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Robert E. Lee fought for slavery. He took on the cause of the oppressors, enabling unimaginable injustices. It should not be controversial that he is a symbol of the racism that plagues our country to this day. And yet, there he is, on the Duke Chapel, for everyone to see.
For the last week of classes, I thought I’d look back on what has happened the last year in this column on complexity.
While we might be far off from artificial intelligence at the caliber and malice of the world-ending “Skynet” from the Terminator universe, A.I. and other innovative technologies are moving right along.
To the dismay of speculative traders the world over, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently opted to reject a proposed exchange-traded fund that would have indexed the so-called cryptocurrency Bitcoin.
In two of my recent columns, I examined why the cost of many drugs is so high in this country, and whether or not there might be some sort of normative judgement we can make about “fair” pricing.
After writing my article “Drug price gouging: Moral, immoral, amoral or necessary?” I felt that I had not properly addressed the question of what a fair price is. Who is to say that the price of drugs is too high?
How often do you think about the end of the world?
Meet Sovaldi, a drug that (when combined with another) can cure most instances of hepatitis C, an ailment that damages the livers of about 150 million people worldwide. Per a journal article published by the American Chemical Society, this drug costs approximately $130-$350 (per course of treatment) to manufacture. How much might you expect the drug to cost? $400? $800? $2,000?
At the beginning of my fall 2016 column, I began by briefly summarizing Descartes’ exploration of epistemology: “Consider a basket of apples, where the basket is your mind and the apples are your beliefs. Now consider that if you have even a single rotten apple in your basket, it will contaminate all of the other apples.”
Picture this: one day, you’re doing the laundry, and your washing machine breaks beyond repair. Since washing clothes is important to you, you immediately go to the department store and scope out your options. Being a rational consumer, you want to pick out a good one. You want a machine that is reasonably priced, uses low power, washes clothes well, and is likely to last. After researching your options with sources like Consumer Reports or other industry experts, you settle on a great choice. This was the rational thing to do.
As people went to the polls on election, they were faced with two options, to disastrous results. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are seen unfavorably by about 55.3 percent and 57.8 percent of Americans, respectively. Secretary Clinton and President-Elect Donald Trump were two of the most disliked candidates in modern American politics. How did we get here? At first glance, this might seem perplexing, given that “the people” nominated them in the first place in decisive primary elections. However, a closer looks shows that something else is probably going on here—something that requires a thorough analysis.
Just a few months ago, an article about how a group called the alt-right is waging a war of memes on the internet would have been completely nonsensical. But today, it’s become clear that the center-left, and moderates in general, are losing the fight for the very soul of the internet.
If you aren’t swayed by the pathos-driven patriotic call to the polls, you aren’t alone. Convincing people to be politically engaged is a massive collection problem for at least two reasons: the paradox of voting, and the idea of “rational ignorance.”
This election cycle has seen absurdity. It’s seen unfounded accusations and claims. And, quite sadly, it’s seen very little talk of actual policy. The last few weeks of this presidential election have taken an especially dark turn. In light of this, I thought I’d take this as an opportunity to stress the importance of policy-oriented discourse by bringing an under-reported policy issue to the forefront: the elimination of the penny, and the reevaluation of the nickel. So here it is: the case for common “cents.”
It is probably an uncontroversial statement to say that this election cycle has seen immense absurdity—an absurdity unmatched by any election in recent memory. We’ve seen Ted Cruz make machine gun bacon. We’ve seen a major news network forget how to signal candidates on stage for a debate. We’ve even seen a meme be designated as a hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League.
This year’s major party nominees are disliked at historical levels. Donald Trump, the actual trainwreck of a candidate, is seen “strongly unfavorably” by about 53 percent of the nation, and Hillary Clinton, the establishment politician who seems to have a new scandal every other Tuesday, is seen “strongly unfavorably” by about 37 percent. This has led many to ask necessary questions, including the obvious: how did two such unpopular people pave the way to their respective parties’ nominations?
A few weeks ago, after the mass shooting that took almost fifty lives, I wrote a piece called “Orlando and the problem of politicization.” In it, I argued that when people use the heat of the moment of a tragedy to pursue a political agenda, we are removed from what ought to be our natural human reactions: grief, solidarity, confusion, maybe anger.
Some things are just senseless. Some things contain sadness and disaster and tragedy that words cannot convey. Some things go beyond our ability to comprehend. When someone walks into a nightclub and opens fire on defenseless people, that’s senseless. When members of the Latino and LGBT communities are slaughtered, that’s senseless. It’s incomprehensible. It’s morally bankrupt. It’s evil.
Consider a basket of apples, where the basket is your mind and the apples are your beliefs. Now consider that if you have even a single rotten apple in your basket, it will contaminate all of the other apples. Essentially, this analogy suggests that one bad belief could destabilize your entire worldview.