FF Daily #508: How to deliver bad news

October 27, 2021: Booster shots, science, and justice; The new elite; Exaggeration

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Good morning,

When is a good time to break bad news? That’s a question that troubles many people. This is a question Stuart Diamond attempts to address in Getting More: How You Can Negotiate to Succeed in Work and Life.

“The basis for any relationship is trust. That means if you lie to the other party, you are endangering the entire relationship. It also means that you will enhance the relationship if you are straightforward with bad news. This is counterintuitive for many people. But, in fact, people know the world is not perfect. What they hate is when people cover things up or lie to them. 

“Grace Kim, vice president of a New York investment bank, wanted to change the date of a reunion trip with her best friends from college. The trip had been planned for six months. She was very upfront about it with her best friend in the group. ‘I said she was my best best friend in the whole world, and how I really wanted to go on the trip,’ Grace said, ‘but that the timing was turning out to be really bad for me.’ 

“Notice that Grace valued her friend at the same time that she gave bad news. She also made a commitment to going on another trip in the near future. And she asked about the options there might be so that everyone would be happy with the result. Her friend said others in the party had begun to express some doubts about the date, too. So they all decided to reschedule. 

“Grace did have this negotiation five months before the trip was to take place. It would have been more serious if Grace waited until a week before the trip. However, it would have been better to mention a potential problem from the first moment she thought of it. ‘There’s a really good lesson here in expressing your concerns right away,’ “Grace said. ‘I knew from the beginning that the date might be a problem. If I had said that, the whole situation could have been avoided.’ This is good advice. If you have concerns, express them upfront. Holding them back, especially in a relationship, just makes things worse. The problem doesn’t go away.”

Interesting, isn’t it?

In this issue

  • Booster shots, science, and justice
  • The new elite
  • Exaggeration

Booster shots, science, and justice

Every time there is news about a fully vaccinated person getting infected by the coronavirus, it kicks off debate about booster shots. Some countries have announced the eligibility criteria for a booster shot. The US for example has opened third doses for those who are above 65 or those above 18 years of age with underlying medical conditions (or who live and work in high risk settings). 

What about India?

Writing in The Hindu, Dr Lancelot Pinto argues that three criteria have to be met for booster doses to be recommended as a policy decision.  

  • First, it should be clear that the immunity offered by a vaccine wanes with time, and this results in an increase in the probability of breakthrough infections. 
  • Second, for a disease that runs a mild course in a majority of individuals, it should be evident that the lowered efficacy of vaccines with the passage of time is true not only for infection, but also for moderate-to-severe disease necessitating hospitalisation and/or causing death. 
  • Third, it is important to prove that the administration of a booster dose reduces the probability of such severe disease, thereby saving lives and reducing the burden on healthcare.

Another question that often comes up during discussions on vaccines is the huge gap between rich and poor countries. 

Dr Pinto writes: “Duncan McLaren once stated that ‘Famine is not caused by a shortage of food; it is caused by a shortage of justice’. Similarly, while many parts of the world wait with eager anticipation for individuals to receive their first dose, it is key that if we recommend booster doses of vaccines, we do it in a way that is just and based on sound scientific principles.”

Dig deeper

The new elite

A fascinating essay by Ian Bremmer, an American political scientist in Foreign Affairs, had our attention. He makes the case that in many ways, the global order as we know it is changing because companies invested in Big Tech are well poised to form governments in the future. And it’s time we begin to wrap our heads around this.  

“Political scientists rely on a wide array of terms to classify governments: there are ‘democracies,’ ‘autocracies,’ and ‘hybrid regimes,’ which combine elements of both. But they have no such tools for understanding Big Tech. It’s time they started developing them, for not all technology companies operate in the same way. Even though technology companies, like countries, resist neat classifications, there are three broad forces that are driving their geopolitical postures and worldviews: globalism, nationalism, and techno-utopianism.

“These categories illuminate the choices facing the biggest technology firms as they work to shape global affairs. Will we live in a world where the internet is increasingly fragmented and technology companies serve the interests and goals of the states in which they reside, or will Big Tech decisively wrest control of digital space from governments, freeing itself from national boundaries and emerging as a truly global force? Or could the era of state dominance finally come to an end, supplanted by a techno-elite that assumes responsibility for offering the public goods once provided by governments? Analysts, policymakers, and the public would do well to understand the competing outlooks that determine how these new geopolitical actors wield their power, because the interplay among them will define the economic, social, and political life of the twenty-first century…

“Today’s biggest technology firms have two critical advantages that have allowed them to carve out independent geopolitical influence. First, they do not operate or wield power exclusively in physical space. They have created a new dimension in geopolitics—digital space—over which they exercise primary influence. People are increasingly living out their lives in this vast territory, which governments do not and cannot fully control… 

“The second way these technology companies differ from their formidable predecessors is that they are increasingly providing a full spectrum of both the digital and the real-world products that are required to run a modern society.”

Dig deeper


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Warm regards,

Team Founding Fuel

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