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Instead of being eradicated, should mosquitoes be vaccinated?
So many bills in Congress + INFRASTRUCTURE WEEK!
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So many bills.
There seems to be a deal on the infrastructure package, which is going to focus on surface transportation issues. As for broadband, instead of the $100 billion that Biden and Rep. Clyburn wanted to spend, there is a $40 billion bipartisan standalone bill, the BRIDGE Act, from Sen. Bennet, Sen Portman, and Sen. King. A couple of months back, I did a deep dive into the $100 billion bill, the Internet for All Act.
Kristian Stout of ICLE has a thread on BRIDGE:
Like Stout, I’m confused about the goal of symmetric broadband speeds, requiring buildout to have both upload and download at 100 Mbps. It makes sense why lawmakers would want to establish a baseline for the top download speed. But it makes much less sense why upload must be at the 100 Mbps mark. I have a feeling there is some industry fight in here that I’m not aware of. ITIF’s Doug Brake and Alexandra Bruer wrote a piece about symmetric speeds in May, which is worth the read.
Extra: Stout’s thread is a good reminder of ICLE’s paper “A Dynamic Analysis of Broadband Competition: What Concentration Numbers Fail to Capture.”
In other broadband news, the NTIA released the “Indicators of Broadband Need Map,” which I added to my growing list of research resources. If you have something to add to this list, send me an email and I will get it up.
Sens. Mike Lee and Chuck Grassley introduced the Tougher Enforcement Against Monopolies, or TEAM Act, to reform antitrust. Here is the text. There is a lot in this bill: Antitrust enforcement would be shifted from the FTC to the DOJ, merger standards would be changed, and occupational licenses would be reformed since the bill also includes Rep. Issa’s Restoring Board Immunity Act.
AAF’s Jennifer Huddleston broke down the five antitrust bills that Democrats in the House released. This Wednesday, the House will markup these bills without hearings. Effectively, House Democratic leaders have limited public input.
Lina Khan was confirmed as a Federal Trade Commissioner last week. Almost immediately, President Biden broke with political norms and quickly named her as the new chair, bumping off acting Chair Rebecca Slaughter. The Dems now have a majority, but with this changeup, it makes one wonder: How long will Slaughter stay?
From Alex Stapp, I learned that France will "try to deliver a maximum of regulation and progress" during its EU presidency, Emmanuel Macron said. This article is rich. Macron wants to foster 10 European tech giants worth 100 billion euros by 2030. Good luck on that, guy.
But, Macron isn’t alone. One mindset among leaders is that laws or regulations should be maximized, not optimized. It is striking that there is no regulatory equivalent to a minimal viable product. Federal leaders, for the most part, aren’t arguing for a law with enough features to attract some early wins and validate an idea. Instead, they often shoot for maximal regulation, one weird law to solve it all. Adam Thierer has long argued for permissionless innovation, but few have articulated a unifying concept akin to a minimal viable regulation. It seems like a gap to me.
In TechDirt, Kir Nuthi tackles one part of common carrier debate, "The ability to moderate is a feature, not a bug, of social media. This is not a matter of transporting goods and services from California to New York—in fact, it's not really a matter of transporting anything. Rather than transporting data like telecommunications businesses, social media hosts content. They offer a space online on which content is posted and established in perpetuity as part of internet history, more like a museum than a railroad. Therefore, ensuring a curated collection of high-quality posts is a key part of their business model, rather than simply serving as a conduit of communication.”
Governments around the world are using social media’s language on content moderation to crack down on these platforms. Here are three things to know about Nigeria’s Twitter ban.
A new NBER working paper: "Using firm-level data from 99 countries over the 1990-2010 period, we discover that valuations rise after countries strengthen competition laws." In other words, companies are worth more after a country strengthens competition law.
Is there a kill zone in tech? I’ve been waiting for evidence for a long time and it has finally arrived in this paper. The short answer is no: “We use an event-study empirical design with heterogenous treatment timing to identify the impact of big tech’s main acquisitions on the number of venture deals, as well as on the amount of venture investments driven towards start-ups of more than 170 industry sectors. Using a rich dataset of more than twenty-five thousand venture capital deals reported worldwide from 2010 to 2019, we found a persistent positive impact of the big tech start-up acquisitions on the appetite of venture capitalists to also invest in start-ups of similar industry segments.”
Last week I wrote about inequality in the attention economy and how online audiences aren’t normies. Here is more evidence of that:
A call and response from Jim Harper: Has bitcoin upended the subjective theory of value? “It hasn’t. But bitcoin may be causing some economic sophisticates to step away, momentarily, from essential economic concepts.”
A history of the phrase: "Information wants to be expensive because it’s so valuable. On the other hand, information wants to be free.”
From Tales of Times Forgotten: “Before we talk about why some works of ancient Greek drama have survived, we should first talk about why so many works of Greek drama have been lost. Many people incorrectly believe that the reason why so many works of ancient literature have been lost is because a fire in 48 BCE destroyed the Great Library of Alexandria, which many people incorrectly believe contained all the knowledge of the ancient world. As I discuss in this article I wrote in July 2019, however, this is very much a misconception.” The reason so many Greek classics were lost is due to reproduction: “The real reason why so many works of ancient literature have been lost is not because one library burned, but rather because, in the ancient world, there was no printing press and the only way to produce a new copy of a work of literature was to copy the whole work out by hand, which was an extremely time-consuming, laborious, and often expensive task.” Praxis.
Extra: Praxis and Poiesis has an outline of the various ideas of knowledge.
Insider details the rise of Sienna Mae Gomez, the TikTok star who's been accused of sexually assaulting her ex-boyfriend Jack Wright.
Wikihole: Negative capability is a phrase first used by Romantic poet John Keats in 1817 to explain the capacity of the greatest writers (particularly Shakespeare) to pursue a vision of artistic beauty even when it leads them into intellectual confusion and uncertainty, as opposed to a preference for philosophical certainty over artistic beauty. The term has been used by poets and philosophers to describe the ability to perceive and recognise truths beyond the reach of consecutive reasoning.
Wikihole: Entoptic phenomena (from Ancient Greek ἐντός "within" and ὀπτικός "visual") are visual effects whose source is within the eye itself. (Occasionally, these are called entopic phenomena, which is probably a typographical mistake.) In Helmholtz's words: "Under suitable conditions light falling on the eye may render visible certain objects within the eye itself. These perceptions are called entoptical."
Instead of being eradicated, should mosquitoes be vaccinated?
A couple of years back when reading its Wiki, I was shocked to learn that Charleston, SC had malarial outbreaks up until the 1940s. From its beginning as a colony and into the early 20th century, South Carolina was plagued with malaria and dengue fever. South coastal cities were the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes carrying these diseases, which earned the city of Charleston an especially deadly reputation. From 1930 to 1950, more than 200,000 cases of malaria were officially reported in South Carolina, but researchers suspect the real number was much higher.
By the 1950s, malaria and yellow fever were effectively wiped out in the southern U.S. Although there isn’t a complete consensus, the drop in diseases was probably due to the creation of the CDC’s predecessor agency, the Communicable Disease Center, which organized the drainage of the swamps and sprayed everything with DDT, killing scores of mosquitoes.
I’ve been thinking of this episode in history because the World Mosquito Program (WMP) just announced the results of its three-year-long trial of reducing dengue fever by the Wolbachia method.
This new method seems to be a leap from previous efforts. Researchers released a cadre of mosquitoes with the Wolbachia bacterium on the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta, which prevents them from being infected by dengue viruses. In effect, this method vaccinates mosquitoes within a region. Within months, almost all of the local inserts were dengue-free, reducing the incidence of the disease by some 77 percent in the city.
The project has been so successful, The Atlantic reports, that it is expanding into the surrounding provinces, aiming to protect 4 million people by the end of 2022. If they succeed, they should be able to prevent more than 10,000 dengue infections every year.
While mosquitoes shouldn’t be considered the deadliest animals per se, since they don’t kill for food or to protect their young, they are the proximate cause of hundreds of thousands of deaths a year. Tracking down the exact number of deaths from mosquitoes isn’t easy, but the number probably ranges from a quarter-million to a million people or more each year.
By the way, did anyone know that The American Mosquito Control Association exists and this week is National Mosquito Control Awareness Week (June 20—June 26, 2021)?
In the past, I’ve wondered if it would be so wrong to wipe out mosquitoes. The mosquito takes countless lives, but, they are still important pollinators and serve as food for other species. Researchers are split on the idea of eradication. In part, the “ecological scar left by a missing mosquito would heal quickly as the niche was filled by other organisms” but at the same time, they support fish populations and probably birds of the arctic. All of that being said, I would have little problem trading all of the world’s mosquitoes, some fish, and some birds for human lives.
Before diving into the literature, however, I wasn’t aware that eradication methods like the sterile insect technique (SIT) have been popular since the 1950s:
Traditional approaches using radiation and chemosterilants have succeeded in the elimination of a variety of insect pests, including the New World screwworm in the Americas and Libya, the tsetse fly in Zanzibar and the Mediterranean fruit fly in Mexico and Guatemala.
But, it’s not easy to eradicate mosquito populations because so many have to be released into the wild for eradication methods to be effective. Eradication isn’t scalable.
The Wolbachia method has a lot of upsides that others don’t. It has no adverse impact on natural ecosystems, can sustain itself in mosquito populations without continual reapplication, and it is cheap, “with gross cost-effectiveness below $1500 per DALY [disability adjusted life year] averted” because it only requires small initial populations. For more on DALY, see this bulletin from the WHO.
Malaria won’t be as easy to control by the Wolbachia method. Still, there is excitement that the lessons from this experiment could be transferred to malaria control efforts. All combined, however, this method seems scalable in a way that other pest management systems aren’t. To me, that’s progress.