Why is Freedom of Speech Important? | The View from Hell

Why is free speech important? When free speech comes into conflict with other values, why should free speech win?

I aspire here to tl;dr Mill’s work, and present his urgent and living reasons that free speech is important, and why it should weigh heavily against other values.

Source: Why is Freedom of Speech Important? | The View from Hell

RE: “On Liberty”, Chapter 2: “Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion”, by John Stuart Mill, 1859

When Evidence Says No, but Doctors Say Yes – The Atlantic

Long after research contradicts common medical practices, patients continue to demand them and physicians continue to deliver.

A 2007 Journal of the American Medical Association paper coauthored by John Ioannidis—a Stanford University medical researcher and statistician who rose to prominence exposing poor-quality medical science—found that it took 10 years for large swaths of the medical community to stop referencing popular practices after their efficacy was unequivocally vanquished by science.

Ideally, findings that suggest a therapy works and those that suggest it does not would receive attention commensurate with their scientific rigor, even in the earliest stages of exploration. But academic journals, scientists, and the media all tend to prefer research that concludes that some exciting new treatment does indeed work.

At the same time, patients and even doctors themselves are sometimes unsure of just how effective common treatments are, or how to appropriately measure and express such things. … “NNT” is an abbreviation for “number needed to treat,” as in: How many patients need to be treated with a drug or procedure for one patient to get the hoped-for benefit? In almost all popular media, the effects of a drug are reported by relative risk reduction. To use a fictional illness, for example, say you hear on the radio that a drug reduces your risk of dying from Hogwart’s disease by 20 percent, which sounds pretty good. Except, that means if 10 in 1,000 people who get Hogwart’s disease normally die from it, and every single patient goes on the drug, eight in 1,000 will die from Hogwart’s disease. So, for every 500 patients who get the drug, one will be spared death by Hogwart’s disease. Hence, the NNT is 500. That might sound fine, but if the drug’s “NNH”—“number needed to harm”—is, say, 20 and the unwanted side effect is severe, then 25 patients suffer serious harm for each one who is saved. Suddenly, the trade-off looks grim.

Historians of public health know that most of the life-expectancy improvements in the last two centuries stem from innovations in sanitation, food storage, quarantines, and so on. The so-called “First Public Health Revolution”—from 1880 to 1920—saw the biggest lifespan increase, predating antibiotics or modern surgery.

Source: When Evidence Says No, but Doctors Say Yes – The Atlantic

Aral Balkan — Encouraging individual sovereignty and a healthy commons

We are sharded beings; the sum total of our various aspects as contained within our biological beings as well as the myriad of technologies that we use to extend our biological abilities.

Once we understand this, it follows that we must extend the protections of the self beyond our biological borders to encompass those technologies by which we extend our selves.

[the biological and digital aspects of human beings], of course, do not exist apart and are not truly separable when manipulation of one necessarily affects the other.

we must build the world we want to live in

Source: Aral Balkan — Encouraging individual sovereignty and a healthy commons

No, Robots Aren’t Killing the American Dream – The New York Times

In good times, robots are seen as heroes. In bad times, they’re the villains. They’re neither. Robots are as good or bad as our public policies allow.

the data indicate that today’s fear of robots is outpacing the actual advance of robots. If automation were rapidly accelerating, labor productivity and capital investment would also be surging as fewer workers and more technology did the work. But labor productivity and capital investment have actually decelerated in the 2000s.

the problem with automation isn’t robots; it’s politicians, who have failed for decades to support policies that let workers share the wealth from technology-led growth.

The response in previous eras was quite different.

Productivity and pay rose in tandem for decades after World War II, until labor and wage protections began to be eroded. Public education has been given short shrift, unions have been weakened, tax overhauls have benefited the rich and basic labor standards have not been updated.

As a result, gains from improving technology have been concentrated at the top, damaging the middle class, while politicians blame immigrants and robots for the misery that is due to their own failures. Eroded policies need to be revived, and new ones enacted.

Source: No, Robots Aren’t Killing the American Dream – The New York Times

The Post-Human World – The Atlantic

A conversation about the end of work, individualism, and the human species between Derek Thompson and the historian Yuval Harari.

At the end of the 19th century, France, Germany, and Japan offered free health care to their citizens. Their aim was not strictly to make people happy, but to strengthen their army and industrial potential. In other words, welfare was necessary because people were necessary. But you ask the scary question: What happens to welfare in a future where government no longer needs people?

The reason to build all these mass social service systems was to support strong armies and strong economies. Already the most advanced armies don’t need [as many] people. The same might happen in the civilian economy. The problem is motivation: What if the government loses the motivation to help the masses?

What is the meaning of life? Historically philosophers investigated questions that were interesting to only half a percentage of humankind.

“What is ideal way to seek happiness?” isn’t a useful inquiry when the entire countryside is dying of plague.

Yes, but once you are free from considerations of famine and plague, this becomes a much more practical question

you have a ominous prediction that humans will merge with the computers, algorithms, and biochemical devices that make our lives better. We will yield our authority and identity to data and artificial intelligence. What invention or innovation in the world right now is the best example of this future?

I like to begin with the simple things. Look at GPS applications, like Waze and Google Maps. Five years ago, you went somewhere in your car or on foot. You navigated based on your own knowledge and intuition. But today everybody is blindly following what Waze is telling them. They’ve lost the basic ability to navigate by themselves. If something happens to the application, they are completely lost.

That’s not the most important example. But it is the direction we’re talking about. You reach a juncture on the road, and you trust the algorithm. Maybe the junction is your career. Maybe it’s the decision to get married. But you trust the algorithm rather than your own intuition.

On a case-by-case basis, this technology seems wonderful. It’s making me so much healthier and happier. Technology is rescuing me from the natural errors of misreading my future wants and needs. But over time, “I” have disappeared, because I have outsourced my identity to a biochemical analyst.

Source: The Post-Human World – The Atlantic

Bill Gates: the robot that takes your job should pay taxes — Quartz

So if you can take the labor that used to do the thing automation replaces, and financially and training-wise and fulfillment-wise have that person go off and do these other things, then you’re net ahead. But you can’t just give up that income tax, because that’s part of how you’ve been funding that level of human workers.

— Bill Gates
Source: Bill Gates: the robot that takes your job should pay taxes — Quartz