Long Now Talks

Geoff Manaugh & Nicola Twilley

Until Proven Safe: The History and Future of Quarantine

Geoff Manaugh and Nicola Twilley track the history and future of quarantine around the globe, chasing the story of emergency isolation through time and space—from the crumbling lazarettos of the Mediterranean, built to contain the Black Death, to an experimental Ebola unit in London, and from the hallways of the CDC to closed-door simulations where pharmaceutical execs and epidemiologists prepare for the outbreak of a novel coronavirus.

But the story of quarantine ranges far beyond the history of medical isolation. In their new book, Until Proven Safe, the authors tour a nuclear-waste isolation facility beneath the New Mexican desert, see plants stricken with a disease that threatens the world’s wheat supply, and meet NASA’s Planetary Protection Officer, tasked with saving Earth from extraterrestrial infections. They also introduce us to the corporate tech giants hoping to revolutionize quarantine through surveillance and algorithmic prediction.

We live in a disorienting historical moment that can feel both unprecedented and inevitable; Manaugh and Twilley help us make sense of our new reality through a thought-provoking exploration of the meaning of freedom, governance, and mutual responsibility.

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