Regarding COVID, What Are You Comfortable With?

As the number of people in the U.S. who are vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus increases, the restrictions put in to place for our safety are being eased. However, the level of risk to be accepted varies from individual to individual. What are you comfortable with?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have announced updated guidelines that suggest people who are fully vaccinated no longer have to wear masks indoors, nor do they have to maintain the standard physical distance that we have been accustomed to over the last year+.

We are all eager to return to our previous lives, including seeing and hugging our loved ones, or attending large events like music concerts and sporting events.


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable podcast where Michael and Lee discuss the question ‘Freedom or security?’ Stay tuned for a bonus question, ‘Is technology neutral?’


However, on the same day that the CDC recommended the new guidelines, prominent comedian Bill Maher tested positive for COVID, causing his production team to postpone the taping of his weekly talk show. Maher is fully vaccinated and he does not have any symptoms. But it is clear that as much as we want a return to normal, the danger has not passed yet.

In addition, it is entirely possible that people who are anti-mask or anti-vaccine will take advantage of these new guidelines to avoid wearing a mask even though they are not fully vaccinated.

Therefore, there remains some level of risk, both to us as individuals (even the fully vaccinated ones), as well as to our community.

So what are you comfortable with? No change? Going maskless while outdoors? Outdoor dining? Maskless, indoor groups of vaccinated individuals? Indoor dining? Large groups of people, say, 500 or more?

Related questions: What will be the new normal? Mask or no mask? How do you evaluate risk? How do you want this to change you?

Are You Free?

In the United States political world, there has been a lot of talk about being free lately. From owning guns to wearing masks to availability of abortions, one person’s freedom is another’s oppression.

A number of freedoms, or rights, are explicitly mentioned in the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution. In particular, the first and second amendments, freedom of speech and the right to bear arms, respectively, are the most famous. Are efforts to keep protests safe limiting freedom of speech? Are all efforts at gun control an infringement of the Second Amendment?

In addition, there is also a fierce debate going on regarding voting rights, and both sides of the political divide feel that they are defending democracy. One side wants increased voting access to previously under-served communities; the other thinks that is an invitation to fraud.

At the heart of many of the ongoing arguments is that people, regardless of their political affiliation or socioeconomic standing, feel their freedoms slipping away.


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where we discuss the questions ‘Freedom or security?’ and ‘Is technology neutral?’


Not to mention the vanishing of privacy in the age of social media. Similarly, our personal information is becoming more available to corporations. Credit card companies, for example, know more about us than many of us realize. Cell phones allow us to be tracked wherever we go.

On a personal level, how do you feel about freedom? Are you free? Do you feel free? Are your freedoms threatened, and what can be done to strengthen them?

Related questions: Freedom or security? What are you doing to make the world a better place? Personal rights or convenience? How can we encourage debate?

Democracy Or Tyranny?

Democracy or tyranny?

Democracy Or Tyranny?

How Do You Evaluate Risk?

Every day, we must evaluate risk. Our entire lives are a balancing act between what we want, and what we are willing to risk to get it.

As children, we start to learn this lesson. For example, you might want to express yourself by something you say or do or wear. But are you willing to risk being embarrassed in front of other students?

Later on as adults, the risk/reward calculation continues. Maybe you want a better job, that pays more or offers new challenges. So, are you willing to risk leaving your stable, current job?

Sometimes, risky actions are rewarded. You might risk rejection by approaching a romantic interest, but are rewarded with a date. But risk sometimes leads to negative consequences. Maybe your offer of a date gets rebuffed.

As a result, we get used to figuring out: is the reward worth the risk? Can I live with the odds of failure versus the odds of success?

Now, more than ever, we need to perform these internal calculations. Unfortunately, we don’t have much experience in determining the likelihood of contracting the disease. No one does, because this virus is new and unknown.

As some restrictions are loosened, we all must weigh the risks against the reward. For instance, let’s say I want to eat out. Is the seating indoor or outdoor? How close will I be sitting to other customers? Will my server be wearing a mask? Are the kitchens cleaned routinely?

And pretty much all public activity will have to be evaluated in this way. Do I have pre-existing conditions? Am I  likely to end up in the hospital  — or even die — if I get sick? Similarly, how likely are my loved ones to survive an infection? How badly do I want these groceries, or that paycheck, or to hear that band?

This is something that is going to play a more important part of our lives going forward. How do you evaluate risk?

Related questions: How important is intuition? What is necessary to change your mind? Why are people afraid of death? Freedom or security? What are you willing to sacrifice?

What Is The Purpose Of Incarceration?

When someone commits a crime and they are convicted, they may be put in prison. What do we hope to achieve through this incarceration?

Incarcerating criminals, particularly violent criminals, might make our society safer. If you remove the dangerous individuals from the general population, so the theory goes, those that remain are the law abiding ones.

(This, by the way, is one of the reasons some people support the death penalty. If the most dangerous criminals are put to death, they will not be able to re-offend, and we are therefore a safer society.)

A second possibility is one of reformation. If someone who has committed a crime is isolated until they experience and show remorse, that person can be rehabilitated. They can then be reintroduced to society.

Yet another is putative. If someone has wronged us individually or as a society, that person needs to be punished. That punishment can take on different forms: removal from society at large; kept in confining or restricting quarters; forced labor; removal from any human contact; etc.

Incarceration can also be seen as a potential deterrent to others. If you break the law, this will happen to you. So you’d better not break the law!

There may be other possible reasons as well. Each one of these has merits and flaws. However, to answer this question we need to answer a different question first: what are we trying to achieve? What is the outcome we want, and what is the best way to get that outcome? Do we want punishment? Do we want rehabilitation?

In other words, what is the purpose of incarceration?

Related questions: What are our responsibilities to others? What would happen if all drugs were made legal? Freedom or security? Can people change? When should you not follow the law?