A Steem essay discusses some dangerous insects; IBM publishes design principles that are intended to minimize use of technology for domestic abuse; A recent study finds that workplace wellness programs are expensive and don't accomplish their goals; A Harvard researcher argues that the world is on the cusp of a global bankruptcy pandemic; and a book review argues that American Academia is currently operating on a path that eventually leads to self-destruction
Curating the Internet: Science and technology digest for May 28, 2020
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Straight from my RSS feed
Whatever gets my attention
Links and micro-summaries from my 1000+ daily headlines. I filter them so you don't have to.
First posted on my Steem blog: SteemIt.
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- Steem @block.token:These Insects Are Very Dangerous For Humans - This post contains public domain photos and short descriptions of four insects that are dangerous to humans. The list of insects includes: bot flies, bullet ants, lice, and giant japanese beetles.
- IBM outlines design principles to curb technology being used for domestic abuse - Subtitle: "There could be 125 billion internet-connected devices by 2030. As these devices become more prevalent, abusers will have more tools to manipulate their victims," says IBM. - Principles include: (i) Promote diversity - in order to anticipate a variety of ways that a technology might be misused; (ii) Guaranty privacy and give users the opportunity for informed consent when sharing data; (iii) Provide digital recording capabilities to prevent gaslighting; (iv) Strengthen security so users can decide whether and when information is shared; (v) Make technology intuitive so victims can avoid most dangerous errors. Examples of technologies that can be misused for abusive purposes include connected doorbells that can be used to alert an abuser if their victim tries to leave and credit card apps, which an abuser can use to monitor a victim's spending. In a policy statement, IBM said:
There could be 125 billion internet-connected devices by 2030. As these devices become more prevalent, abusers will have more tools to manipulate their victims. It is critical that we safeguard new technology with strong anti-abuse protections so that abusers cannot use these tools to harm victims. Making technology resistant to coercive control ensures that others cannot exploit inventions, tarnish intentions, or dim the light of technological achievement. Most importantly, it is a key step towards making the tech world safer for all of us.
- Workplace Wellness Programs Don't Do Anything Except Make Wellness Companies Wealthy - The popularity of workplace wellness programs has exploded since 2010, when the government started funding the programs under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). At present, these programs are offered by 84% of companies, because of the widespread belief that they, "reduce health care costs, improve employee health, and that taxpayers would offset the cost". According to a recent study, however, the only true part of that belief is that taxpayers are offsetting the cost. The Illinois Workplace Wellness Study performed a randomized controlled trial and found that these programs have no significant effect on "measured physical health outcomes such as weight, blood pressure, cholesterol or blood glucose; rates of medical diagnoses; or the use of health care services." Of all metrics tracked, at intervals of 12 and 24 months, only two showed significant improvement. Those were the percentage of employees who said they had a primary care physician and the employee beliefs about the quality of their own health.
- Coronavirus Could Create a 'Bankruptcy Pandemic' - As a result of temporary closings, stifled demand, and balance sheets that were leveraged in order to take advantage of low interest rates, Harvard's Stuart C. Gilson argues that the world may be on the cusp of a global bankruptcy pandemic. The pandemic nomenclature is apt, he says, because the courts are likely to be overwhelmed by an incoming flood of bankruptcy claims. Summarizing, Gilson says,
The global economic impact of the pandemic has already been catastrophic in terms of lost output, employment, and financial wealth. But many expect this to be followed by significant aftershocks in coming weeks and months, as quite possibly record numbers of businesses (and individuals) default on their debt, restructure, or go bankrupt. The number of US business bankruptcy filings in the first quarter of this year is already up substantially over prior years, and some believe the number of filings over the next couple of years could top what we saw during the 2008-2009 Global Financial Crisis, when there were more than 100,000 business bankruptcies. Some analysts are forecasting that by the end of 2021 up to 20 percent of high-yield corporate bonds could be in default.In many countries, Gilson notes that bankruptcy is equivalent to liquidation - the death of the firm. In the United States, however, bankruptcy is often a new beginning for a firm, which is allowed to reorganize and obtain "some breathing room" under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code.
- The Self-Destruction of the Academy - Subtitle: A review of Cracks in the Ivory Tower: The Moral Mess of Higher Education, by Jason Brennan and Phillip Magness. - This book provides a view on academia from the perspective of Public Choice Theory (PCT), and the book looks at three major themes from the book. In general PCT is an area of research that is dedicated to showing how misaligned incentives lead to dysfunction in bureaucracies. The particular areas addressed in this article include advertising, the relationship between students and teachers, and the general purpose of the institution. With regards to advertising, the article claims that colleges routinely promise things that can't possibly be true, and they focus mostly on recruiting off the talents and selectivity of incoming students, not on any improvements that are demonstrated by graduating students. The relationship between students and teachers is described in the context of course reviews. These were originally given by student-led organizations like the school newspapers, but the function has been coopted by administrators. The essay argues that this change in ownership of the course review has led to a loss of autonomy for professors and an increase in power for administrators. Finally, the essay suggests that the so-called "core curriculum" that most college students are forced to take amounts to a form of rent-seeking, and is implemented mainly as a way to drive up tuition revenue. The author of this book review also argues, however, that the book missed a major point that college is about more than utility. Instead, the author argues that the university should be driven by the search for truth, and the core curriculum would be useful in that context. However, the author is concerned that most colleges have lost sight of their truth-seeking mission, only to have it replaced by a dangerous social justice agenda. The article concludes with this:
Cracks in the Ivory Tower usefully emphasizes the economic costs and benefits of university practices. But absent from the book is any consideration of the intrinsic value of the academic endeavor. Remaining is a vacuum that is filled by two things: the university as a business; and the university as a social activist. Both are destructive of the proper purpose of a university. Unless our institutions of higher education can restore belief in the value of what they do, real scholarship will decline, and a divisive and profit-conscious new identitarian religion will arise in its place: Vox universitas, vox DEI!
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