Storytellers Run the World: Welcome to the "Post-truth" Era
The "deep stories" that run your world are changing. The stories democracy and economics rely on aren't working so well...
1. “Those who tell the stories run the world,” writes George Monbiot. What are these world-running stories?
4. “Deep stories” also rule us indirectly by framing the worldviews of our rulers. For decades, a story by someone unknown to most voters has framed the worldviews of many key leaders.
5. Hayek’s “heroic narrative” of unrestricted entrepreneurs creating “trickle-down” prosperity captivated Reagan, Thatcher, Bill Clinton, and Blair. It claimed government regulation and taxes burdened “the market,” and hobbled heroic business titans—whose ruthless competition for rational optimizing customers would ensure efficiency. Government itself should run like a business.
7. There is truth in Hayek’s stories, but also in their counterstories: Competition can breed inefficiency. Businesses can contain “spectacular inefficiencies.” Sustainable competition can require regulation. Taxes can strengthen market infrastructure. Selfishness can hinder voluntary-market solutions. It’s an economic cartoon story that customers aren’t rational maximizers.
8. Plus crucially, “government will never run the way Silicon Valley runs,” Obama once told tech entrepreneurs.
9. CEOs opine to Obama about “how we do things,” but businesses (and their “disruptors”) often profit by cherry-picking the easy segments.Government must handle the messy and expensive cases that businesses can just exclude (like pre-existing conditions pre-Obamacare).
11. Zuckerberg called “crazy” claims that fake news on Facebook had influenced the election. But the top “fake news outperformed real news.” Techno-sociologist Zeynep Tufekci concludes Facebook is damaging democracy.
12. Zuckerberg’s shrug shows why we can’t trust tech titans (and their self-serving stories). News isn’t just a business, it’s democracy’s oxygen. Diminished real journalism has disrupted democracy’s connection with truth.
13. Trump brilliantly used social media to “hack” traditional media to amplify his stories (many trust information from friends and families more than from institutions—>Facebook’s “neutral” platform enabled Trumps win).
14. Tech titans typically dislike whatever can’t be done by algorithm. And ethics still needs humans (—>doesn’t scale—>lowers profitability). What happens to the ethics of what they’re disrupting?
15. Obama observes that today’s story ecosystem “means everything is true and nothing is true.” Calls for new information sources to provide “reason and facts… neither of which is partisan,” seem naive.
16. Modifying Monbiot, those who control those who make and distribute and tell the effective stories, run the world.
17. Want truer stories? Sarah Smarsh suggests putting your country ahead of your coffee—>pay for real journalism. “Without liberty, there is no true journalism.” Without true journalism there is no liberty.
Illustration by Julia Suits, author of The Extraordinary Catalog of Peculiar Inventions, and The New Yorker cartoonist.
What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.
- Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
- Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
- Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
Can dirt help us fight off stress? Groundbreaking new research shows how.
- New research identifies a bacterium that helps block anxiety.
- Scientists say this can lead to drugs for first responders and soldiers, preventing PTSD and other mental issues.
- The finding builds on the hygiene hypothesis, first proposed in 1989.
Are modern societies trying too hard to be clean, at the detriment to public health? Scientists discovered that a microorganism living in dirt can actually be good for us, potentially helping the body to fight off stress. Harnessing its powers can lead to a "stress vaccine".
Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder found that the fatty 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid from the soil-residing bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae aids immune cells in blocking pathways that increase inflammation and the ability to combat stress.
The study's senior author and Integrative Physiology Professor Christopher Lowry described this fat as "one of the main ingredients" in the "special sauce" that causes the beneficial effects of the bacterium.
The finding goes hand in hand with the "hygiene hypothesis," initially proposed in 1989 by the British scientist David Strachan. He maintained that our generally sterile modern world prevents children from being exposed to certain microorganisms, resulting in compromised immune systems and greater incidences of asthma and allergies.
Contemporary research fine-tuned the hypothesis, finding that not interacting with so-called "old friends" or helpful microbes in the soil and the environment, rather than the ones that cause illnesses, is what's detrimental. In particular, our mental health could be at stake.
"The idea is that as humans have moved away from farms and an agricultural or hunter-gatherer existence into cities, we have lost contact with organisms that served to regulate our immune system and suppress inappropriate inflammation," explained Lowry. "That has put us at higher risk for inflammatory disease and stress-related psychiatric disorders."
University of Colorado Boulder
This is not the first study on the subject from Lowry, who published previous work showing the connection between being exposed to healthy bacteria and mental health. He found that being raised with animals and dust in a rural environment helps children develop more stress-proof immune systems. Such kids were also likely to be less at risk for mental illnesses than people living in the city without pets.
Lowry's other work also pointed out that the soil-based bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae acts like an antidepressant when injected into rodents. It alters their behavior and has lasting anti-inflammatory effects on the brain, according to the press release from the University of Colorado Boulder. Prolonged inflammation can lead to such stress-related disorders as PTSD.
The new study from Lowry and his team identified why that worked by pinpointing the specific fatty acid responsible. They showed that when the 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid gets into cells, it works like a lock, attaching itself to the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR). This allows it to block a number of key pathways responsible for inflammation. Pre-treating the cells with the acid (or lipid) made them withstand inflammation better.
Lowry thinks this understanding can lead to creating a "stress vaccine" that can be given to people in high-stress jobs, like first responders or soldiers. The vaccine can prevent the psychological effects of stress.
What's more, this friendly bacterium is not the only potentially helpful organism we can find in soil.
"This is just one strain of one species of one type of bacterium that is found in the soil but there are millions of other strains in soils," said Lowry. "We are just beginning to see the tip of the iceberg in terms of identifying the mechanisms through which they have evolved to keep us healthy. It should inspire awe in all of us."
Check out the study published in the journal Psychopharmacology.
We were gaining three IQ points per decade for many, many years. Now, that's going backward. Could this explain some of our choices lately?
There's a new study out of Norway that indicates our—well, technically, their—IQs are shrinking, to the tune of about seven IQ points per generation.
An ordained Lama in a Tibetan Buddhist lineage, Lama Rod grew up a queer, black male within the black Christian church in the American south. Navigating all of these intersecting, evolving identities has led him to a life's work based on compassion for self and others.
- "What I'm interested in is deep, systematic change. What I understand now is that real change doesn't happen until change on the inside begins to happen."
- "Masculinity is not inherently toxic. Patriarchy is toxic. We have to let that energy go so we can stop forcing other people to do emotional labor for us."
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