Opinion | Interpreting the Science of Masking

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To the Editor:

“In Fact, the Science Is Clear That Masks Work,” by Zeynep Tufekci (column, March 11), was spot on. Wearing masks may not be the best method of stopping the spread of viruses and bacteria, but it is one cost-effective measure to slow the spread.

Chinese citizens wear masks routinely to stop the spread of other infectious diseases like colds, flus and assorted illnesses.

The next time someone in a crowded public space tells you to take off your mask, suggest that the next time they go to the hospital or a surgery center for an operation they tell the surgeon and operating room staff to take off their masks, and see how well that goes over.

I did something similar when I went to my barbershop recently. A customer who was leaving told me to take my mask off because it doesn’t work and is not needed. I told him exactly what I just wrote to you, and the rest of the masked patrons and hairstylists cheered.

Mask mandates when a pandemic breaks out should not be dismissed, overturned, demonized or outlawed. They should be followed and obeyed to protect us all.

Paul Roden
Yardley, Pa.

To the Editor:

Thank you, Zeynep Tufekci. Your column is such a breath of fresh air. The point of the Cochrane study and others is that we don’t know enough about mask effectiveness, but we do know masks may well be effective in saving lives in certain circumstances. The goal, then, should be to figure out what those circumstances are and how best to save lives.

I used to consider myself a conservative. But today’s conservatives seem to care only about tax breaks and deregulation (read: permission to pollute and defraud the less sophisticated) and controlling women’s bodies.

They also seem now to especially relish hurting the vulnerable, all in the name of a false freedom. And so they prefer reading headlines about masks not working rather than looking for ways to save lives. Very sad.

Richard Dine
Silver Spring, Md.

How to Grapple With A.I.

To the Editor:

“If We Don’t Master A.I., It Will Master Us,” by Yuval Harari, Tristan Harris and Aza Raskin (Opinion guest essay, March 27), conjures up a technological threat of colossal dimensions. Unfortunately, the authors bewail and lament this terrifying specter without offering a path forward except to call upon world leaders to respond. Their quixotic suggestion lacks actionable content.

One possible initiative is to invoke the adage “fighting fire with fire.” The A.I. community could be mobilized to study potential hazards and conceptualize safeguards. This could be done through the establishment, within the National Science Foundation, of a new division devoted to “A.I. Safe Use.”

Actions that might be researched could involve requirements that any artifacts produced using A.I. include markers that would allow their deconstruction and analysis. An agency analogous to the Food and Drug Administration might be established to review these products; those that do not pass inspection might then be automatically rejected from transmission on the internet.

While this suggestion might threaten First Amendment norms, it does illustrate the type of review and vetting of A.I. products that could ameliorate the great concern provoking that Opinion essay.

Edward A. Friedman
Hoboken, N.J.
The writer is emeritus professor of technology management at the Stevens Institute of Technology.

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