carried the same mortality rate as infectious encephalitis (100%), Ebola Zaire (25%-90%), or even smallpox in unvaccinated populations (Smaller than 65%)? In this talk, we will discuss the history and future of biodefense with a specific focus on data, technology, communications, and the rapidly deteriorating concept of “truth.” Radicalization, misinformation, technology, the surveillance economy, information security, and personal privacy will all be discussed with an eye toward building back better, smarter, and more engaged institutions that are driven by better-prepared humans.