[Flash Forward] S07E01: What If You Could Be Immune To Everything?

What If You Could Be Immune To Everything?

30/03/2021 by Rose Eveleth

Web player: https://podcastaddict.com/episode/121092542

Episode: https://www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.mp3/traffic.megaphone.fm/FLASH3096566270.mp3?updated=1617067443

WELCOME BACK TO FLASH FORWARD! Today we travel to a future where we become immune to every poison, venom and toxin in the world. What happens next? Guests: Dr. Bryan Fry — biochemist and molecular biologist at the University of Queensland Dr. Christie Wilcox — science writer & author of Venomous: How Earth’s Deadliest Creatures Mastered Biochemistry Dr. Karin Broberg — geneticist at the Karolinska Institute Dr. Trysh Travis — cultural historian at the University of Florida Dr. Mark Bonta — cultural geographer Voice Actors: Pharmaceutical Ad Narrator — Shara Kirby

Listen Date: 2021-05-03


  • At a big picture level, this episode seemed to go all over the place, because its premise seemed so unsustainable. Could we have venom immunity from a vaccine? No. Okay, move on to “Could we give ourselves an organ to make venom neutralising antibodies?” Still no. Fine, move on to the history of arsenic eating and microdosing yourself with poison to evolve resistance; and end with “Knowledge is the true immunity!” She even made a “The friends we made along the way” joke. On the bright side, that inspired me to finally go and see the origins of the phrase. And apparently it’s 4chan. Well fine.
  • I had read Dr Christie Wilcox’s book and followed her on Twitter, so it was cool to hear her. I recommend the book, from which I remember very few details, but broadly, it has some cool stuff about why anybody would evolve venoms in the first place.
  • There was fun discussion about what’s venomous, what’s poisonous, and what can be both.
  • TIL: Indian pharma companies sell antivenom in Africa and it doesn’t work because even in the same species, different populations produce different venoms. But somebody in Africa must have a tender to put out and an L1 bid to accept, I suppose.
  • Also the Madras Crocodile Bank got a shoutout.
  • Once the episode got to arsenic, I found myself wishing that it had interviewed Deborah Blum, the author of the poisons book I had read. It’s equal parts about poisons, the birth of forensic examination, and American Prohibition, and well worth reading.
  • I now wish that the idea of a vaccine against drugs had been an episode in itself – it was probably the one thing in the episode that could have sustained forty five minutes. Especially the philosophical concepts of locking yourself out of the possibility of pleasure just so you can avoid addiction. That’s some hardcore downside avoidance, and beats even Odysseus chaining himself to the mast. In fact, it’s arguably the opposite of Odysseus – it’s the guys who filled their ears with wax. Now I feel bad for the rest of the crew not getting a turn at the mast.
  • Also I hadn’t even considered the possibility of other people forcibly vaccinating you against drugs and the ethical implications of that.
  • It kind of ties in to the LA Paul episode on Econ Talk. Kind of. Not being able to get high ever, and not being able to go back, is a bit like her vampire example. You completely lock yourself out from having that experience ever again. But I wonder if you get left with the memory of getting high and regret not being able to have it again – and for that matter if you actually enjoy being unable to get high.

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