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How would you deal with a deadly crisis? This exhibit aims to test your limits

You’ll lose friends, ostracise your family and learn a lot about yourself at the Science Gallery’s latest installment.

A VIRUS HAS broken out in Ireland. It’s a deadly virus, with a 98.6% fatality rate.

You are one of six people on Ireland’s Catastrophe Citizens’ Assembly. You’re in the situation room and you have to decide: What group of people do you give the vaccine to?

A – Give it to 10,000 randomly selected citizens
B – Give it to 10,000 of the top doctors and vaccine researchers

DSC_0838 The Situation Room in Dublin's Science Gallery. Source: Gráinne Ní Aodha via TheJournal.ie

You vote, the results are read out and you debate (this is the part where you lose all faith in the future of humanity).

The 10,000 randomly selected people should get the vaccine because if the virus spreads, we’ll need to recreate society with an even mix of people. Doctors and researchers should be saved to try to invent more vaccines (we’re assuming that the 10,000 vaccine doses aren’t replicable).

But there aren’t 10,000 top researchers and doctors in Ireland, someone argues. Another says that you’re assuming there’s no international help to invent a vaccine solution.

The Catastrophe Citizen’s Assembly votes for Option A. Next scenario.

DSC_0839 Question 2. Source: Gráinne Ní Aodha via TheJournal.ie

Of the randomly selected 10,000, 250 were citizens in prison, 250 were terminally ill and 2,000 were elderly. We should:
A – Still give it to these people
B – Give it to 2,500 people instead

The idea that the vaccine would be administered randomly was the whole point of option A in the first question – so based on that, you should stick to the logic in the second scenario.

But there are lots of shades of grey in this one – could you offer the vaccine to those who are terminally ill, and if they refuse, give them to some of the children? But if you give it to 2,500 children, how do you select which children get to live?

If we went with Option A, here’s where it would lead:

We fairly distributed the vaccine, but the pandemic is spreading. Masses of people are dying all over Ireland and just a small population has been vaccinated in time. We should:
A – Institute mandatory reproduction programmes, freeze eggs, sperm and embryos of all living capable people – it doesn’t matter if they are incarcerated, ill, young or old.
B – Migrate to mainland Europe.

DSC_0837 The Situation Room in Dublin's Science Gallery. Source: Gráinne Ní Aodha via TheJournal.ie

Again you debate, and you decide. It’s all part of an apocalyptic exhibition to get people thinking about what they would do in an end-of-world scenario.

Science Gallery

The Situation Room is the Science Gallery’s own creation, and asks its visitors to take part in Black-Mirror-like riddles around the survival of mankind.

It’s about weighing up risk, ethics, probability and the likelihood of survival. Sometimes it’s about valuing some lives above others (depending on how you voted above).

The Situation Room also sports a “Cards for Humanity” game, where players are dealt cards with different reactions on them, and have to use the best option for the situation they’re dealt.

One such situation included:

“A large earthquake has cracked the sewer pipes under Dublin. Before thousands of citizens contract cholera from contaminated drinking water, the city needs to _____.”

“Use as few resources as possible”, “invest in cyborg research” and “just don’t stare at the sun” are among the options you can choose.

DSC_0844 Source: Gráinne Ní Aodha via TheJournal.ie

Apart from the Situation Room, there’s an exhibition that looks at different survival kits, another that examines how quickly a virus can spread based on interconnected flights between the major world cities, and another that examines the extinction of creatures and how deeply we care about it (not that much, unsurprisingly).

There’s also a series of portraits in the style of copybook scribbles of how to survive, which includes “How to make a boat out of the remains of a gas station” and “Constructing a mobile border wall” (see also how to filter your water and what insects are safe to eat).

In a darker corner of the room in the upstairs part of the Science Gallery, a wall of paintings examines how humans might communicate danger to one another if languages were erased. It includes a poisonous blue forest, boxes of radioactive waste and spikes jutting out of the ground as possible threats – leaving the viewer to decide how best to warn people in generations to come.

Ahead of the exhibition’s launch last night, director at Science Gallery Lynn Scarff said  that in general, humans are “bad at preparing for dangerous, low-probability events” despite those types of events being featured in programmes and films all the time (The Walking Dead, and The Day After Tomorrow, for example).

Scientists working in fields as disparate as immunology and astronomy are researching topics that could have a very real effect on our ability to prevent, prepare for, or survive a catastrophe.

“We should think carefully about our plentiful cultural conversations about catastrophe, where science and culture are colliding before our eyes, before it’s too late.”

You can visit more on the Science Gallery’s website.

Read: Doomsday in Dublin: The impending apocalypse and what we can do to stop it

Read: ‘What is the thing that will wipe us out?’ The Dublin Science Gallery is addressing some big questions

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