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Why Promoting Human Rights May Not Be the Way To a More Peaceful World
Stephen M. Walt, a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, tackles some seemingly non-controversial statements about human rights, democracy, and international law.
Yesterday was the first day of Brain Bar Budapest – “Europe’s leading conference of the future” - an event with the ambition to become as recognized as SXSW and The World Economic Forum. With expected 7000 visitors this year, a third of which from abroad, and a stellar line-up of speakers, that goal appears likely to be reached.
Opening of Brain Bar Budapest on June 1, 2017. Photo credit: Brain Bar
Differentiating itself from other idea-conferences, Brain Bar puts a big emphasis on interactivity and challenging ideas. This year it introduced several new formats to facilitate this. One of them was “Mythburning”, during which a renowned expert questions the validity of certain propositions within his field of expertise.
The first mythburner at Brain Bar was Stephen M. Walt, a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, who tackled some seemingly non-controversial statements about human rights, democracy, and international law.
Humans share universal moral principles.
Human beings do not share universal moral principles. We actually fight over many basic moral ideas, like whether gay people should be allowed to get married, or what role should religion play in our political lives. When we try to impose the ones we happen to like on others, we are actually more likely to generate conflicts.
International law and public opinion are the sources of peace.
International law is very useful for states to cooperate with each other. For example, facilitating international trade depends upon a variety of formal legal agreements. What international law and global public opinion and norms can’t do, is stop powerful states from doing what it is they want in order to make themselves secure or advance their interest. International law couldn’t stop Russia from seizing Crimea. It can’t stop China from building islands in the South China Sea. It couldn’t stop the U.S. to invade Iraq in 2003 or prevent it from sending drones into various countries chasing suspected terrorists. Moreover, if you think that international law can solve such problems, you may not pay enough attention to doing the other things that might actually fix them – like constructive diplomacy and creating powerful defensive alliances.
By promoting human rights, we create a more peaceful world.
Human rights are very important and I think advancing them within countries is actually a worthy goal. But advancing human rights in different parts of the world is not necessarily the best way to produce peace. For example, when the U.S., Britain and France overthrew Muammar Gaddafi largely for human rights reasons in Lybia, we ended up creating a failed state and the situation for Lybians is, in fact, even worse than it was before we intervened. So, well-intentioned efforts to advance human rights don’t necessarily create a more peaceful world. That’s not to say we shouldn’t try to promote human rights in our own countries in order to set a good example for the rest of the world. But we have to be very careful about overzealous efforts, because that actually can be an engine for conflict. I would argue that human rights performance over time has seen steady progress in many parts of the world. However, it has been as much done through the slow progress of social movements and diplomacy, as by energetic acts of statecraft. This is something that you cannot rush. You have to let each society come to those conclusions pretty much on its own.
Spreading democracy is the best way to promote peace.
I think liberal democracy is the best form of government to live under, but it’s not a particularly good way to promote peace. First of all, democracies start as many wars as non-democracies do. Think of the United States, for example, where we have not been bashful about using military force and sometimes initiating conflicts, even when we weren’t attacked. So, spreading democracy doesn’t necessarily guarantee peace. Finally, once democracies get into a big war, like World War I and World War II, they kill just as many people, including just as many civilians as non-democracies do. If the way you are spreading democracy is through military force, you have something of a contradiction there. There are better ways to promote peace than trying to aggressively create democracies.
Stay tuned for more from Brain Bat Budapest.
Northwell Health is using insights from website traffic to forecast COVID-19 hospitalizations two weeks in the future.
- The machine-learning algorithm works by analyzing the online behavior of visitors to the Northwell Health website and comparing that data to future COVID-19 hospitalizations.
- The tool, which uses anonymized data, has so far predicted hospitalizations with an accuracy rate of 80 percent.
- Machine-learning tools are helping health-care professionals worldwide better constrain and treat COVID-19.
The value of forecasting<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTA0Njk2OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMzM2NDQzOH0.rid9regiDaKczCCKBsu7wrHkNQ64Vz_XcOEZIzAhzgM/img.jpg?width=980" id="2bb93" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="31345afbdf2bd408fd3e9f31520c445a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1546" data-height="1056" />
Northwell emergency departments use the dashboard to monitor in real time.
Credit: Northwell Health<p>One unique benefit of forecasting COVID-19 hospitalizations is that it allows health systems to better prepare, manage and allocate resources. For example, if the tool forecasted a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations in two weeks, Northwell Health could begin:</p><ul><li>Making space for an influx of patients</li><li>Moving personal protective equipment to where it's most needed</li><li>Strategically allocating staff during the predicted surge</li><li>Increasing the number of tests offered to asymptomatic patients</li></ul><p>The health-care field is increasingly using machine learning. It's already helping doctors develop <a href="https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/early/2020/06/09/dc19-1870" target="_blank">personalized care plans for diabetes patients</a>, improving cancer screening techniques, and enabling mental health professionals to better predict which patients are at <a href="https://healthitanalytics.com/news/ehr-data-fuels-accurate-predictive-analytics-for-suicide-risk" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elevated risk of suicide</a>, to name a few applications.</p><p>Health systems around the world have already begun exploring how <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7315944/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">machine learning can help battle the pandemic</a>, including better COVID-19 screening, diagnosis, contact tracing, and drug and vaccine development.</p><p>Cruzen said these kinds of tools represent a shift in how health systems can tackle a wide variety of problems.</p><p>"Health care has always used the past to predict the future, but not in this mathematical way," Cruzen said. "I think [Northwell Health's new predictive tool] really is a great first example of how we should be attacking a lot of things as we go forward."</p>
Making machine-learning tools openly accessible<p>Northwell Health has made its predictive tool <a href="https://github.com/northwell-health/covid-web-data-predictor" target="_blank">available for free</a> to any health system that wishes to utilize it.</p><p>"COVID is everybody's problem, and I think developing tools that can be used to help others is sort of why people go into health care," Dr. Cruzen said. "It was really consistent with our mission."</p><p>Open collaboration is something the world's governments and health systems should be striving for during the pandemic, said Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's president and CEO.</p><p>"Whenever you develop anything and somebody else gets it, they improve it and they continue to make it better," Dowling said. "As a country, we lack data. I believe very, very strongly that we should have been and should be now working with other countries, including China, including the European Union, including England and others to figure out how to develop a health surveillance system so you can anticipate way in advance when these things are going to occur."</p><p>In all, Northwell Health has treated more than 112,000 COVID patients. During the pandemic, Dowling said he's seen an outpouring of goodwill, collaboration, and sacrifice from the community and the tens of thousands of staff who work across Northwell.</p><p>"COVID has changed our perspective on everything—and not just those of us in health care, because it has disrupted everybody's life," Dowling said. "It has demonstrated the value of community, how we help one another."</p>
"You dream about these kinds of moments when you're a kid," said lead paleontologist David Schmidt.
- The triceratops skull was first discovered in 2019, but was excavated over the summer of 2020.
- It was discovered in the South Dakota Badlands, an area where the Triceratops roamed some 66 million years ago.
- Studying dinosaurs helps scientists better understand the evolution of all life on Earth.
Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"We had to be really careful," Schmidt told St. Louis Public Radio. "We couldn't disturb anything at all, because at that point, it was under law enforcement investigation. They were telling us, 'Don't even make footprints,' and I was thinking, 'How are we supposed to do that?'"</p><p>Another difficulty was the mammoth size of the skull: about 7 feet long and more than 3,000 pounds. (For context, the largest triceratops skull ever unearthed was about <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02724634.2010.483632" target="_blank">8.2 feet long</a>.) The skull of Schmidt's dinosaur was likely a <em>Triceratops prorsus, </em>one of two species of triceratops that roamed what's now North America about 66 million years ago.</p>
Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College<p>The triceratops was an herbivore, but it was also a favorite meal of the T<em>yrannosaurus rex</em>. That probably explains why the Dakotas contain many scattered triceratops bone fragments, and, less commonly, complete bones and skulls. In summer 2019, for example, a separate team on a dig in North Dakota made <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/26/science/triceratops-skull-65-million-years-old.html" target="_blank">headlines</a> after unearthing a complete triceratops skull that measured five feet in length.</p><p>Michael Kjelland, a biology professor who participated in that excavation, said digging up the dinosaur was like completing a "multi-piece, 3-D jigsaw puzzle" that required "engineering that rivaled SpaceX," he jokingly told the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/26/science/triceratops-skull-65-million-years-old.html" target="_blank">New York Times</a>.</p>
Morrison Formation in Colorado
James St. John via Flickr
|Credit: Nobu Tamura/Wikimedia Commons|
Archaeologists discover a cave painting of a wild pig that is now the world's oldest dated work of representational art.
- Archaeologists find a cave painting of a wild pig that is at least 45,500 years old.
- The painting is the earliest known work of representational art.
- The discovery was made in a remote valley on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.
Oldest Cave Art Found in Sulawesi<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a9734e306f0914bfdcbe79a1e317a7f0"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/b-wAYtBxn7E?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Persian polymath and philosopher of the Islamic Golden Age teaches us about self-awareness.