Breakthrough technology uses multiplexing entanglement to make an ultra-secure quantum internet.
- Scientists devise the largest-ever quantum communications network.
- The technology is much cheaper than previous attempts and promises to be hacker-proof.
- The 'multiplexing' system devised by the researchers splits light particles that carry information.
Quantum network in operation.
Credit: Siddarth K. Joshi
Artist's drawing of the quantum network, with the glowing lines showing quantum entanglement shared by 8 users.
Credit: Holly Caskie
Technology is an important tool, but it will take an ecosystem of educators, students, and caregivers to make the most of it.
- The old adage that it "takes a village" has proven true for education in the time of coronavirus. What constitutes a "school" and who is considered an "educator" has changed out of necessity, but important opportunities for the future have come from these unexpected circumstances as communities have and continue to adapt.
- "The greatest human superpower is empathy," says Kaya Henderson, "the ability to deeply connect with other people and to see yourself in them and to see them in you." She argues that "a part of the reason why we are so divided in this world today is because we see people as 'other' and we don't see them as extensions of ourselves."
- While technology has become a big part of the education landscape, community is still the keystone. "I want technology to amplify and to scale excellence," Henderson says. "To amplify knowledge and to scale excellence all at the same time while paying deep attention to the human connections that are integral to education."
This medieval-themed meme highlights a shady yet all too common rhetorical move people make in arguments.
- The "Motte and Bailey Doctrine" was developed by philosopher Nicholas Shackel.
- It describes a rhetorical move in which an arguer advances an indefensible opinion, but when challenged falls back upon a similar yet easier-to-defend opinion.
- Motte-and-baileys have become a weapon of choice in political and culture-war arguments.
Credit: MotteAndBaileyMemes<p>The "Motte and Bailey" meme is sort of confusing at first glance. But once understood, it provides a good way to visualize bad arguments by highlighting a shady rhetorical move that seems especially common in political discourse. </p><p>Here's an example in a hypothetical argument about homeopathic medicine:</p><p><strong>A: Homeopathic medicine can cure cancer.<br>B: There's no evidence showing homeopathy is effective.<br>A: Actually there are many ways for people to be healthy besides taking doctor-prescribed drugs.</strong></p><p><em></em>Spot it? Person A started with a bold and controversial opinion that's hard to defend (homeopathic medicine cures cancer). But when challenged, they retreated to an uncontroversial argument that's much easier to defend (prescription drugs aren't the only route to good health).</p><p>Person B would probably agree: Sure, there are many ways to be healthy besides drugs. But then, having deflected the first attack, Person A could go right back to arguing for homeopathic medicine as a cancer treatment.</p>
Credit: MotteAndBaileyMemes<p>In 2014, the psychiatrist Scott Alexander <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slate_Star_Codex" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">(not his real name)</a> helped popularize the motte-and-bailey doctrine after writing about it on his blog <a href="https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/11/03/all-in-all-another-brick-in-the-motte/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Slate Star Codex</a>, a popular rationalist hub. Alexander wrote:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"[The doctrine] draws its strength from people's usual failure to debate specific propositions rather than vague clouds of ideas. If I'm debating "does quackery cure cancer?", it might be easy to view that as a general case of the problem of "is quackery okay?" or "should quackery be illegal?", and from there it's easy to bring up the motte objection."</p><p>Overlapping with the Slate Star Codex community is a subreddit named after the doctrine called <a href="https://www.reddit.com/r/TheMotte/" target="_blank">r/TheMotte</a>, which describes itself as a place for people to "test their ideas in a court of people who don't all share the same biases." The subreddit calls on users to "always attempt to remain inside your defensible territory, even if you are not being pressed."<br></p><p>And then there are the memes. It's unclear who created the first one, or when, but since at least 2018 people have been posting motte-and-bailey memes to critique the often-shoddy ways in which people argue about issues ranging from immigration, to the problems of capitalism, to ideas about truth.</p>
Credit: MotteAndBaileyMemes<p>Motte-and-baileys aren't a new phenomenon. But it does seem like they're becoming a rhetorical weapon of choice in political and culture-war arguments.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"I think [the motte-and-bailey doctrine] is a very useful concept to have in my arsenal of concepts to analyze what's going on," Kenny Easwaran, philosophy professor at Texas A&M University and co-editor of the Journal of Philosophical Logic, told <a href="https://www.realclearinvestigations.com/articles/2020/06/19/the_motte__bailey_political_joustings_deceptive_new_weapon_from_the_middle_ages_124084.html" target="_blank">Real Clear Investigations</a><em>. </em>"It's behavior we've seen, but we see so much more of it now."</p><p>It's hard to say why. You could blame the <a href="https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-08-13/nuance-memes-protests-ideas" target="_blank">fall of nuance</a>, <a href="https://news.gallup.com/opinion/polling-matters/268982/impact-increased-political-polarization.aspx" target="_blank">increasing political polarization</a> and the <a href="https://www.valleycenter.com/articles/the-year-of-motte-bailey-arguments/" target="_blank">absence of a middle ground</a>, and the <a href="https://www.openpolitics.com/tag/social-media-incentives/" target="_blank">tendency of social media to incentivize tribalism</a>, to name a few. </p><p>It's also worth considering how motte-and-baileys change when they include moral claims. For example, it's one thing to pull a motte-and-bailey to advance an argument about, say, 18th-century economic theory. But hot-button issues change the game. Take debates <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/30/sports/track-gender-rules.html" target="_blank">about transgender and intersex athletes</a> as an example. </p><p>An argument might unfold like:</p><p><strong>A: Every transgender athlete should be able to compete in whichever gender category they identify with.<br>B: Wouldn't that give some athletes an unfair or even dangerous physical advantage?<br>A: Transgender people have been discriminated against for too long, it has to stop.</strong></p><p>Everyone agrees with the motte: transgender discrimination should stop. But notice how it becomes much easier to advance the bailey when the motte is a sensitive moral claim that's (rightfully) taboo to disagree with? </p><p>You might have good arguments against the bailey. But if it's tied to a sensitive motte, you might decide it's not even worth challenging. After all, it can be costly to your reputation to even look like you're challenging a sensitive motte, even if you're actually questioning the bailey in good faith.</p>
Credit: MotteAndBaileyMemes<p><br>You can see this play out in political arguments. For example, a Trump supporter might argue for unprecedentedly harsh immigration policies at the U.S./Mexico border. (That's the bailey). If someone challenges that position, the Trump supporter could shame them for being unpatriotic, considering immigration reform is part of the Make America Great Again platform, and who doesn't want to make America great (motte)?</p><p>Similarly, someone might question Black Lives Matter's goal of disrupting "the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement" (bailey). They might get a reply like: "What, are you trying to argue that Black lives don't matter (motte)?"</p>
Credit: MotteAndBaileyMemes<p>It might sound like motte-and-baileys are always easy to spot. But as Alexander wrote on <a href="https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/11/03/all-in-all-another-brick-in-the-motte/" target="_blank">Slate Star Codex</a>, "all fallacies sound that way when you're thinking about them."<br></p>
From reassessing the way schools are funded to changing the curriculum, there are ways to fix the inequities in education.
- Recognizing when something is overtly racist is easy, but when it comes to education in America there is often subtle and systemic racism at play that can put children at an early disadvantage. Chris Lehman of the Science Leadership Academy says that now is the time to have these important conversations and to design schools to be anti-racist.
- Lehman says that in Philadelphia, the amount of money spent on one child's K-12 education can be $170,000 less than that of another child who lives in the suburb just a block away. These racist systems and structures are in place in cities across the country but are often not addressed.
- Family income directly translates to the amount spent by the public to educate children. "That's one of the most anti-American things I can imagine," Lehman says about the racial and socioeconomic inequity. While funding is a major component, changes must also be made at the curriculum level.
Educators have proven that they can "turn the aircraft carrier" when they need to, but the system needs to match their efforts.
- For many people in the world, the idea that education is not changing at the same rate as the rest of the world became more apparent at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Grant Lichtman argues that the hierarchical systems that govern education and other organizations (military, political, business, etc.) don't work in times of rapid change, and thus need to be overhauled.
- "What has started to replace that are vastly more distributed systems of leadership," Lichtman says. This results in more timely decision making and a more collaborative environment with more room to try new things, more freedom to fail, and the opportunity to take ownership of and learn from those failures.
- Lichtman stresses that things like civil discourse and empathy should be made a priority in the curriculum. "We as educators and we as parents should be focusing enormous amounts of effort on helping our students to understand things like the nature of truth, objective reality, who to listen to, what is the difference between an expert and a person who just has a large social media feed?"