Modern society is as unequal as 14th century Europe

As bad as this sounds, a new essay suggests that we live in a surprisingly egalitarian age.

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  • A new essay depicts 700 years of economic inequality in Europe.
  • The only stretch of time more egalitarian than today was the period between 1350 to approximately the year 1700.
  • Data suggest that, without intervention, inequality does not decrease on its own.
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America’s prison catastrophe: Can we undo it?

The US prison system continues to fail, so why does it still exist?

  • The United States is the world's largest prison warden. As of June 2020, America had the highest prisoner rate, with 655 prisoners per 100,000 of the national population. But according to experts, doing something the most doesn't mean doing it the best.
  • The system is a failure both economically and in terms of the way inmates are treated, with many equating it to legal slavery. American prisons en masse are expensive, brutal, and ineffective, so why aren't we trying better alternatives? And what exactly are these overstuffed facilities accomplishing?
  • Damien Echols and Shaka Senghor share first-hand accounts of life both in and after prison, while political science professor Marie Gottschalk, activist Liza Jessie Peterson, historian Robert Perkinson, and others speak to the ways that America's treatment of its citizens could and should improve. "The prison industrial complex is a human rights crisis," says Peterson. "Something needs to be done."
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4 lessons the US learned from the COVID-19 pandemic

The long-term lessons America learns from the coronavirus pandemic will spell life or death.

  • As the US commences its early stages of COVID-19 vaccinations, Michael Dowling, president and CEO of Northwell Health, argues that now is not the time to relax. "There are lessons to be learned by systems like ours based upon our experience," says Dowling, adding that "we know what these lessons are, and we're working on them."
  • The four major takeaways that Dowling has identified are that the United States was unprepared and slow to react, that we need a domestic supply chain so that we aren't relying on other countries, that there needs to be more domestic and international cooperation, and that leadership roles in public health must be filled by public health experts.
  • If and when another pandemic hits (in the hopefully distant future), the country—and by extension the world—will be in a much better place to deal with it.
Learn more about Northwell's pandemic response here.
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How will we govern super-powerful AI?

The AI constitution can mean the difference between war and peace—or total extinction.

  • The question of conscious artificial intelligence dominating future humanity is not the most pressing issue we face today, says Allan Dafoe of the Center for the Governance of AI at Oxford's Future of Humanity Institute. Dafoe argues that AI's power to generate wealth should make good governance our primary concern.
  • With thoughtful systems and policies in place, humanity can unlock the full potential of AI with minimal negative consequences. Drafting an AI constitution will also provide the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of past structures to avoid future conflicts.
  • Building a framework for governance will require us to get past sectarian differences and interests so that society as a whole can benefit from AI in ways that do the most good and the least harm.
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The social determinants of health, explained

Want to tell someone's future in the US? You don't need a crystal ball, just their zip code.

  • Social determinants of health, such as income and access to healthy food, affect well-being long before people may enter medical facilities.
  • They're one reason neighborhoods in the same city can maintain life expectancy gaps larger than a decade.
  • With growing awareness of how societal ills determine health, medical professionals and their partners are devising more holistic approaches to health.
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