The Great New Outbreak. How we Could have Stopped It – A Response to Bill Gates

November 19th, 2020

From the past, humanity has learned and adapted to become stronger and better in all things; Military, agriculture, infrastructure, and especially medicine. There has been no point in history in which humans have had better medical technology and care than today. However, despite our impressive growth, we still lack the proper structures and teams needed in the case a massive epidemic occurs, and failing to properly learn from our past with previous epidemics — Such as the Spanish Flu relatively recently in 1918 — has lead to our current predicament with the COVID-19 Virus and its widespread carnage across the globe, forcing entire countries to close down in an ill attempt to try and stop the virus. Bill Gates states in his TED Talk, done in 2015, that we are completely unprepared if a super-virus were to germinate and cause a massive outbreak, as we have no specialists nor any programs set in place focused on the suppression of outbreaks, either within this country or in a foreign one. Due to a lack of funding and care towards this potential issue, none of these outbreak suppression teams have been created. During the Ebola incident in Africa, support was created in response to the virus, and while we managed to contain it with specialized teams, the massive amounts of deaths it brought could have been avoided if these response teams were already pre-established and ready to respond, rather than being fabricated after the Ebola virus spread. With today, as we face the COVID-19 Virus, we see a similar pattern emerge, in that as the virus spread across China and into surrounding countries, a response team was quickly created to try and stop it. Today, we see how such a plan has failed, for thousands die daily from this terrible virus. We needed to create proper preparations to ready ourselves against this threat years before it emerged, not right as it revealed its horrific self. The great outbreak which Bill Gates has predicted has occurred, and despite warnings from him and many others, we’ve failed to prepare ourselves.

Bill Gates’ call to action is extremely persuasive for his usage of real-life events. By recalling the Ebola incident and the Spanish Flu, he warns us of the potential the next outbreak may have and how we’re completely unprepared to face it. Millions will die as the new virus spreads, and we’ll scramble to try and protect ourselves by making quick and sloppy response teams far after thousands have died. We saw this very same issue today. Perhaps it’s the fact that I’m currently living through this foreseen outbreak that I find this video harrowing, that we’ve had this knowledge for years, the insight that a super-virus will emerge, born from years of adaptation and now alien to our bodies, and will become a threat possibly similar in scale to the Spanish Flu, yet we did nothing to stop it. A main criticism I have for this TED Talk is Bill Gates’ lack of information regarding how we could build up these specialized responders. He gives suggestions in regards to using military forces, for they’re trained in technology that would be extremely useful in such cases, yet fails to detail how much it may cost to make these teams, how long it might take to establish — and on a personal note, how he himself didn’t say that he’ll assist in funding this — and more. His warning is simply a warning, nothing more, not a possible plan we could follow nor a guideline. Simply a yell into the dark about a threat, and nothing more.

This TED Talk proved to be possibly useful for my future career. As a journalist, it’s my goal to be assertive, persuasive, and detail any useful detail that I may find in order to assist my points or push my narrative. Bill Gates using previous outbreaks as examples and essentially combining them to detail the threat of the future outbreak and how ill prepared we are is an intelligent play. Using examples from history to teach others, as humans have been doing for all our lives, is a ploy that I must use in all persuasive works I create. Call to actions are best when there are examples of the consequences when one fails to act. 

-Aaron Wells

To be the First to Extend Your Hand. A new Method for Loans – A Response to Shivani Siroya

October 22nd, 2020

Within the TED Talk, “A smart new business loan for people with no credit”, by Shivani Siroya, two main ideas which are discussed within the presentation are the fact that 2.5 billion people within the world have no sense of financial identity and no formal public or banking records which stops them from receiving any major loan, as well as the fact that despite having a financially risky background (in terms of having no formal banking records), when given a proper loan, repayment rates were 90%, which is similar to that of a traditional bank. The TED talk discussed the story of how this company created an app that allows people to form their own basic credit score to be allowed to take large loans, and as a result of taking such a risk, it was found that even those who may be seen as risky for loans ended up having high repayment rates. The authenticity of such information is backed-up in the talk by the fact that the speaker created this app, recorded all of their findings from said app, and now is willing to publish their surprising findings. In addition, by having us follow the life of one of the many people they gave loans to, how she keeps in contact with her family and respects lending money, the story becomes extremely persuasive. However, there are some criticisms I have with the TED talk. First, is that the speaker never discussed the extent of their loans. Are they loaning as much as a traditional bank would? What is their interest rate? Without such information, they could perhaps be hiding the fact that they are not giving out full loans compared to a traditional bank. Secondly, have they received their information only from Kenya, or have they surveyed and sent loans out to other countries? The limited pool of people within Kenya may not be enough information to safely send out loans to other countries that have populations of people without bank records. This information can relate to my current life, as I have just turned 21 within the past months and have begun living on my own, this presentation highlights the importance of maintaining a good Credit Score as well as the importance of keeping on top of any repayments and respecting money. If I were to lose these critical things, which I am already lucky to have, I may have no hope of recovering. 

-Aaron Wells

Abandonment of Old Ways for New Teachings – A Response to Daphne Koller

December 3rd, 2020

As our world globally improves with new technologies, discoveries, and techniques in how we approach different tasks, it’s becoming clear that many of our old traditions in education are becoming dated. No longer is it feasible to have only a few thousand people attend a single college, like it was only a hundred or so years ago. With global improvement, the average rate of educated people has greatly increased, and as a result, millions of more people have the proper level of education to attend college and succeed. As a result of there being a lack of space and teachers in many colleges, as well as the abundance of readily available technology, Daphne Koller has called to attention the usage of online learning. Recently, Stanford University created an online education system where a near unlimited amount of people can pay to attend classes, do homework, and receive graded work with comments. About 640,000 students from across the world attend these classes, listening to online lectures to fit their own schedules and receiving certificates for completing these classes — Of which can be used in job applications or for college credit at other universities. In Daphne Koller’s TED talk, she details how an online classroom environment allows thousands of people to attend a single class, and all receive the same amount of care and attention. Through the usage of having students peer-review each other’s works, or their own work using a grading rubric, each student will have someone read their work and receive personalized feedback. Unlike a regular classroom of 100 people, where if 1% failed that would only mean 10 people failed and the issue may be ignored, in a classroom of a few hundred thousand 1% could mean thousands of students, and thus the issue can be brought to attention if that many people failed to answer it correctly. While the traditional lecture-based classroom technique may be better for some people, for it does hold unique strengths that assist the student in paying attention to the work and discourages procrastination, the new online education system may prove to be significantly stronger in ensuring a larger number of people receive a college-level education.

Daphne Koller leans heavily into logic in order to create persuasive arguments. Using the idea of logos, pathos, and ethos — Which is the usage of logic, emotions, and sense of credibility in arguments — we can carefully dissect how exactly Daphne Koller creates an extremely persuasive argument for her TED Talk. In terms of logic, Daphne Koller lists numerous studies which support the usage of online education, stating the vast number of students enrolled, how each one receives personalized criticism, and that it’s able to reach all places across the globe allowing anyone to enroll. By stating that she is from Stanford University, and as per extension the online education system was created by Stanford University, she is establishing herself as a powerful and credible speaker, for Stanford University is a highly prestigious school. For emotion, while this TED Talk lacks an extremely strong emotional argument or example, she connects to the idea near the end of her speech that the usage of online education can perhaps bring forth new-age geniuses from countries that may not have easy access to college education, such as Africa. With such a heavy focus on logos and ethos, the logic and credibility forming parts of a cohesive argument, Daphne Koller already forms a highly persuasive argument for the benefits of online learning, without really needing to establish an emotional connection.

As a future writer, and possibly a future journalist, this TED Talk proves to be invaluable in how it formulates its arguments. The strengths of having a solid sense of credibility as well as a fantastic logistical argument is proven to be crucial in this, as these two subjects alone carry the argument without really having a solid sense of emotion injected within. This TED Talk is a great insight in the delicate balance of formulating a great argument, the juggle of ensuring that you as a speaker is credible, connecting to your audience in some fashion, as well as giving logic to give your argument factual knowledge to convince your audience. I plan on taking this knowledge with me in my future, and perhaps using this TED Talk as a reminder on how to formulate a good argument.

-Aaron Wells

The Threat Looming Over All – A Response to Greta Thunberg

November 5th, 2020

In our rapidly evolving world, the development of infrastructure and technology is not a pure positive growth, and, in fact, actually has some various negative outcomes. One such outcome is the production of greenhouse gasses, which in abundance, would eventually lead to a global climate change. A change which will alter our world in numerous harmful ways. In Greta Thunberg’s TEDx Talk, “The disarming case to act right now on climate change”, she advocates to the audience the importance of climate change and the criticality that humanity must act now in order to avoid a terrible future. Suggesting that we should reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide and other various gasses, by at least 15 percent each year, we may be able to avoid having the world increase by 2 degrees globally in temperature — An increase that would cause havoc as seas rise and ecosystems die. We are already facing the consequences of human development, with mass extinction events occurring due to human influence upon wildlife and an increase in global temperatures, yet nearly the whole of humanity appears to be blind to these threats. Scientists, news stations, and countries ignore the issue of climate change, opting to instead turn their eyes to other issues. With nobody altering the amount of carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere, along with nobody paying climate change any mind, we truly will face a terrible future that Greta Thunberg warns us about. A future in which the young people today will never be able to enjoy.

Overall, Greta Thunberg’s presentation was well-crafted and clearly stated the issue at hand. Climate change is a difficult and complex topic to discuss, and for a short 10 minute talk, enough information was conveyed to show the threat of climate change, possible solutions to global warming, and to appeal to the audience. The main criticisms that could be found is that the actual outcome of climate change was not clearly discussed or shown. Possible results to global warming, such as accurate estimates to rising sea levels or reduction in wildlife, would’ve been a great addition to further push the threat of global warming. A large portion of the speech went over Greta Thunberg’s rise to where she is today, and while that is important to show how serious she believes this threat to be, does take away crucial time that could be used to further discuss climate change. Appeal to the audience is important, but so is properly explaining the issue-at-hand.

As a future writer, and possible journalist, I may be able to help promote awareness for fixing climate change. Through the usage of articles or books I write, I can inform more people about climate change, teaching them of the future threats if nothing is changed, and what each of us can do to possibly alter the future. Greta Thunberg said that people simply don’t understand climate change, or don’t even know it exists. With my skills, I can be the one to fix one issue at hand, to fit a jigsaw into the massive puzzle that is saving our future.

-Aaron Wells

To Improve the World – A Response to Hugh Evans

November 5th, 2020

To want something to change within the world, one must dedicate the whole of themselves towards this change, or else it will never be seen. Within Hugh Evans’ TED Talk, “What does it mean to be a citizen of the world?”, he presents the idea of the ‘Global Citizen’, a person who doesn’t consider themselves necessarily part of a single country, group, or organization, but rather sees themselves as a person who tries to help anyone they can. These Global Citizens dedicate themselves for the betterment of others, in an attempt to improve all aspects of living for those who are in undeveloped countries or in poverty. Be it through providing funding, raising awareness, or altering governments, these benefits are done to help the needy. While we often raise funds or awareness for those in need in our everyday lives, they almost never last when governmental positions are changed, or when people grow bored of these subjects. Hugh Evans described how he, and some of his friends, managed to set up a concert with multiple famous bands in Australia which rendered the attention of the Australian government. Hugh Evans received major funding from the government, but only a few years later the government changed as new people entered leadership positions, and funding was removed. A major issue with raising awareness or garnering assistance to those in need is that it never truly lasts. However, by promoting the idea of becoming a Global Citizen, in which someone dedicates their life to helping others, these benefits can always be pushed forward and never truly forgotten, for the Global Citizen will dedicate themselves to raising awareness and gathering people together. Through promoting Global Citizens, we can create the assistance others need, and possibly permanently retain these benefits.

Hugh Evans’ TED Talk is persuasive mainly due to the fact that he describes real-life Global Citizens, and his own attempts at helping others. Showing that anybody can be a Global Citizen by showing Divinia’s actions, the woman who gathers pennies from people across the globe to raise money for those in need, tells the audience that they too can become a Global Citizen, and that even a single person makes a massive difference. Even Hugh Evans managed to sway the Australian Government. This appeal to the common people, by showing that common people can create great change, makes the argument for the Global Citizen idea extremely persuasive. There is little I found within this TED Talk that comes to mind regarding criticisms. Perhaps one form of criticism could be that the call to action near the end of the presentation was weak, and didn’t entirely entice me to go out and possibly become one of these Global Citizens.

As a future writer or journalist, I can easily become one of these Global Citizens by using my writing skills, and possibly my audience, to raise awareness for the issues at hand. By constantly writing and creating articles about certain issues, the problem of these issues being forgotten may not occur. Funding and social awareness could possibly exponentially grow, as more writers are inspired by the creations I make, calling them to write themselves about such issues.

-Aaron Wells

The Risk Governments Must Take for the People – A Response to Mariana Mazzucato

October 29th, 2020

Within the presentation, “Government – Investor, Risk-Taker, Innovator”, by Mariana Mazzucato, the idea that Governments should leave the private sector alone, and thus allow them to innovate and create ideas on their own with no outside influence, is challenged by Mariana Mazzucato. She states that the Government should in fact have a large influence upon the private sector, in that the Government can help support the growth of extremely innovative yet risky ideas and creations by supplying funding in case the product fails. In fact, Mariana details that the United States Government has already been doing this for many years, and as a result of funding these risky ideas, has supported the growth of Silicon Valley — Through which massive companies, such as Amazon, Ebay, and Apple, have exploded in size and economic output. These risky ideas that the United States Government has already funded are things such as the Internet, GPS, Microchips, and other innovations that companies use in their products. It is with Government funding and aid that companies can use these technological advancements within their own products, and thus, create a net profit overall. Mariana states that while the Government has been funding these new advancements, they have actually been losing Federal funds from doing so. Although these technological advancements make money for the companies that use them, the Government makes almost nothing in return. A solution to this is brought forth in the form of a Return-Generating Mechanism, such as Equity or an Innovation Fund, that will allow the Government to make a profit as well. Other companies, such as Brazil and Finland, have already begun starting such mechanisms in their investments, and turning a profit. When the United States Government invested and developed the Internet, they had no mechanism in place, and thus made almost no money in return for funding its development. Mariana states that in actuality, the Government has always had a hand in supporting the growth of the private sector, and to further support such growth, we should create these Return-Generating Mechanisms to help develop the Government and our country in addition to the various companies and products within.

This TED Talk was extremely persuasive in its arguments and her attack against the common rhetoric that many people believe in. By giving examples of technologies that the Government riskily funded within multiple products made by private sector companies, the idea that the Government should have no effect on the private sector is challenged. Although there is some criticism to be found within the presentation, overall the entire TED Talk was well constructed. The slight criticism to be found is more so within the presenter herself occasionally going off on tangents in her conversation near the beginning of the TED Talk, resulting in the topic sometimes becoming confusing. As the speaker discussed different countries’ reactions towards Silicon valley and different ideas of market versus state, the actual content of the TED talk became hard to follow. Thankfully, this issue was solved as the presentation continued.

Watching this presentation as a possible future Journalist allows me to realize that possible common perceptions regarding how certain things should be structured may not entirely be true. The idea that companies should be left alone by the Government, allowed to grow and evolve on their own, is not entirely true. Through journalism, I can follow the same path in questing common ideas, researching and finding the truth in our world.

-Aaron Wells

Why do we Believe that the World is Getting Worse? – A Response to Steven Pinker

October 8th, 2020

Within the TED Talk presented by Steven Pinker, the concept of global improvement was brought into question, that despite improvements in various different categories, such as technology, political relationships, health, and poverty, the quality of the world is perceived as deteriorating as time progresses. The focus of his talk was to disprove this idea, to show various graphs and charts which details how health and safety has increased, while the rate of poverty, homicide, and wars have decreased. The notion that our world is declining and becoming dangerous is in fact an idea brought forth by the media. Media stations, such as news or online videos, often strive to showcase terrible events as a means to garner attention, as such events are often interesting or instill fear, becoming a focus for people in their everyday life. The abundance of negative information being fed to people leads to this repressive mindset that the world itself is becoming worse as time continues. The focus of Steven Pinker’s talk was to highlight that the world is not in fact becoming worse, but rather significantly improving, that such thoughts come from an over-exposure to negative news. To assist in proving this point, Steven Pinker uses charts which list how things have improved or degraded within the past 30 to 100 years. The usage of such information, with sources listed at the bottom of each chart, creates an extremely persuasive presentation. While little criticism is found against this presentation, what I wish would be done was to possibly present some information that shows how certain things may in fact be getting worse as time progresses, that while the majority of critical issues are being fixed, there are still some present in this world that promotes the growth of negative mindsets, that we’re not on a perfect exponential growth towards a perfect world, a point he made would be impossible/harmful. This TED Talk reassures me that although I am entering into perhaps the most difficult stages of my life, stepping out into the harsh and cruel world as an independent person for the first time, things are not as bad as what others may claim. That, while others may preach or yell at how terrible the world is today, that I may be able to pierce the veil they attempt to drape over me.

-Aaron Wells