Philosopher Peter Singer writes in a Project Syndicate about a medical doctor Texas that facing criminal persecution because he “refused to let a vial of vaccine expire and sought out eligible recipients before the doses would have to be discarded.” In the article Singer makes some interesting reflections on ethical and rule based systems.

In an article by Yuval Noah Harari at the Financial Times, he talks about how Israel has “vaccines for data” deal with the company Pfizer:

Meanwhile, Israel has the seventh highest average confirmed case rate, and to counter the disaster it resorted to a “vaccines for data” deal with the American corporation Pfizer. Pfizer agreed to provide Israel with enough vaccines for the entire population, in exchange for huge amounts of valuable data, raising concerns about privacy and data monopoly, and demonstrating that citizens’ data is now one of the most valuable state assets.

Read more about it also in an article titled “Vaccines For Data: Israel’s Pfizer Deal Drives Quick Rollout — And Privacy Worries” at NPR.org.

Two interesting articles from Wired dealing with current sociotechnical controversies:

Apparently the U.K. was not undercounting COVID-19 cases in the country due issues with the Excel file format they were using.

According to the BBC, the error was caused by the fact that Public Health England developers stored the test results in the file format known as .XLS. These .XLS files were then sent to the NHS after uploading to a central system. .XLS is an outdated file format, however, and each spreadsheet can have only 65,000 rows. By contrast, the .XLSX file format, which was first released in 2007, allows for more than 1 million rows. Because of the limited number of rows, each spreadsheet could contain about 1,400 cases, leaving excess cases off the file altogether. Although the issue was reportedly fixed by splitting the files into smaller batches, many are slamming Public Health England. “Why are critical databases in a national pandemic posted on Excel spreadsheets?” Jonathan Ashworth, the Labour Party’s shadow health secretary, said. “Why aren’t they using specialist data-based software?”

Read the full article from Slate here. The article also gives some more examples of problems caused by using the spreadsheet software.

Investigative journalists from ProPublica did research on a company called Arise Virtual Solutions and its abhorrent practices. This company allows large American businesses to outsource their customer service:

Arise not only creates separation between its corporate clients and individual agents, it also allows those companies to quickly add or subtract workers. In March, Instacart needed all kinds of agents. By May, those jobs had largely disappeared. “I was there for a week. We’re disposable,” one Florida agent dropped from Instacart assignments told ProPublica.

Read their article here. For these piece ProPublice partnered with NPR’s Planet Money, who produced a podcast on the same topic.

The following two articles give some valuable insights on the history of epidemiology and public health:

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic there has been a vast increase in conspiracy theories being spread. Tanya Basu at MIT Technology Review wrote an article titled How to talk to conspiracy theorists—and still be kind. The tips are based on insights from experts and r/ChangeMyView subreddit moderators.

  1. Always, always speak respectfully.
  2. Go private.
  3. Test the waters first.
  4. Agree.
  5. Try the “truth sandwich.”
  6. Or use the Socratic method.
  7. Be very careful with loved ones.
  8. Realize that some people don’t want to change, no matter the facts.
  9. If it gets bad, stop.
  10. Every little bit helps.

Three new videos from Vox give a good synopisis of some of the events playing in the world right now:

Each video is about a very different, yet at the same time these three phenomena are linked by common themes. Which lives matter? Who decides? And who decides who decides?

From an article The New York Times titled “Big Tech’s Domination of Business Reaches New Heights”:

The tech companies’ dominance of the stock market is propelled by their unprecedented reach into our lives, shaping how we work, communicate, shop and relax. That has only deepened during the pandemic, and as people shop more frequently on Amazon, click on a Google or Facebook ad or pay up for an iPhone, the companies receive a greater share of spending in the economy and earn ever larger profits. This is why investors have flocked to those stocks this year at the expense of the scores of companies struggling in the health crisis, and are betting that their position will be unassailable for years.

With the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic I have spent most I my time at home, working and away from friends and family. I therefore have had to significantly make use of video chat for work meetings and meeting loved ones. In an article on Vox, Adam Clark Estes writes about the history of this technology and how these changes are shaping our lives and the technology itself:

(…) hosting a party with a video chat component certainly sounds less weird today than it would have six months ago. If it was already evident that videoconferencing had become a mainstay of many offices, that it could be a prominent part of our social lives is a new idea to me. That explains my initial surprise when the folks from Microsoft Teams started telling me how their workplace software had taken on new roles, like social networking, in many users’ lives. In other words, the pandemic has fundamentally changed our relationship with these tools and with digital spaces generally.

The article further delves in the changes made to the technology to make more pleasant to use. Read the full article here.

Prof. Ron Anderson writes at The Society Pages about the importance of thrust during the Covid-19 pandemic. He gives an overview of different types of social thrust that have been theorised by classical sociologists and how their insights may apply to our current situation.

As the pandemic continues to disrupt society, we will see more clearly how the social forces of trust and solidarity influence peoples’ beliefs, attitudes and social relationships. Probably we will see even more clearly how the erosion and absence of trust leaves us fewer and fewer options. Despite the growth in size and complexity of societies today, trust resides at the center of our understanding of social life. No wonder the notion of trust helps us understand life during the pandemic.

Read the full article here.

The coronavirus pandemic is changing a lot our daily lives, sometimes in small but significant ways. This article from South China Morning Post writes about one such change in Asia: “As Covid-19 changes chopstick habits, diners ponder how to keep family love and intimacy alive”.