Social networking, for good and ill

You want ‘toxic?’ Imagine COVID before Zoom, Twitter, Door Dash, etc.

Had SARS-CoV2 or its equivalent struck 20 years ago, the global public health, economic, and psychological damage would have been unmeasurable. We’d still be reeling.

Without technologies enabling remote work, regions couldn’t have imposed lockdowns of more than a few days. Feeding people, delivering medical care, developing life-saving vaccinations and therapeutics in weeks rather than years? No way.

Technologies developed over the past two decades made possible the developed world’s response to COVID-19. Despite missteps by public officials — largely from ignorance and uncertainty — the death and illness toll was much lower than it would have been had the virus emerged only a few years ago.

Later this week, I’ll look at ways we used social media, a subset of those technologies, to get by. How we may have taken for granted these new ways to connect.

Also, what we may have learned over the past year. How we could use that information — if we’re smart — to improve our resilience and prepare for the next unanticipated global disaster. And what might go wrong if we fail to apply what we’ve learned.

I’ll publish the longer essay Wednesday: the first behind the paywall.

I spoke with a researcher who’s focused on these differences between cultures, whose work will be part of the story. I’ll post a video podcast Friday (no paywall) featuring our discussion. The multimedia empire expands!

Internships, get yer red-hot internships!

A unanimous U.S. Supreme Court this morning smacked down the NCAA’s compensation model for scholarship athletes. The opinion, by Justice Neil Gorsuch, focused on the “education-related benefits” the NCAA limits. The court said conferences or the NCAA could boost limits on benefits including post-graduate internships and other compensation, so long as the money comes from the NCAA or the conferences rather than individual schools or boosters. 

In a separate concurrence, Justice Brett Kavanaugh said the court didn’t go far enough. It should have blown up the NCAA’s definition of amateurism entirely. The NCAA generates billions of dollars of revenue annually, and almost none of it goes to the athletes who produce the product people watch.

Money quote:

The NCAA’s business model would be flatly illegal in almost any other industry in America. … Price-fixing labor is price-fixing labor. And price-fixing labor is ordinarily a textbook antitrust problem because it extinguishes the free market in which individuals can otherwise obtain fair compensation for their work. 

It wouldn’t surprise me if Kavanaugh’s reasoning holds sway in the next lawsuit against the NCAA, probably coming any day now.

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Educated guess: Roy Williams and Coach K saw a decision like this looming. It’s another reason both chose to retire at the end of the 2021 season. They’ve navigated one-and-dones, transfer portals, and other evolutions in big-time college sports. Trying to deal with whatever compensation methods the Atlantic Coast Conference and/or the NCAA develop may have been the final straw.

I’m on Kavanaugh’s side. The nature of college sports has changed too much to continue barring the kids from making money. Interest in teams and rivalries won’t be the same, but fans have no right to insist on maintaining what Kavanaugh correctly termed a discriminatory, unlawful system.

We made music (by some definitions)

Regular readers know June 21, the solstice, is Make Music Day worldwide. I promised a song we recorded to share for MMD. Here you go. If you’re playing along on kazoo, we’re in C.

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Someone who makes better music

Ray Davies, the Kinks’ co-founder/leader/songwriter/all-around genius, also turns 77 today. “Waterloo Sunset” may be the perfect rock song, but this one’s close.