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Slactivism: The problem with moral outrage on the internet
Why virtue signaling does nothing.
Alice Dreger: People often substitute moral outrage displayed on the Internet for actual action.
So there are a few instances in which outrage in social media have led to actual change. The #MeToo movement is a good example of that, where we’re actually seeing real meaningful change; where people who are creeps have been fired, businesses have gotten much more serious about harassment policies, so there’s been some positive aspects of that.
But it is often the case that when something rises in social media and there’s an outrage moment, the people who are the ones you really are guilty of whatever we should be outraged about basically get a pass if they just wait for about 24 hours. It goes away, nobody knows about it, and it moves on.
So a big problem with moral outrage on the Internet is that it leads people to think they’ve done something when in fact they haven’t done something. And because it’s sort of compelling and exciting to stay online and display your virtue over and over again, whether that’s from one political point of view or another political point of view, you’re wasting a huge amount of time that could actually be going towards actual social change.
So you’re not, for example, registering people to vote, you are not thinking through a policy concept and developing a clear policy, you are just being outrage-able.
Now maybe not a lot of people are qualified to do things like policy development, they’re not in a position to pass laws, so they feel like they’re at least doing something, but when they’re doing that over and over again what they’re doing is they’re creating a feedback loop system where the people who do have power are probably reacting reiteratively to where there’s loudness and loudness is not always where the best thinking comes through. So the Internet is a wild and crazy thing, a beautiful thing; it has been wonderful for some parts of democracy, but it also is a tremendous distraction and it can also be really dangerous in terms of leading people to think what is not true is true.
So, one thing I think you have to do when you’re doing activism if you want it to be effective is you have to actually think about what the goal is. And that sounds really obvious, but it’s often the case that activist have a sort of lofty amorphous goal like stop climate change or stop sexual abuse.
Those are great goals, but they’re not really clear and they’re not something you can say to yourself, “How am I going to get there, and how am I going to know when I’ve done it?” So it’s really important to sit down carefully and think, “Okay you have this big huge goal, but what are the specific objectives that you’re going to try to achieve, and how are you going to move towards trying to achieve those? “How will we know when we’re making progress?”
I think part of what happens for some people in activism is they identify with a cause in such a way that the cause is themselves, and as long as they’re expanding energy they think they’re achieving something, because they feel good about themselves because they’re getting more attention. That should not be the goal.
Glorification of the activists should never be the goal. It is the case that good activist movements often have somebody charismatic in the lead, it’s also often true that that person has narcissistic personality disorder, so people who don’t [have it] need to be really careful about thinking, “How do we actually get towards meaningful goals that represent actual social change?”
"A big problem with moral outrage on the Internet is that it leads people to think they’ve done something when in fact they haven’t done something," says author Alice Dreger. Sure, you might get a little rush out of updating your status to say something, but all you're really doing is virtue signaling. Alice's latest book is Galileo's Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and One Scholar's Search for Justice.
Duke University researchers might have solved a half-century old problem.
- Duke University researchers created a hydrogel that appears to be as strong and flexible as human cartilage.
- The blend of three polymers provides enough flexibility and durability to mimic the knee.
- The next step is to test this hydrogel in sheep; human use can take at least three years.
Duke researchers have developed the first gel-based synthetic cartilage with the strength of the real thing. A quarter-sized disc of the material can withstand the weight of a 100-pound kettlebell without tearing or losing its shape.
Photo: Feichen Yang.<p>That's the word from a team in the Department of Chemistry and Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Duke University. Their <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/adfm.202003451" target="_blank">new paper</a>, published in the journal,<em> Advanced Functional Materials</em>, details this exciting evolution of this frustrating joint.<br></p><p>Researchers have sought materials strong and versatile enough to repair a knee since at least the seventies. This new hydrogel, comprised of three polymers, might be it. When two of the polymers are stretched, a third keeps the entire structure intact. When pulled 100,000 times, the cartilage held up as well as materials used in bone implants. The team also rubbed the hydrogel against natural cartilage a million times and found it to be as wear-resistant as the real thing. </p><p>The hydrogel has the appearance of Jell-O and is comprised of 60 percent water. Co-author, Feichen Yang, <a href="https://today.duke.edu/2020/06/lab-first-cartilage-mimicking-gel-strong-enough-knees" target="_blank">says</a> this network of polymers is particularly durable: "Only this combination of all three components is both flexible and stiff and therefore strong." </p><p> As with any new material, a lot of testing must be conducted. They don't foresee this hydrogel being implanted into human bodies for at least three years. The next step is to test it out in sheep. </p><p>Still, this is an exciting step forward in the rehabilitation of one of our trickiest joints. Given the potential reward, the wait is worth it. </p><p><span></span>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
An algorithm may allow doctors to assess PTSD candidates for early intervention after traumatic ER visits.
- 10-15% of people visiting emergency rooms eventually develop symptoms of long-lasting PTSD.
- Early treatment is available but there's been no way to tell who needs it.
- Using clinical data already being collected, machine learning can identify who's at risk.
The psychological scars a traumatic experience can leave behind may have a more profound effect on a person than the original traumatic experience. Long after an acute emergency is resolved, victims of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) continue to suffer its consequences.
In the U.S. some 30 million patients are annually treated in emergency departments (EDs) for a range of traumatic injuries. Add to that urgent admissions to the ED with the onset of COVID-19 symptoms. Health experts predict that some 10 percent to 15 percent of these people will develop long-lasting PTSD within a year of the initial incident. While there are interventions that can help individuals avoid PTSD, there's been no reliable way to identify those most likely to need it.
That may now have changed. A multi-disciplinary team of researchers has developed a method for predicting who is most likely to develop PTSD after a traumatic emergency-room experience. Their study is published in the journal Nature Medicine.
70 data points and machine learning
Image source: Creators Collective/Unsplash
Study lead author Katharina Schultebraucks of Columbia University's Department Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons says:
"For many trauma patients, the ED visit is often their sole contact with the health care system. The time immediately after a traumatic injury is a critical window for identifying people at risk for PTSD and arranging appropriate follow-up treatment. The earlier we can treat those at risk, the better the likely outcomes."
The new PTSD test uses machine learning and 70 clinical data points plus a clinical stress-level assessment to develop a PTSD score for an individual that identifies their risk of acquiring the condition.
Among the 70 data points are stress hormone levels, inflammatory signals, high blood pressure, and an anxiety-level assessment. Says Schultebraucks, "We selected measures that are routinely collected in the ED and logged in the electronic medical record, plus answers to a few short questions about the psychological stress response. The idea was to create a tool that would be universally available and would add little burden to ED personnel."
Researchers used data from adult trauma survivors in Atlanta, Georgia (377 individuals) and New York City (221 individuals) to test their system.
Of this cohort, 90 percent of those predicted to be at high risk developed long-lasting PTSD symptoms within a year of the initial traumatic event — just 5 percent of people who never developed PTSD symptoms had been erroneously identified as being at risk.
On the other side of the coin, 29 percent of individuals were 'false negatives," tagged by the algorithm as not being at risk of PTSD, but then developing symptoms.
Image source: Külli Kittus/Unsplash
Schultebraucks looks forward to more testing as the researchers continue to refine their algorithm and to instill confidence in the approach among ED clinicians: "Because previous models for predicting PTSD risk have not been validated in independent samples like our model, they haven't been adopted in clinical practice." She expects that, "Testing and validation of our model in larger samples will be necessary for the algorithm to be ready-to-use in the general population."
"Currently only 7% of level-1 trauma centers routinely screen for PTSD," notes Schultebraucks. "We hope that the algorithm will provide ED clinicians with a rapid, automatic readout that they could use for discharge planning and the prevention of PTSD." She envisions the algorithm being implemented in the future as a feature of electronic medical records.
The researchers also plan to test their algorithm at predicting PTSD in people whose traumatic experiences come in the form of health events such as heart attacks and strokes, as opposed to visits to the emergency department.
What would it be like to experience the 4th dimension?
Physicists have understood at least theoretically, that there may be higher dimensions, besides our normal three. The first clue came in 1905 when Einstein developed his theory of special relativity. Of course, by dimensions we’re talking about length, width, and height. Generally speaking, when we talk about a fourth dimension, it’s considered space-time. But here, physicists mean a spatial dimension beyond the normal three, not a parallel universe, as such dimensions are mistaken for in popular sci-fi shows.
Vaccines find more success in development than any other kind of drug, but have been relatively neglected in recent decades.
Vaccines are more likely to get through clinical trials than any other type of drug — but have been given relatively little pharmaceutical industry support during the last two decades, according to a new study by MIT scholars.