A Blog by Jonathan Low


Jan 27, 2021

Second Generation Covid Vaccines Are Coming

The history of epidemics - and vaccines - suggests that just as the virus evolves, so will methods of prevention and remediation. Researchers are already working on them. JL

Zoe Cormier reports in Scientific American:

There are 240 novel vaccines in development. Here are a few that show the most potential: Self-Amplifying RNA inserts genetic material from the virus directly into human cells, spurring the body to manufacture the “spike” protein. And like mRNA vaccines, it only delivers the genetic material. Protein subunits deliver the actual spike protein itself (rather than a whole virus or genetic material). Designed protein nanoparticles deliver proteins from SARS-CoV-2 as their weapon of choice. (But) "The history of vaccinology is littered with things we thought we knew.”

The Reason Auditors Are Struggling To Hold AI Accountable

It is very difficult to prove algorithmic bias - or to prove that it doesn't exist. 

That is especially true when neither the company being audited nor the auditor is willing to reveal the assumptions that went into the algorithm assessing the subject algorithm. JL

Alex Engler reports in Fast Company:

HireVue says it has stopped using facial analysis, the evaluation tools (it) sells to companies. HireVue also cited an independent audit that supposedly exonerated its algorithms from bias. The idea of algorithmic auditing is that an independent party scrutinizes the inner workings of an algorithm. It might evaluate concerns about bias and fairness, unintended consequences, and create more transparency to build consumer trust. It can decline to provide access to its data and models, or expand the scope of the audit to be more meaningful. The company appears to be more interested in favorable press than legitimate introspection.

The Case For Vaccination Mega-Sites

Scale. It's faster, more efficient and probably safer than a hodge-podge of  pharmacies, supermarkets, clinics and government offices. JL

Maryn McKenna reports in Wired:

Mass sites could put the most shots into the most arms in the shortest period of time. There are ways in which it is less complicated—in dose allocation, transportation, and other logistics—than by distributing doses through hospitals, pharmacy chains, and supermarkets. “If we want speed, then the best way to do that is to stand up mass vaccination clinics, 10 or 20 in a state, instead of the hundreds of  doctors’ offices and hospitals and health departments. It’s slower to roll vaccine out to priority populations than it is to mass-vaccinate a lot of people.”

NextDoor App Is Replacing Local Newspapers With Gossip, Inuendo and Rumor

The problem with not having an editor is that no rumor is too vile, dishonest or hurtful to publish. JL

Will Oremus reports in OneZero:

Nextdoor is an evolution of the neighborhood listserv, a place to trade composting tips, offer babysitting services, or complain about the guy who doesn’t clean up his dog’s poop. It also has well-documented issues with racial profiling, stereotyping of the homeless, and political ranting of various stripes, including QAnon. The app boomed during the pandemic, reporting an 80% jump in users in March, as neighbors sought advice on where to find toilet paper and masks. The company now operates in some 268,000 neighborhoods globally and has reportedly eyed going public at a valuation of $5 billion.

Why Companies Are Pushing Employees To Get Covid Vaccination

Leaders believe that getting a majority of employees vaccinated is an essential step to reopening offices and smaller businesses which, in turn, will reinvigorate the economy. JL

Chip Cutter reports in the Wall Street Journal:

Across industries, business leaders are turning to all-hands staff meetings, video memos and other workplace forums to address skepticism about the Covid-19 vaccine and encourage employees to get it. Companies have taken on a stepped-up role in disseminating public-health information to employees (because) surveys have found people often view their employers as more credible sources of information than government, social media or media outlets. Getting a critical mass of employees vaccinated is crucial to reopening offices and returning workplaces to a semblance of normal, executives say.

How Leaders Can Adapt Big Tech's Attention Economy Business Model

The economic incentives to capture attention have accelerated during the pandemic. But the business issue for tech companies, their leaders and venture investors is whether the quality of that attention is deteriorating, while the threat it poses to socio-economic stability may be rising. 

While no one enterprise has the power to change technologically-driven global behavior, it may be that the ability of big tech leaders to agree on a set of standards could produce the basis for an optimized, mutually beneficial solution.

Tristan Harris reports in MIT Technology Review:

You can’t carry out a logic of infinite growth on a finite substrate. To make money selling thinner and thinner “fake” slices of attention debases information by destroying capacity to trust sources of knowledge or share what is true. (But) it is difficult for any one actor to optimize for well-being when others are competing for finite resources and power. Without rules and guard rails, the most ruthless win. That’s why legislation and policies are necessary. The greater meta-crisis is that democratic processes for creating guard rails operate at a much slower pace than the rate of technological development. “The problem with humanity is that we have Paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions, and godlike technology.”

Jan 26, 2021

Research: Making More Than $75K Annually Does Make People Happier

Yeah, that whole money doesn't buy happiness thing always seemed suspect. JL

Matthew Gault reports in Motherboard:

The study, titled Experienced well-being rises with income, even above $75,000 per year, doesn’t mince words. “There was … no evidence of an income threshold at which experienced and evaluative well-being diverged, suggesting that higher incomes are associated with both feeling better day-to-day and being more satisfied with life overall.” How a person views money determined a lot about the role money played in their happiness.Anyone who conflated money with personal success was miserable.