Courageous Collaborations: Difficult dialogue moves us forward

Sponsored by the Charles Koch Foundation.


Are you courageous enough to collaborate with your enemies? 

  • Bishop Omar Jahwar has worked beside all kinds of unlikely allies, from Aryan Brotherhood gang leaders to former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.
  • What is an enemy? A true enemy is rare, says Bishop Omar. "Enemies come when there is true violation, not true rhetoric... sometimes you have to go beyond the rhetoric so you can see the real."
  • You cannot solve deep problems from the comfort of an echo chamber—it takes courage. The key to courageous collaborations is meeting your so-called enemy to ask: "What do we fiercely agree upon? And let's work like hell to make it happen."

The Charles Koch Foundation is committed to understanding what drives intolerance and the best ways to cure it. The foundation supports interdisciplinary research to overcome intolerance, new models for peaceful interactions, and experiments that can heal fractured communities. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org/courageous-collaborations. The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.

Why free speech is sacred—even when it's dangerous

  • Suppression of free speech dooms democracy, says law professor Nadine Strossen. We should all be open to hearing dangerous and odious ideas rather than drive them underground.
  • "[P]eople will often say to me, as somebody who is Jewish and the daughter of a Holocaust survivor who barely survived the Buchenwald Concentration Camp: How can I of all people defend the Nazis?" says Strossen. She also says, "And mark my words I would be equally distraught at having voices on the right silenced for a whole lot of reasons, one of which is the indivisibility of all rights."

The Charles Koch Foundation is committed to understanding what drives intolerance and the best ways to cure it. The foundation supports interdisciplinary research to overcome intolerance, new models for peaceful interactions, and experiments that can heal fractured communities. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org/courageous-collaborations. The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.

Ideology drives us apart. Neuroscience can bring us back together. 

  • How can we reach out to people on the other side of the divide? Get to know the other person as a human being before you get to know them as a set of tribal political beliefs, says Sarah Ruger. Don't launch straight into the difficult topics—connect on a more basic level first.
  • To bond, use icebreakers backed by neuroscience and psychology: Share a meal, watch some comedy, see awe-inspiring art, go on a tough hike together—sharing tribulation helps break down some of the mental barriers we have between us. Then, get down to talking, putting your humanity before your ideology.

The Charles Koch Foundation is committed to understanding what drives intolerance and the best ways to cure it. The foundation supports interdisciplinary research to overcome intolerance, new models for peaceful interactions, and experiments that can heal fractured communities. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org/courageous-collaborations

I worked in the prison system for 5 years. Here's what it does to a person.

  • Most people who go to prison are not incorrigible criminals - just normal people who made mistakes.
  • The prison system can become breeding ground for antisocial behaviors.
  • Bishop Jahwar worked with prisoners to help them retain the core of who they were and "take masks off".

The Charles Koch Foundation is committed to understanding what drives intolerance and the best ways to cure it. The foundation supports interdisciplinary research to overcome intolerance, new models for peaceful interactions, and experiments that can heal fractured communities. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org/courageous-collaborations. The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.

How the marketplace of ideas went rogue

  • The marketplace of ideas is a better metaphor than it's intended to be, notes Eli Pariser. As any good economist will tell you, the best product doesn't always rise to the top.
  • The institutional gatekeepers and experts who once kept checks and balances on the marketplace of ideas have been replaced by social media algorithms that reward emotion and outrage over expertise and truth.
  • How can media institutions like Facebook make this right? By reevaluating the business model that serves advertisers instead of readers, and by clearly stating their values—even if that means losing some of those 2 billion users.

The Charles Koch Foundation is committed to understanding what drives intolerance and the best ways to cure it. The foundation supports interdisciplinary research to overcome intolerance, new models for peaceful interactions, and experiments that can heal fractured communities. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org/courageous-collaborations. The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.

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  • The American society is close to split on the legality of abortions.
  • 45,789,558 abortions were carried out in the U.S. between 1970 and 2015.
  • The abortion numbers are at an all-time low now, trending almost half of what they were.

WHAT AMERICANS THINK ABOUT ABORTION

Abortion is an extremely divisive issue that splits the country close to down the middle. About 48% of Americans consider themselves "pro-choice," but the same number – 48% are "pro-life," found a May 2018 Gallup poll. The numbers of pro-choicers is higher, however, in a Pew Research Poll from October 2018 which counted 58% of Americans saying abortion should be almost always legal in contrast to 37% who thought abortion should in illegal in most cases.

The views continue to go in separate ways when you drill down further. With regards to first trimester abortions, 90% of pro-choice Americans support their legality in most cases, while 60% of pro-life voters think it should be illegal [Gallup].

In the political arena, the divide couldn't be more clear. 59% of Republicans think abortion should be mostly illegal, while 76% of Democrats say abortion should be legal in most cases, discovered the Pew Center poll. Notably, these positions have become hardened over time as in 1995, just 49% of Republicans supported keeping abortion legal and 64% of Democrats.

Where Americans do seem to agree is in cases where a woman's life is in danger, with 83% saying abortion should be legally allowed (including 71% of pro-lifers). In cases of rape and incest, 77% support abortion rights (96% of pro-choicers and 57% of pro-life Americans). [Gallup].

While Americans take complex positions on abortion, it should be pointed out that only 18% of all U.S. adults think it should be illegal in all circumstances. Most support some form of abortion being allowed.

WHAT ALABAMIANS THINK ABOUT ABORTION

In Alabama, the ground zero of the abortion debate due to a recently passed abortion ban, repeated polling has shown that most of the voters oppose abortion rights, women included. A 2014 Pew Research Center poll found 58% of residents saying abortion should be illegal in mostly all cases. 51% of the pro-life respondents were women. Other polling indicates similar patterns.

The New York Times reports that in 2017, the citizens of Alabama approved modifying the State Constitution to include the language that the state must "to recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, including the right to life."

Most Alabamians, however, do think the extreme abortion ban recently passed by their legislature goes too far. Only 31% supported having no rape/incest exception in a 2018 poll.

Gallup.

Americans generally agree on the legality of abortions in cases of a woman's life being endangered or those involving rape and incest.

HOW MANY ABORTIONS ARE PERFORMED

According to CDC stats, 638,169 abortions were performed in 2015. Compare that to the period from the late 70s till the late 90s when the number of abortions was regularly fluctuating between 1 - 1.4 million per year.

Taken as a whole, there were 45,789,558 abortions performed in the U.S. between 1970 and 2015.

Current abortion rates are actually at an all-time low, reported Vox. It declined by 26% from 2006 until 2015, according to the CDC. Improved access to contraceptives is likely the cause of that.

While lower, it is still a fairly widespread procedure, with about 23.7% of American women having an abortion before reaching 45, concluded Guttmacher Institute's 2017 research. Before 30, the percentage is 19%. Before 20 it's 4.6%.

In Alabama, the numbers went from 11,267 abortions in 2007 to 6,768 abortions in 2017.

Think of the last time you had something to celebrate. If you toasted the happy occasion, your drink was probably alcoholic – and bubbly.


Have you ever wondered why it's so enjoyable to imbibe a glass of something that sets off a series of microexplosions in your mouth?

A glass of a bubbly drink is full of physics, history and culture. We probably first encountered fizz alongside the discovery of alcohol, since both ethanol and carbon dioxide (CO2) gas are byproducts of fermentation. Drinking carbonated substances for pleasure – rather than simply staying hydrated – appears to be something only humans do.

In 17th-century France, the Benedictine monk Dom Pérignon greatly refined what we now know as Champagne. It took him many years to perfect a bottle and cork design that could withstand the high pressures that the process required. In sparkling wine, part of the fermentation takes place after the liquid has been bottled. Since the CO2 can't escape the closed container, the pressure builds inside. In turn, this results in large gas quantities being actually dissolved into the liquid, in accordance with Henry's law – a rule stating that the amount of gas that can be dissolved in a liquid is proportional to the pressure.

Among other things, Henry's law explains why divers can get decompression sickness if they rush their ascent to the surface: at great depths, the body is exposed to a high pressure and, consequently, gases are dissolved in blood and tissues in high concentrations. Then, when surfacing, the pressure returns to the ambient level, such that the gas 'exsolves' and is released to form painful, harmful bubbles in the body. The same happens when we uncork a bottle of Champagne: the pressure suddenly drops back to its atmospheric value, the liquid becomes supersaturated with carbon dioxide – et voilà, bubbles emerge!

Over time, as liquid continues releasing gas, the size of the bubbles grows, and their buoyancy increases. Once the bubbles get sufficiently big, they can't stay stuck to the microscopic crevices in the glass where they originally formed, and so they rise to the surface. Soon after, a new bubble forms and the process repeats itself. That's why you've probably observed bubble chains forming in Champagne glasses – as well as the sad tendency of fizzy drinks to go flat after a while.

Intriguingly, Gérard Liger-Belair, professor of chemical physics at the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne in France, discovered that most of the gas lost to the atmosphere in sparkling wine doesn't escape in the form of bubbles, but from the surface of the liquid. However, this process is highly enhanced by the way that bubbles encourage the Champagne to flow in the glass. In fact, if there were no bubbles, it would take weeks for a drink to lose its carbon dioxide.

The attractive bubbly character of Champagne can be found in other drinks, too. When it comes to beer and carbonated water, the bubbles don't come from fermentation but are introduced artificially by bottling the liquid at high pressure with an excess amount of carbon dioxide. Again, when opened, the gas can't stay dissolved, so bubbles emerge. Artificial carbonation was actually discovered by the 18th-century English chemist Joseph Priestley – better known for discovering oxygen – while investigating a method to preserve drinking water on ships. Carbonated water also occurs naturally: in the southern French town of Vergèze – where Perrier, the commercial brand of mineral water, is bottled – an underground water source is exposed to carbon dioxide at high pressure, and comes up naturally fizzy.

When a carbonated beverage is rich in contaminants that stick to the surface, known as surfactants, bubbles might not burst when they reach the top but accumulate there as foam. That's what gives beer its head. In turn, this foam affects the texture, mouthfeel and flavour of the drink. From a more physical perspective, foam also insulates the drink, keeping it colder for a longer time and acting as a barrier to the escape of carbon dioxide. This effect is so important that in the Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles beer is sometimes served with a head of artificial foam. Recently, researchers have discovered another interesting effect: a foam head prevents the beer from spilling when one walks with an open glass in hand.

Despite our solid understanding of bubble formation in drinks, a question remains: just why do we like drinks with bubbles? The answer remains elusive, but some recent studies can help us understand. The interaction of carbon dioxide with certain enzymes found in saliva causes a chemical reaction that produces carbonic acid. This substance is believed to stimulate some pain receptors, similar to those activated when tasting spicy food. So it seems that the so-called 'carbonation bite' is a kind of spicy reaction – and humans (strangely) seem to like it.

The presence and size of bubbles can even affect our perception of flavour. In a recent study, researchers found that people could experience the bite of carbonic acid without bubbles, but bubbles did change how things tasted. We still don't have a clear picture of the mechanism by which bubbles influence flavour, though soft-drink manufacturers have ways of adjusting the amount of carbonation according to the sweetness and nature of the drink. Bubbles also affect the rate at which alcohol is assimilated into the body – so it's true that a bubbly drink will make you feel inebriated more quickly.

As far as we're concerned, all this offers a great excuse to talk about physics. We enjoy bubbly drinks too, of course – but personally, we celebrate adding a touch of science to a subject so that most people can relate to it. What's more, bubbly liquids have many practical applications. They're essential to some techniques for extracting oil; for explaining deadly underwater explosions known as limnic eruptions; and for understanding many other geological phenomena, such as volcanoes and geysers, whose activity is strongly influenced by the formation and growth of gas bubbles in the erupting liquid. So, the next time you celebrate and knock back a glass of bubbly, be sure to know that physics contributes to the sum of human happiness. Salud!Aeon counter – do not remove

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.


  • Experts, among them Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, argue the company has become a monopoly and should be broken up.
  • Others argue Hughes and his supports have misread Facebook's position in the market.
  • Despite these disagreements, a consensus agrees that Facebook and other Silicon Valley titans need to be better regulated.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. True for Dicken's tale of the French Revolution, but for the less bloody, albeit more toxic, Facebook, the best of times seems to have no follow up.

Despite being rocked by the Cambridge Analytica scandal early last year, Facebook's earnings per share increased 40 percent compared to 2017. When CEO Mark Zuckerberg was dragged before Congress to testify on his company's handing of user information, he dodged fundamental questions as doddery lawmakers struggled to grasp basic concepts. And though the national conversation has shifted to Facebook's proliferation of toxicity and election-crippling falsehoods, the social networking service's apps still enjoy about 2 billion active users a day.

Has Facebook become too big to fail? Perhaps, and many are calling for the government to break up the company. They argue it is a monopoly claiming unassailable power our over data, our speech, and our lives. Leading the call is one of Facebook's founders, Chris Hughes.

The call to break up Facebook

In an op-ed piece for the New York Times, Hughes lays out his argument for why the government should break up Facebook under antitrust laws. The argument is windy and diffused, but it can be abbreviated to four main pillars:

First, Facebook dominates the social network market. The company is worth half a trillion, and Hughes estimates it earns more than 80 percent of the world's social networking revenue. It buys up competitors that get too big or popular. Those it can't buy, it copies. It then uses its superior resources and user base to create high barriers for competitors.

Second, the company's lock on the market ensures users have no means of protest. They can't move to another platform. "According to the Pew Research Center, a quarter deleted their accounts from their phones [after the Cambridge Analytica scandal], but many did so only temporarily," writes Hughes. "I heard more than one friend say, 'I'm getting off Facebook altogether — thank God for Instagram,' not realizing that Instagram was a Facebook subsidiary."

Hughes' third pillar is that Facebook isn't free. Many would claim that antitrust laws don't apply to Facebook, because it doesn't charge a subscription fee. It earns revenue through advertisements, meaning it can't engage in monopolistic activities like price fixing. But Hughes counters that we pay for Facebook with our attention and data. Neither is cheap in our data-driven era, and we don't know how it is being spent by Facebook.

'The vibrant marketplace that once drove Facebook and other social media companies to complete to come up with better products has virtually disappeared,' writes Hughes. 'This means there's less chance of start-ups developing healthier, less exploitative social media platforms. It also means less accountability on issues like privacy.'

Hughes' final pillar is Zuckerberg's unilateral control, which gives him the ability to monitor, organize, and censor speech at an unprecedented level. Facebook's algorithm decides what speech goes through, what speech is deleted, and what speech users see and how often. What bothers Hughes is not that his friend has abused this power, but that the power exists without oversight from government or independent authority. (Zuckerberg, it should be noted, agrees on this point.)

Nor is Hughes alone. Others have been making similar arguments. To name two: Jonathan Taplin, director emeritus of the Anneberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California, and Robert Reich, former U.S. secretary of labor, have both called for breaking up Facebook — and thrown Apple, Amazon, and Google to their lists for good measure.

At the CLSA Investors' Forum, Taplin laid out his concern that these titans are not truly neutral platforms. As they diversify and enter new markets, they will use their clout to direct users to favor their products and services, stifling competition and pushing out third parties. To support his conclusion, he points to the European Union's decision to fine Google for antitrust abuses.

Punishing Facebook's success?

After Hughes's op-ed, Nick Clegg, Facebook's vice president for global affairs and communications, wrote to the Times with his own thoughts. To the surprise of no one, he contended that his company should remain intact because antitrust laws do not apply to Facebook's current situation.

His first disagreement is the old saw that success should not be punished. Facebook's global reach is the result of its savvy business practices, designing a high-quality product for a low ("no") price, and its ability to innovate and maintain relevancy. Antitrust laws, he says, were not designed to dismantle success simply because others disagree with company management.

His second argument directly targets Hughes's understanding of the competitive landscape. Clegg pictures Facebook as a large company, yes, but one built of smaller services. Each of these services faces fierce competition in its unique market. Facebook's video-sharing service must compete with YouTube, while photo-sharing vies with Snapchat and Pinterest and so on. In terms of revenue from digital advertising, Facebook's share is about 20 percent of the U.S. market, hardly a monopolistic slice.

Nor does Clegg stand alone. Others without a vested interest in Facebook agree that the above criticisms have misread the market.

Matt Rosoff, editorial director of technology at CNBC, argues Facebook isn't in the business of "social networking," which he suggests is an ill-defined marketing term. Rather, Facebook is a communications service that allows people to connect by way of the internet.

If you accept the view that Facebook is in the communications game, then its market share, though impressive, hardly constitutes a monopoly. In online advertising, Facebook trails behind Alphabet, parent company of Google and YouTube, which controls about 37 percent of U.S. digital advertising market.

Everyone agrees Facebook needs to be regulated

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren supports breaking up big tech titans such as Facebook. Photo credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Should Facebook be broken up? Your answer to that question will depend on which market you see the company competing in and whether antitrust laws should extend beyond money to encompasses resources such as data and attention.

While above experts may not agree on these facts, each believes the government should take a stronger approach to regulating Facebook and other Silicon Valley players. Yes, even Zuckerberg and Clegg.

"In recent months we've also been working with American regulators on how we might introduce significant improvements to our approach on privacy. We are in the unusual position of asking for more regulation, not less," writes Clegg for the Times.

Meanwhile, Hughes writes about the importance of governmental oversight:

"We don't expect calcified rules or voluntary commissions to work to regulate drug companies, health care companies, car manufacturers or credit card providers. Agencies oversee these industries to ensure that the private market works for the public good. In these cases, we all understand that government isn't an external force meddling in an organic market; it's what makes a dynamic and fair market possible in the first place. This should be just as true for social networking as it is for air travel or pharmaceuticals."

With such a wide consensus, you'd think improved regulation would be likely. But as Reich points out, Congress has little incentive to regulate Facebook (much less break it up). Republican lawmakers view antitrust laws as profaning the free market. Meanwhile, big technology overwhelming donates to progressive candidates and campaigns. The Democratic platform "A Better Deal" proposes to crack down on corporate monopolies — such as those found in the airlines, telecom, and beer industries — but makes no mention of big tech like Apple, Amazon, or Facebook.

That climate may be changing though. Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have come out in support of breaking up Facebook. While candidate Kamala Harris has not gone that far, she is in favor of increased regulation: "I think that Facebook has experienced massive growth, and has prioritized its growth over the best interests of its consumers — especially on the issue of privacy. There is no question in my mind that there needs to be serious regulation, and that has not been happening. There needs to be more oversight; that has not been happening."

Still, it will be a while before lawmakers can muster the quorum that understands big tech, much less be able to regulate it. Until then, it will be the best of times for Facebook (whether that means the best or worst of times for everyone else).