Jan 26, 2019

The upside of talking to real people

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

DAVOS, Switzerland — By many measures, including health, safety, and literacy, this is the best time in human history to be alive. Nonetheless, fear, anger and pessimism are all around us, even up here in the Swiss Alps.

The big picture: We live in a society that incentivizes outrage and minimizes human contact, and it’s damaging our mental health, experts from Yale University told Axios.

Yale President Peter Salovey cited a 2014 study from the University of Chicago on happiness. Asked their preference, people said they would rather be alone than speak with a stranger. Yet, the study said, research links such encounters with happiness — and tech developments like texting and online shopping are making them rarer.

  • "A lot of things that gave us pleasure aren’t part of our lives anymore,” he says.
  • Laurie Santos, whose class on happiness in spring 2018 had the largest enrollment in Yale history at 1,200 students, told us, “We’ve created an attention economy, and attention is a limited resource.”
  • Social media reinforces the idea that anger and outrage are effective tools to get that attention, said Molly Crockett, a psychology professor. Outrage on social media is “like a habit,” she said, and has blurred the line between acting out and commenting genuinely.

Yes, but: Economics is still part of the picture. Salovey also cited a 2010 study by psychologist Daniel Kahneman and economist Angus Deaton that found income does correlate to happiness — but only up to $75,000. (58% of U.S. households earn less than that.)

The big question: United Way's Gallagher argues that the U.S. began shifting “from a ‘we’ culture to an ‘I’ culture” about four decades ago and that over time, “the values that hold us together … start to get stripped away.”

  • “All of a sudden people didn’t want to pay for the education of other people’s children,” said Princeton president Christopher Eisgruber. “The question is, how do you rebuild a civic bond?”

Go deeper: Read the full Davos Special Report

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 6 p.m. ET: 5,653,821 — Total deaths: 353,414 — Total recoveries — 2,325,989Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 6 p.m. ET: 1,694,599 — Total deaths: 100,047 — Total recoveries: 384,902 — Total tested: 14,907,041Map.
  3. Public health: Fauci says data is "really quite evident" against hydroxychloroquine — Nearly half of Americans say someone in their household has delayed medical care.
  4. Business: African American business owners have seen less relief from PPP, Goldman Sachs saysDisney plans phased reopening on July 11Author Ann Patchett says bookstores are innovating to stay connected with customers.
  5. Tech: AI will help in the pandemic — but it might not be in time for this one.
  6. 1 🎶 thing: Local music venues get rocked by coronavirus.
  7. 🎧 Podcast: Trump vs. Twitter ... vs. Trump.
  8. What should I do? When you can be around others after contracting the coronavirus — Traveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Updated 32 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Trump administration to eliminate nuclear waivers tied to Iran deal

Pompeo testifies on Iran in February. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The U.S. is ending waivers that had allowed foreign companies to work at Iran's civilian nuclear facilities, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Wednesday.

Why it matters: This will eliminate most elements of U.S. sanctions relief still in place two years after President Trump withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Pompeo said "continued nuclear escalation" made the move necessary, but critics warn it will encourage further Iranian enrichment.

Top Senate Democrat says State Dept. is working on new Saudi arms deal

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo briefs reporters on May 20. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/pool/AFP via Getty Images

Senate Foreign Relations ranking member Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) wrote in a CNN op-ed on Wednesday that he learned that the State Department is currently working to sell thousands of additional precision-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia.

Why it matters: Democrats say that Steve Linick, the State Department inspector general who was ousted on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's recommendation, was investigating the administration's previous effort to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia without congressional approval.