Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Book Report - Viral BS

    I chose to read the book Viral BS by Dr. Seema Yasmin. The book was a collection of short stories of sorts that covered various phenomena throughout the years. The vast majority of these stories were directly related to human health and the medical field. An example of this that was used in the book would be a mother in the Midwest who was hysterical over her risk of contracting Ebola in America, but when prompted about receiving a flu vaccine, a disease she would be at a significantly higher risk for, she expressed complete disinterest.

Many of the stories in the book felt as though they were written to debunk common theories and misconceptions that fall in line more with showing the low risk of contracting Ebola in America. While the rest focused more on bringing awareness towards events and issues that American society as a whole pays little attention to, an example from the book being the rapidly rising maternal mortality rates in America. All of the stories contained within the book feature plenty of research-backed evidence that allows the reader to decide whether the public hysteria, or lack thereof, resulting from the subject matter is warranted or not. 

One chapter that stood out to me most from the book was one titled Can your cat’s poop make you better at business? This chapter covered a bacteria that thrives in cat poop called Toxoplasma gondii and would alter the mind state of rats, making them more likely to get caught by cats, in order to find their way to that environment. The studies from this chapter brought attention to the idea that if this bacteria was capable of altering the thought pattern of rats then perhaps it was having a similar effect on humans. 

The study referenced in this chapter was conducted in 42 countries over the course of 25 years where the countries that had a higher prevalence of people with antibodies to the bacteria had a “entrepreneurial activity and intentions at a national scale” as well as lower proportion of people who answered that they had a “fear of failure” when prompted. Overall the study implied the bacteria inhibited loss aversion in those who were infected making them more likely to make risky business decisions when the opportunity presented itself with those a benefitted from these decisions being more likely to be included in this study. However, handling cat poop and increasing the risk of contracting all forms of disease with the hopes of improving one’s business acumen can, in my opinion, only be described as fast thinking. As a result, I felt this chapter felt the most relevant to the course which is why it stood out more to me over all the others.

This article goes more in depth with how the Toxoplasma gondii affects our thought patterns and how we act as well as many of the more haphazard impacts it can have on our overall health. https://hbr.org/2022/07/a-common-parasite-can-make-people-more-entrepreneurial

The book concluded with a section which the author refers to as the BS detection kit which was a checklist of rules to follow to ensure that we can combat the spread of misinformation whilst still being able to keep an open mind regarding some of the more interesting stories we may hear in our day to day. Although many of these tips could be considered obvious I still find it something useful to keep in mind even outside the scope of the course.

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