Combating fake news by using the principle of herd immunity

The menace of fake news is now a widely accepted phenomenon. The internet, which is a vehicle of progress and holds promise of opportunities to billions of users, is now interspersed with fake news and sub-standard articles. This seemingly true looking, highly non-discernible fake news is a challenge to the sanctity of the internet and is one of the greatest threat to this vehicle of progress. Interestingly technologies which were tools for designers like Photoshop, video editing tools and not to mention Artificial Intelligence which apart from being used to make wonderful tools for mankind are being used to produce more and more realistic looking fake news day by day. Not only that algorithms of websites like the Facebook is being exploited to ensure fake news articles are well targeted and get the widest attention. The consequences are varied with different levels of intensity. At the individual level, it is leading to depressions, false reasoning, and radicalization. At higher levels consequences are taking an intense turn like mob lynching, riots and recently at the national level it resulted in false propaganda and radical election results. Eminent personalities, world leaders, state, civil societies, individuals- everyone has acknowledged the presence of fake news and the damage it is inflicting on people lives. Now the question is how can we combat this issue?

A lecture in my recent science class hit me with this idea which can be a probable solution to this issue. My science teacher was trying to explain how a high resistance is offered to the spread of a contagious disease within a population, if a sufficiently high proportion of individuals are immune to the disease, especially through vaccination. He referred to the principle as herd immunity. The idea is simple. If suppose a community consists of three individuals A, B and C, among whom A and B are vaccinated against polio, the chances of C getting polio virus is drastically reduced. This is because A and B who are vaccinated act as death chamber to polio virus circulating in the community and thereby decreasing the chances of C getting infected by the virus. Now suppose instead of polio virus we as a community have to combat fake news. What required is we as a member of the community acting as death chamber to the fake news article. For this, we have to vet every news article that seems suspicious and report it so that such articles are removed. Rather than casually sharing every pleasing article that comes across us, we must ensure we have done some background check so that we are certain about the credibility of whatever we share online. When we perform such checks, it ensures such article is prevented from spreading and an individual or a society as a whole is saved from the consequences.  Seems like a lot of work given the variety and intensity of spreading fake news articles. But let’s face it- the internet as we use today became a resource by the contribution of not few people but millions of people. And we as a responsible user of the internet should ensure this repository is not spoiled and it does not end up being used as a tool against humanity and principles we stand for. Let us work together to redeem what we believe is the original purpose of the internet.

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Celebrating Earth Hour every day

So it’s been 2 weeks since I had synced my daily schedule with Sunrise and Sunset. My main aim was to ensure I utilize daylight to the maximum extent. I’m a student, hence by utilization I mean devoting daylight to study and keeping things like meeting friends, talking on the phone etc. etc. to be done after the sunset. This resolution of mine to sync my schedule with Sunlight has the origin in a set of thoughts major and minor. These thoughts are discussed in the following paragraphs.

To start with, waking up in the early morning is a cherished experience on its own. The sun just coming up, spreading its light, sound of birds, cool breeze –there is a strange and fantastic sense of charm in the atmosphere in these early hours. The benefits of waking up early have not been denied by any literature or people since ages.

But for me, the prime push was my growing awareness about global warming, climate change and how decreasing energy use can mitigate such a crisis. This thought came to my mind when I understood reasons behind the adoption of daylight savings by countries away from the equator. Last year, Argentina changed its standard time so as to ensure daylight is not wasted. Such conscious effort by an entire nation inspired me to take initiative towards saving daylight hours and using it in the most efficient way as a daily exercise.

The latest push was on March 25th. On 25th March 2017, Earth Hour was celebrated. An article in Business Standard stated that around 237 MW of energy was saved in Delhi alone. Given the timing i.e. 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm and urban nature of Delhi, such massive reduction on electricity is obvious. That got me thinking – how about we celebrate Earth Day every day? And I came to know that yes it is possible and very simple to do so. Night time is when apart from other activities, lighting contributes to high energy demand and utilization. So I synced my schedule with daylight hours, I went to sleep early. This resulted in switching off the lights in my room 4 hours prior to what I used to do earlier. Isn’t that what Earth Day is about- saving energy by switching off lights?

A bit of internet research suggested that for 1MW electricity, 4000 tons of coal is burned per annum. Such huge amount of burning of coal drastically impair the atmospheric gaseous composition and result in a range of adverse climate and environment damage which is referred as Climate Change. If 1 hour of Earth Hour resulted in savings of 237 MW in Delhi region only, just imagine the amount of savings we, collectively will achieve if we go to bed a little early. I’m telling you the amount of energy saved will be enormous and subsequent coal burned will be reduced by millions of tons.

So my dear friends, let us pledge that we will save energy by utilizing daylight to the maximum extent. You will agree that such an effort will be a great contribution towards saving Mother Nature who gives us everything, without asking anything in return. Let’s decide Earth Hour is not an annual event and reducing carbon footprint is a daily habit.

So Happy Earth Hour day!!!!

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A post result analysis of the UK referendum : what the numbers didn’t accounted for

I am writing this post 3 hours after the result of UK referendum is out and UK voted to leave EU. The result was a shock for people and market all over the world. It was a shock for who voted to “remain” in the EU, even the “leave” campaigners were surprised as till Thursday and early hours of Friday when the counting started the “remain” were leading. So what happened after that?

The early poll numbers clearly favored “remain” campaign. The huge consequences in the economy, trade, and money after “Brexit” were brought to the center of discussion. On the other hand “leave” campaign was buttressed over the figure of fund outflow to EU, immigration and loss in employment. The numbers were very clear and most of the people, to be precise, the onlookers all over the world made their decision based on those numbers. And why not will they have an opinion? It is easy to make a decision when we have separate columns of data.

I am an Indian citizen and I myself was surprised with the results. I like being part of the world politics and happenings and so was following the entire referendum since it’s momentum started after the meeting in Brussels in Feb 2016. I followed several articles to make myself understand whether I would vote for “leave” or “remain” if I were a citizen of the UK. I myself made my decision in support of “remain” based on the numbers in media and I feel this was where I went wrong.img_20160624_151746.jpg

A human being, unlike a robot, does not make decisions based on data only, especially when that human being is attached to a thing in more ways than what some mere stats and figures suggest.Our opinion was moulded by stats and facts given in the media. I do not say that the facts were wrong but I would say “Brexit” occurred due to a lot of other factors that did not take the shape of stats and the citizens of UK did take into account such factors that the number or stats did not
account for. That is why our opinion was not reflected in the UK referendum results this morning. The next question which arises is – what factors were absent in the stats? What factors went unaccounted in the figures? My take on this is – It is the conscience and emotion of the citizens that went uncounted in the stats which actually were the prime mover behind the shift of “Bremain” to “Brexit”. The emotions related with the ideas of sovereignty, liberty, and control which the citizens of UK felt that they had lost it to an unelected, non-responsible European Union which they cannot hold responsible for any situation good or bad, was uncounted and that is the reason “Brexit” happened. The union which started as a multilateral economic tie grew so big that it started affecting every aspect of the life of the people inside it. Human beings are considerate most of the time & they try to adjust with such changes or interferences. The citizens of the UK were hopeful that the elected government of the UK will cut a good deal or the EU will reform itself in the response of the growing skepticism. But one can be considerate only for a good amount of time.

A citizen cannot take government inaction as ok. The negotiation that started since Thatcher government has now ended with a clear mandate of the citizens of the UK. The message is clear: “Every institution which cannot be held accountable for it’s act will be unseated by a new institution which is more responsible than the former”. The market responded with GBP plunge because it fears uncertainty, but it is the citizens who have a larger concern.