Weekend Reads 2017-05-11

We’re quietly replacing an open web that connects and empowers with one that restricts and commoditizes people. We need to stop it. I quit Facebook seven months ago. Despite its undeniable value, I think Facebook is at odds with the open web that I love and defend. This essay is my attempt to explain not only why I quit Facebook but why I believe we’re slowly replacing a web that empowers with one that restricts and commoditizes people. And why we should, at the very least, stop and think about the consequences of that shift. –Parimal Satyal @ Neustadt.fr

Two clocks are ticking for US tech companies in the power centers of the modern world. In Washington, lawmakers are working to reform FISA Section 702 before it expires on December 31st, 2017. Section 702 is the main legal basis for US mass surveillance, including the programs and techniques that scoop up the data transferred by non-US individuals to US servers. Upstream surveillance collects communications as they travel over the Internet backbone, and downstream surveillance (better known as PRISM) collects communications from companies like Google, Facebook, and Yahoo. –Danny O’Brien @ EFF

Arguably, a good deal of Americans are in a state of anxiety or depression. They have little to no savings. They have mountains of debt. They are lonely, even in their relationships. They sense that a sudden change in the economy would bring their world crashing down upon them. They fear they will fail, but they don’t know what it looks like to succeed. And they wonder if there is even any meaning to their existence. If you think that describes a lot of Americans, or maybe even yourself, know that this state of anxiety is not normal for a society. In the past, while people may have been living harder lives, they often were far more content. So what changed in our times to bring about a near universal state of anxiety? –Devin Foley @ Intellectual Takeout

There is no lack of interest in the topic of loneliness, as these headlines indicate. But there’s less agreement amongst researchers about what can be done about it. “Loneliness is a major social, educational, economic and health issue that will reach epidemic proportions by 2030,” says Prof Stephen Houghton, of the University of Western Australia. “At the moment there are no interventions. Where are they? I can’t find any.” According to a feature in this week’s JAMA, loneliness – “defined as a distressing discrepancy between desired and actual levels of social contact” — appears to be a serious health risk for issues like cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer disease, stroke, and insomnia. It is believed, however, that the incidence of loneliness has remained constant over the last 50 years at about 10%. –Michael Cook @ BioEdge