Monday, October 05, 2020

More Deep Thoughts Day

More Facebook posts I want to preserve for posterity:

August 20, 2020

Science is chaotic and sometimes goes in the wrong direction, but eventually we arrive at repeatable evidence-based conclusions. The novel nature of COVID-19 means that we have an incomplete picture of its spread and long-term effects. It's premature to think we fully understand all of the risks, and misleading to rely on comparisons between COVID-19 and well-studied problems like influenza and car crashes.

We simply don't know enough yet, but given enough time, we will!

This is why I continue wear a mask in public. TIME is the ingredient in short supply as we simultaneously try to study the virus, mass-produce a working vaccine, and manage hospital capacity. If my ugly mask can buy some time and save a few lives by slowing community spread, then it's the logical and compassionate thing to do.

In the absence of a clear message empowering us to respond to COVID-19 as a unified country, we each have the responsibility to make compassionate choices. Wearing a mask is literally the easiest sacrifice I can make, yet it potentially has the largest public health payoff in terms of viral severity and deaths avoided. Even if science course-corrects tomorrow and we learn that masks are a placebo, I've lost nothing but fashion cred.

I post this, not to pass judgement on different choices, but to give you another data point to consider as you weigh your own levels of acceptable risk. There are people like me still acting with caution (not fear) and trying to normalize masks so we can reach the day they're no longer needed, hopefully without more suffering. We're doing what we hope is best for our communities, even if we aren't the most vocal or visible group in the news or on social media.

September 25, 2020

The Internet has decayed to a state where big players like Google and Facebook are de facto gatekeepers for news and knowledge. This weaponizes a massive push towards homogeneity, where the "right" answer is the one most loudly and broadly promoted, not necessarily the correct one or the one most people agree with.

Social media and search engines selectively promote or conceal content to keep you engaged on their platforms, based on the posts you Like or Share and the links you follow. This leads to a dangerous echo chamber effect where the content you're most likely to discover already reinforces your perception of the world.

There is clear evidence that this situation is being exploited, both by cash-starved news outlets using clickbait to compete for your eyeballs and malicious, organized foreign disinformation campaigns that are successfully seeding confusion and division in the US. As a result, it's more difficult for us to be informed citizens and apply critical thinking to the firehose of "newsworthy" events.

Here are 4 simple tips I would suggest to find the signal in all of the noise:

  1. Stop using social media as your primary news aggregator. Like the cute baby pics but Hide the news stories and political memes. You can still engage in activism without a Share button -- it just requires more effort and personalizing of your message.
  2. Rely on established, traditional news sources with enough published articles to reveal their intrinsic biases. Own those biases and "trust but verify" as you read. Use a resource like AllSides to see how different sources slant the same event to cater to different audiences. Consider a print subscription to avoid the endless Breaking News! cycle.
  3. Stop accepting the narrative that every news event boils down to a Good/Evil zero-sum game -- it's dangerous to paint everyone who disagrees with you as The Enemy. Understand that your strongest emotions (belonging, outrage, patriotism, religious fervor) are being exploited and monetized by this narrative.
  4. Use search engines while logged out or in a private browsing tab to avoid getting results based on your past search behavior. Consider a privacy-focused search engine like DuckDuckGo.

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