Tom Parks


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Is a commitment to entertain controversial or unpopular or odious ideas (or to advocate for them) separate from or integral to rationalism? Is a mental health professional's preference to maintain enough anonymity so that their blog does not interfere with their practice or their safety separate from or integral to rationality? I phrase those as questions because I'm not sure. When it comes to the general idea that anonymity is needed to discuss certain or any topics, I'm more skeptical. People who use their real names on FB and Twitter spout off about anything and everything. Some of them will benefit from the reactions they get, some will suffer. Just like if they were sharing their views in person. A note of humility: I remember about 15 years ago noticing that anonymous comments on newspaper websites were a cess pool. I thought things would be much better if people had to put their names on their opinions. A lot of papers moved to a system where commenters used their FB IDs. I thought that would improve the discourse. I now think I was wrong, and that didn't make things much better. So if I suspect that anonymity is not the boon others may think it is, you can take that with a grain of salt.

I love this frame for learning something new, so I'll toss out a triad of books.

Subject: Journalism (These works are more complementary than overlapping. The third selection is an example rather than an explanation. It could easily be substituted with The Right Stuff or Frank Sinatra Has a Cold or any work that speaks to you.)

What: The Investigative Reporter's Handbook: A Guide to Documents, Databases, and Techniques

How: Writing for Story, Jon Franklin

Why: All the President's Men

As an aside, I'd push back gently against using a dollar figure for the statistical value of a human life to set the value on any single life-saving (or life-sustaining) product. I may be misunderstanding the concept, but it seems like assigning the entire value of a saved life to one product used in one instance would be a mistake.

My thought process: If every additional tool used to save any life (or the same life multiple times) is valued at the full $9 million per each life saved, then the actual "value" of a life would be many, many, many multiples of $9 million.

All that said, it is interesting to read this post in light of efforts to ramp up production of ventilators and masks.