A Blog by Jonathan Low


Apr 17, 2021

The Reason So Much Covid News Coverage Is Negative

Research shows that humans pay more attention to negative news because it alerts them to potential dangers and helps them prepare the most effective course of action.  

Since engagement is a key measure of audience attention for advertisers, the media have been giving news consumers what they and advertisers want. JL

Sarb Johal reports in Psychology Today:

Research shows that we have negative bias when it comes to information processing. Bad news sticks. Evolutionary theory ventures that negativity may have been helpful for survival. (It) alerts to potential dangers and we need to pay attention to it to avoid bad outcomes. It may drive even more attention towards negative information so we can try to figure out our best course of action. Humans in Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Denmark, France, Ghana, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, Senegal, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States were more attentive to negative news.

Telehealth Enhanced By AI Smartphones Taking Pulse, Breathing Rate

Biometrics powered by AI-driven smartphone cameras are already changing the way medical care is assessed and delivered. JL 

Emily Waltz reports in IEEE Spectrum:

New technologies in the works could change that by equipping phones with reliable software that can measure a person’s key biometrics.With just an 18-second video clip of a person’s head and shoulders, the algorithm can determine heart rate, or pulse, based on the changes in light intensity reflected off the skin. Breathing rate, or respiration, is gleaned from the rhythmic motion of their head, shoulders and chest.

Google Has Ruined Its Reputation With AI Researchers. Is the Damage Irreparable?

AI and machine learning are becoming more integral and important to the products and services Google is selling. But the inherent conflict between researchers trying to make these tools more safer and the salespeople and engineers pushing for greater effectiveness caused Google to fire those on the ethics and safety side, giving the salespeople a dominant position. 

The problem for Google is that many of the best minds in the field tend to be concerned about these issues of principle, meaning that Google may have damaged its position in a crucial application. While Google has nothing to fear from Facebook and Amazon in this regard, it may lose a key competitive advantage to Apple. JL

James Vincent reports in The Verge:

The company’s decision to fire two of its top AI ethics researchers, who (were) examining the downsides of AI integral to Google’s search products has triggered waves of protest. AI safety will grow more important to Google as the company integrates machine learning deeper within its products. Probing the limitations of these systems - not just from a technical perspective but a social one - was at the heart of (their) work. While it’s in Google’s interests to find weaknesses in its own technology, the company didn’t want to hear (what) its employees had to say. Its reputation has been badly, perhaps irreversibly damaged, just as the company is struggling to put a palatable face on its empire of data.

How the Pandemic Forced McDonalds To Close Hundreds of Its Walmart Locations

Fewer Walmart customers want to eat in the stores due to the pandemic and to increased online shopping. 

And McDonalds' finds drive-thru customers are more profitable, which disadvantages Walmart locations because they dont have drive through options. JL 

Sarah Nassauer and Heather Haddon report in the Wall Street Journal:

For years Walmart Inc. and  McDonald’senjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship. The retailer delivered a steady stream of diners, and the eateries provided rental profits and a reason for shoppers to stick around stores. Those bonds have frayed as more shopping goes online and fast-food restaurants depend more on drive-through windows for sales, a feature Walmart locations don’t have. The pandemic has made indoor dining unappealing—or prohibited—for many shoppers, accelerating the split.

How the Pandemic Helped Walmart Battle Amazon

Walmart took advantage of the initial chaos in Amazon's reaction to the pandemic. Walmart improved its technology, protected sellers' intellectual property, did a better job of vetting vendors and coordinated operations between its online and physical stores to give customers more options, which meant greater convenience and higher quality. 

Those advantages are expected to last. JL 

Richa Naidu reports in Reuters:

Walmart Marketplace grew to 70,000 sellers in 2020, fueled by a surge in online shopping due to the Covid-19 pandemic and investments in technology. That is expected to rise 146% by the end of 2022. Walmart spruced up its advertising platform, rolled out software to protect sellers' intellectual property, launched a delivery and logistics service, and introduced its version of Amazon Prime, called Walmart+, that “100% boosts sales.” Walmart has distinguished itself as a safer, less crowded marketplace than Amazon, making it easier for merchants to stand out. Walmart's 5,000 stores - more important than ever as pick-up and delivery hubs due to the pandemic - is a big attraction for vendors.

Why Covid Vaccine Booster Shots Will Probably Be Necessary

Though over 36% of US adults have received at least one Covid vaccine shot, the continuous rise of new variants will probably make booster shots a requirement. 

Because the vaccinations are so new, scientists do not yet have a firm idea of how long they last. To be safe - and to guarantee that reopening the economy without restrictions is not again interrupted, boosters shots will be the easiest means of protecting the population, especially as updating the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is a relatively simple matter. JL   

The Associated Press reports:

That third shot - a booster - is needed to fight against coronavirus variants. After that, getting coronavirus vaccine would likely become an annual event, like getting flu shots. Viruses constantly evolve and researchers still don’t know how long protection against the virus will last. That’s because not all vaccines and viruses are the same. The good news: It’s fairly easy to update the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. Genetic code called messenger RNA tells the body how to make harmless spike copies that in turn train immune cells. The companies swap out the original vaccine’s genetic code with mRNA for the mutated spike protein.

Apr 16, 2021

Covid Is Extremely Rare Among the Fully Vaccinated

99.992% of those fully vaccinated have remained Covid-free. That's what we call conclusive. JL

Beth Mole reports in ars technica:

Cases of COVID-19 are extremely rare among people who are fully vaccinated, according to a new data analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 99.992% of those vaccinated have not contracted a SARS-CoV-2 infection. The vast majority of people in the US have been vaccinated with one of the mRNA vaccines, made by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, which both had around 95% efficacy in Phase III clinical trials. Less than 5% of vaccinated people in the US have received the Johnson & Johnson adenovirus-based vaccine, which had a slightly lower efficacy of 72%.