I confess: It can get lonely sometimes, being Scary Disease Girl. The universe of people who are deeply invested disease geeks is passionate (thank you, constant readers) but it isn’t that large. And let’s face it, keen interest in things that could bring an end to civilization as we know it — hitherto-unknown pathogens, rampant antimicrobial resistance, nanotechnology run amok — isn’t like to earn repeat invitations to most dinner parties.
So you can imagine how I welcomed the publication of Fred Guterl’s new book, “The Fate of the Species: Why The Human Race May Cause Its Own Extinction And How We Can Stop It” (Bloomsbury), a lean and thoughtful exploration of the possible impact on humankind of scary diseases, and many other potentially bleak futures. In a series of deeply reported what-if essays, Guterl explores the worst-case scenarios that climate change, species loss, and viruses both real and digital might bring — and what steps we might take now to avert these imagined but plausible outcomes.
A necessary disclosure: Guterl is the executive editor of Scientific American, where I am a columnist on contract. But the book didn’t come to me as a result of that relationship; it was sent to me by a publicist who noticed this books series and had no notion of our connection.