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Cutting Through the Noise; Middle East Cease-Fire. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired May 21, 2021 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe we have a genuine opportunity to make progress. And I'm committed to working for it.
GOLODRYGA: A fragile truce in the Middle East.
But, with tempers flaring and the core issues unsolved, how long will it hold?
DANIEL KAHNEMAN, CO-AUTHOR, "NOISE": When the aim of judgment is to be accurate, then noise and bias have, mathematically, equivalent roles.
GOLODRYGA: Cutting through the noise. Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman tells us how we can reduce bias and make better decisions.
DR. MONICA GANDHI, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SAN FRANCISCO: it was abrupt. That's a messaging problem. That actually has nothing to do with science.
Hari Sreenivasan digs into the science and make sense of confusing markets guidance with Dr. Monica Gandhi.
GOLODRYGA: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
For the first time in 11 days, the skies over Israel and Gaza are quiet, but, on the ground, the big thorny issues remain. Perhaps that's why hours,
after the cease-fire took effect, we saw new clashes at one of the flash points for this latest conflict, the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
More than 200 people, mostly Palestinians, have died since fighting began last week. But both sides are now claiming victory, and the world is
holding its breath to see if this shaky truce brokered by Egypt will last.
Senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman joins me now from Gaza.
Ben, thank you so much for joining us.
A bit of a rocky start this morning to that fragile truce and cease-fire. Where do things stand now?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the cease-fire is holding, apart from the confrontations on the Haram esh-Sharif, for the
The guns and rockets have gone silent between Israel and Gaza. In fact, below me, in the main square of Gaza City, it's a rather festive
atmosphere, not a political celebration of any sort. But keep in mind that the month of Ramadan ended with -- during the fighting, and now, finally,
people are able are able to go out and celebrate the Eid, the Eid al-Adha, which marks the -- excuse me -- Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of
But going around the city, certainly, or Gaza Strip, the Gaza Strip, one sees massive destruction. We were on one street where three buildings were
hit in an Israeli airstrike at 1:30 in the morning on the 16th of May, leaving at least 42 people dead.
One man told me that, after that experience -- he lived right next door -- he doesn't want to have any children anymore out of fear for their future.
Another woman told me it was like judgment day when she heard the explosion, and she thought they were -- she and her children and her
husband were all going to die.
But now we have peace at the moment or calm in Gaza. The only reminder of Israel is the drone that buzzes constantly overhead. Now, Hamas is
presenting this as a victory, perhaps not a political -- a military victory, but it is something of a political victory, in the sense that they
were able to present themselves as the defender of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and of Palestinian interests, at a time when the Palestinian Authority in
Ramallah, led by Mahmoud Abbas, seemed to be incapable of playing any role in this crisis whatsoever.
But, again, the cease-fire is holding. The expectation, Bianna, is that it will hold perhaps for a few months, perhaps for a few years, before all the
causes of this current crisis rise up again and there is yet another war between Gaza and Israel -- Bianna.
GOLODRYGA: Well, peace for now is better than where we were just 48 and 24 hours ago.
Ben Wedeman, thank you so much. We appreciate it.
Obviously, there's a lot to talk about to get to the root of this conflict. And it was just the latest chapter, of course, in the long-running, bloody
battle between Israelis and Palestinians, but something about this time does feel different, with the intercommunal violence and President Biden's
And yet there's still this haunting question: Has anything really changed?
Here with me to discuss is journalist and author Yossi Klein Halevi.
Yossi, thank you so much for joining us.
You just heard that report from Ben Wedeman. Of course, not to be surprised by anyone, both sides are claiming victory. But, from your perspective,
what, if anything, has been achieved?
YOSSI KLEIN HALEVI, AUTHOR, "LETTERS TO MY PALESTINIAN NEIGHBOR": The great achievement undoubtedly belongs to Hamas.
I say that with a great deal of pain and anxiety for the future of both of our peoples. Hamas is not a partner for a peace agreement. Hamas is, by its
own definition, a partner only for a war against Israel's existence. And so to strengthen Hamas, which is the outcome of this -- of this conflict, is,
I think, ultimately a tragedy for both peoples.
The reason that I say that Hamas has been strengthened, for all the reasons that Ben Wedeman cited, but I would I would add one more reason, which is
that Hamas is the weakest of Israel's military enemies. We are surrounded on our borders by Hezbollah, Syria, Iranian troops that are establishing
themselves in Syria.
And Hamas is by far the weakest of the threats that Israel faces. The ultimate threat, of course, is Iran. And so for Hamas to be able to sustain
the worst wave of rocket attacks on the greater Tel Aviv area that Israel has ever experienced -- Hamas would announce, today, at noon, we're going
to hit Tel Aviv -- to be able to strike with relative impunity, and Israel was not able to stop these strikes, I think, really is very worrying for
Israel's long term deterrences.
And, again, any strengthening of Hamas is a weakening for our ability to envision a different future.
GOLODRYGA: And yet, time and time again, we have been hearing from analysts that say that this works to the benefit of the Netanyahu
government, that having a -- quote, unquote -- "terrorist organization" running Gaza, that is, Hamas, and not dealing directly with the Palestinian
Authority in focusing on a solution for a two-state area there, one for Palestinians and one for Israelis, is something that benefits the Netanyahu
That has been said time and time again. Is that part of the problem? And is that a harsh assessment, or is it accurate?
KLEIN HALEVI: Well, first of all, I would take exception with putting these heavy quotation marks around the phrase Hamas is a terrorist
organization, an organization that not only declares the existence of Israel illegitimate, but targets Israeli civilians as its principal means
of waging war, is the classic definition of a terrorist group.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, it is. And the United States recognizes it as a terrorist group as well. We should note that.
KLEIN HALEVI: And so, in terms of the Netanyahu government, Netanyahu personally has gained from this war. There's no question about that.
Netanyahu two weeks ago was on the verge of losing the prime ministership. A change government was in the wings, an extraordinary Israeli experiment.
Not only was it a -- the most unifying government politically that we have ever had, ranging from hard left group -- a hard left party to a hard right
party, and the center in between, but, even more significantly, the government was going to be a kind of coalition between Jewish and Arab
political parties, something we have never had in Israel before.
So, I personally was getting ready to celebrate the emergence of a more hopeful political version of Israel. And then this terrible war happened.
And I'm certainly not accusing Netanyahu of creating the conditions in any way for this war.
I think the conditions have existed, are in place, as Ben Wedeman noted, for a conflict every few years. That's been the pattern here, and for
various reasons, related, I think, primarily to internal Palestinian politics, a struggle between Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas, the cancellation of
Palestinian elections once again by Mahmoud Abbas, who was in the 15th year of his four-year elected term.
GOLODRYGA: Right. Right. So--
KLEIN HALEVI: And so there was these internal reasons -- yes.
GOLODRYGA: We have got crippled governments on both sides, which sort of goes to the argument that you make in one of your recent pieces about, what
is the future of Israel, and what is that relationship among Israelis and Arabs and Israelis and Palestinians?
And you write: "We know the routes of neighborliness, but rarely consider the other's reality. We avoid the hard questions that threaten our
certainties, our insistence on the absolute justice of our side. What is it like to be a Palestinian citizen of a Jewish state that occupies your
family? What is it like to be a Jew who has finally come home, only to live under constant siege?
"The current violence wasn't triggered by any one event, but in part by our inability to ask those questions. Perhaps we can begin building a better
Israel from the place of shared brokenness," really powerful words.
And I guess my question to you is, how do you address that? How do you begin having this conversation?
KLEIN HALEVI: You know -- what I wrote there refers very specifically to Palestinians who are citizens of Israel.
These are my fellow citizens. And what we need to do in terms of our internal dynamics, how to bring the 20 percent of Israel that is Arab,
that's Palestinian, citizens of Israel, how to bring them closer into the mainstream, how to bring them into a shared sense of a civic common
identity with Jews, that, I think, is ultimately the deepest domestic challenge for Israel
Our relationship with the Palestinians, it's a conflict. Our relations with Palestinians who are citizens of Israel is an internal dynamic. This is a
question of the future of our being. And, here, I would say that what we need to do is examine the roots of this internal conflict, because Israel
in the last two weeks has not only gone through a dramatic conflict with Gaza, which, of course, for the Palestinian side, was even more traumatic.
But -- and I say that without minimizing the trauma on the Israeli side. Nevertheless, the additional trauma for Israel internally was this kind of
civil war that we found ourself fighting, the worst outbreak of Arab Israeli-Jewish Israeli violence since the founding of the state, since the
And this is a moment for Israelis to -- Arabs and Jews to take a deep breath and ask ourselves, who do we want to be? We have models of countries
around us. We have models of Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, countries that have disintegrated, for all practical purposes, in the last 10, 15 years.
KLEIN HALEVI: What does Israel want to be? Is that where we're going to go?
GOLODRYGA: I was really touched by a question that you raised when you were talking about your book or your collection of letters to your
Palestinian neighbors, when you ask, how do you navigate irreconcilable differences?
And that does seem to be the place where the country and the Palestinians feel they are in right now. Sometimes, it's much easier to call a cease-
fire and stop bullets from flying, as opposed to internal dynamics and feelings among neighbors and go back to as if the status quo is -- was
This is a really long conversation to have. And part of the problem I think we're frustrated by is that we were hoping to have it with a panel here.
And there -- things are just -- the tensions are so heightened. And I just look forward to the day when we can have that calm, smart conversation
about making both sides feel that they have a place, an equal place at the table.
Yossi, we will have to leave it there. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.
KLEIN HALEVI: Thank you. I so much appreciate this conversation. Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: I do too. Thank you.
Well, let's get that perspective now of Palestinian writer and researcher Mariam Barghouti. She joins me now from Ramallah in the West Bank.
Mariam, great to have you on. Thank you so much.
GOLODRYGA: So, give us a sense of what a cease-fire means to you.
MARIAM BARGHOUTI, PALESTINIAN WRITER: So, a cease-fire for us right now is, we are celebrating that we're no longer being bombed. Our people are no
longer being bombed.
I'm in the West Bank. I wasn't being bombed.
BARGHOUTI: So, we're celebrating that.
The cries and the horrors that I was getting from my friends in Gaza is terrifying, and I wasn't even there. So -- but a cease-fire is a pause. It
is a pause until there is accountability and until there's change.
And we really need to recognize that as what it is. There's a cease-fire on the bombings in Gaza. But, just earlier this week, you had Israeli police
shoot in the head Dohamed Kiwan (ph) and Ilme Pahon (ph). He's 17.
You had them kill seven Palestinians. And this is the police, the army and the settlers that are currently working together in tandem with -- they're
still chanting "Death to Arabs" for Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, and it's still being called a civil war.
No, this is not a civil war. This is not just between Israeli citizens. This is -- this is ethnic cleansing. If you want to call it a civil war, a
civil war is between Israel's right wing and left wing, not between settlers trying to take over the homes of Palestinians and kill them.
They just stabbed a man who was working in Pelot (ph) settlement near Yatta (ph) with -- 25 times. He was stabbed 25 times.
GOLODRYGA: I guess my question to you is, in having this conversation -- and I don't know if you were able to hear the conversation that I had with
Yossi -- something needs to be done to move forward.
And it looks like both political parties are frozen, they're weakened, and it may come down to the younger generation. It may come down to people on
the streets, as you write about in one of your latest pieces in "The Guardian."
You say: "More and more of this. This is a continued growth of stamina, endurance and loss of faith, in terms of people, a new generation, a coming
of age generation born since the pitiful Oslo Accords of 1993 to 1995."
These are different voices. And the conversation seems to be the same. And I'm wondering if it can be moved to a different direction of peaceful equal
So why do we only speak about coexistence when Palestinians are making noise in the media? Why is no one telling us about coexistence and equality
and justice when we are being shot down and displaced from our homes every single day for 73 years?
And I can lay you out the evidence, but it will -- you will need to give me 73 years' worth of airtime. And Yossi is saying, let Palestinians join the
mainstream. The mainstream is screaming "Death to Arabs" right now in Israel. That is the mainstream.
It's disheartening that we're still having these conversations without real actions. And you need to remember that any movement, whether it's youth or
not, were vilified across history, especially against colonial states. You saw it in Algeria. You saw it in India. You saw it in Tunisia.
And the U.S. is still its own colonial state. So, let us remove kind of that cowardice to just focus on the Palestinians and having to defend
themselves against narratives, well, what about Hamas, like we're all representatives of Hamas.
And let's speak about the perpetrators and what is happening on the ground. Hamas is a militant group in the Gaza that is -- with a population of two
million people that have been under siege for 15 years.
If you would like to go live in the Gaza for two hours, you can come to me and maybe we can start talking solutions.
GOLODRYGA: So, in terms of leadership, because we spend a lot of time talking about Israel and the Netanyahu government there, what about -- what
are your thoughts on the Palestinian leadership, in particular in the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority leadership, and Mahmoud Abbas putting a
pause on the elections?
He is also a weakened figure here. And in terms of moving forward, is it new leadership that's required? Is it new investment? What is it in terms
of the leadership that may be currently be lacking among Palestinians?
So, I don't think we're lacking leadership, as much as we're lacking in support. The Palestinian Authority is corrupt, and it has colluded with
Israel against Palestinians and arrested us on their behalf.
But you also need to remember that Israel places so much pressure on any Palestinian representatives and leaders. They signed and shook hands with
the Yasser Arafat in '93-'94, and then they besieged the Al-Mukataa compound, the headquarters here, with the president in it.
Is that not a violation of international law? So, our leadership also needs to be seen as a byproduct of Israel's attempt to continue the ethnic
cleansing of Palestinians, and when you have Israeli politicians making genocidal statements like flatten the Strip.
So, maybe we can talk about that leadership before we come to the Palestinians?
GOLODRYGA: Well, I mean, you also mentioned shaking hands with Yasser Arafat in '94-'95. That was the closest that the two sides did come to a
two-state solution. And, ultimately, it was Arafat who walked away.
GOLODRYGA: But in -- going back to Yossi--
BARGHOUTI: But it wasn't Arafat that walked away. I'm sorry, but I really do need to correct you on that.
It wasn't Arafat that walked away. That was done with Yitzhak Rabin, who was responsible for break the bones policy against Palestinians when they
were in uprising. He literally commanded soldiers to break our joints, so that we can become a population that cannot stand for itself.
Before you ask us to make any peaceful solutions or to make -- to move towards the diplomacy that we all do want to see, we want to be free, and
we want equality and justice, make sure the leaders that are shaking hands aren't also making commands to break our bones.
GOLODRYGA: Is there a viable two-state solution, in your opinion, given the conditions and given the temperature on the ground right now?
BARGHOUTI: Why are you limiting yourself to that question?
Why is not the question, is there a viable, just solution? Can Palestinians live free? Can they say they're Palestinian without being chased down by
settlers shooting at them? Can they say hi, I want Palestine to be free, without worrying about the Israeli Military Court charging us with
incitement? Because that's what's happening.
And it's ridiculous that we're still asking the same old questions.
GOLODRYGA: Mariam, I do wonder--
BARGHOUTI: This is a new generation.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, it is a new generation. And I just -- and I sense -- and I sense your tension and your frustration and the emotions.
And you're right. I am not there on the ground. You are there. You're not in Gaza, but you're in the West Bank, and you are seeing what's happening.
But don't you think first step would be having a conversation with an Israeli neighbor who also wants to look forward into new peace and to
listening to each other?
GOLODRYGA: We were really trying to hope to have you and Yossi on together. And the fact that that couldn't happen sort of speaks to the
larger issue at hand, because we're talking about people--
GOLODRYGA: -- that, in theory, both have a similar vision for a path forward.
Well, Yossi refused to speak with me. But, also, Yossi was just saying Hamas, Hamas, Hamas, as if that's Palestine. I mean, we have been colonized
for 73 years.
If you want us to talk to our neighbors, which neighbors are you talking about? The same neighbors that are trying to kick out Mohammed El-Kurd's
family from his home, or the neighbors that are shooting at me live ammunition when I'm saying "Free Palestine"?
GOLODRYGA: Mariam, I hope we can have this conversation in the weeks and months ahead.
Hopefully, the cease-fire will continue. It's the best way to sort of take a breath and talk about the issues, because, otherwise, bullets and rockets
flying overhead and killing innocent civilians only makes the matters worse.
Thank you so much. We really appreciate it.
BARGHOUTI: Thank you. Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: Well, the events over the past year, whether the COVID pandemic or the murder of George Floyd, have sparked a conversation about bias and
how it affects the decisions people make.
But what if bias isn't even the biggest flaw in human judgment? Our next guest argues that noise leads to errors of judgment and decision-making in
virtually every field, from medicine, to law, to economic forecasting.
For decades, Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman has studied our thinking processes and our decision-making. And his latest book,
"Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment," argues that if we want to live in a fairer world, we have to cut through it. But what is noise?
Daniel joins me now to explain.
Daniel, it's so wonderful to have you on the program. Welcome. It's an honor.
So, let's start with that fundamental question. What is noise? And how does it differ from bias?
KAHNEMAN: Well, noise is variability where you don't want it.
And the easiest way to think about noise is to think of it of noise in measurements. So, when you have a line, and you're trying to measure it
with -- in very fine detail, and you measure it multiple times, you won't get the same result every time.
That variability is noise. And bias is when you have a systematic error, when the average error is either for the measurement to be too long or too
short. And -- but even when you have no bias, if your measurements vary, certainly, if they vary all over the place, then you have error. And that
form of error is noise.
GOLODRYGA: So, from a human thinking standpoint -- and I don't want to spend this whole segment talking about the conflict in the Middle East, but
it does strike me that you are from Israel, and you are aware of the current events there.
And my question is, what aspect of noise and bias is there in the decision- making on the ground from multiple parties in this conflict?
KAHNEMAN: Well, in this conflict, I think what you have is a lot of bias, certainly.
And noise, in the sense of variability in decisions, is less visible. I mean, the whole thing is overwhelmingly biased, I think, in this situation.
Noise is randomness in decision-making. When you have a lot of rigidity on both sides, noise is not your problem.
But, in many other situations, noise is the problem.
GOLODRYGA: And give us some of those situations, then, in terms of let's talk about occupations and among doctors and multiple diagnoses for cancer
GOLODRYGA: How does noise play a role?
KAHNEMAN: Well, let's start from the judicial system.
So, we have a lot of evidence that looking at the same defendant and the same crime, the same case, different judges will pass sentences that vary a
great deal, by years, in fact. For the same offense, you could have a judge, one judge, saying 30 days in jail and the other 15 years.
I'm not making this up. This is the result of experiments on that. Similarly, you have noise among doctors in the E.R. What treatment you will
get, what diagnosis will be made depends on which doctor happens to be assigned to the case. That is noise.
There is noise in underwriting. There is an insurance company. There is noise in the evaluation of investments. There is noise in decisions about
foster care for children. There is noise in patterns.
So, it's hard to think of an institution that has many people making decisions on its behalf where you don't have noise. And what we were
identifying in this book is that noise is a source of very important errors in those situations, certainly, when you have multiple people making
decisions on behalf of one organization.
GOLODRYGA: So, let's talk about the judicial system, because we don't want to sort of blanket all judges as completely biased, and not read in and
studied in the specific case.
And so you're pointing out that there are ways in which judges can minimize the noise in a more just fashion. Can you talk about how that can be the
case and how that is possible?
KAHNEMAN: Well, in the case of judges, it's harder to -- you would have to -- you would have, first of all, for judges to consider that there is bias
and for studies to be done as to why there is that large variability among judges, and for the judicial system to accept explicitly that noise is
So, the judicial example, it's going to be a while before we see much progress on noise in the judicial system.
I think many private and public organizations that have a clear objective and where the accuracy of judgment is clearly defined, in those
organizations, I think there's going to be more progress in reducing noise than the judicial system, in the short run.
GOLODRYGA: So, a teacher grading a student's paper, right, as opposed to what you suggest, maybe having multiple teachers look at the same exact
paper, would deliver a result that constituted less noise.
How would that work?
KAHNEMAN: Well, it is a mechanical, statistical fact that, when you have multiple individuals making the same judgment, and you average their
judgments, if they have made their judgments independently of each other, then you're eliminating noise.
And it's a certainty that you're eliminating noise if the judgments are independent. So, that's easy. You're not eliminating bias when you do that.
Now, clearly, if you want to -- there is a lot of noise in grading, as all professors know.
There certainly was a lot of noise in my grading. And you could get rid of it by having multiple people read the same test or the same -- in the case
of exams, it may not be worth it. But there are -- because it's costly to reduce noise.
There are decisions where noise is clearly a problem, and where multiple judges or multiple judgments would actually be a very useful -- a very
GOLODRYGA: Well, one--
KAHNEMAN: -- for noise reduction.
GOLODRYGA: Well, one area where noise proved to be and continues to be -- I'm sorry. Go ahead.
KAHNEMAN: No, no.
GOLODRYGA: Do you want to finish your statement?
KAHNEMAN: No, no. I was thinking, for example --
GOLODRYGA: Go ahead.
KAHNEMAN: Go ahead.
GOLODRYGA: Go ahead. No, no, no. You're the expert here. Give us your example.
KAHNEMAN: Well, I was thinking that, for example, when there are consequential decisions as in prizes or in grants, there, you want multiple
reviews to reduce noise and it's worth having. The question about patents, in many cases, it is one person deciding on whether a patent will be
allocated, essentially one person.
And for important patents, it may be advisable to have more than one person involved. So, there are situations where aggregating judgements is an
answer and there are also other procedures that can reduce noise and improve the quality of judgement.
GOLODRYGA: What role does noise play in the pandemic and some of the decision making on a massive global scale?
KAHNEMAN: Well, the pandemic actually gave us a very good example of noise in the decision making because you have multiple countries faced with
essentially the same problem and reaching very different solutions or proposing very different solutions. You also had noise within each country
because there was a lot of essentially random variability and instructions. You had, in that case, even noise in the science that is that scientists
did not perfectly agree in making their judgments and their recommendations.
So, in the pandemic, we have seen a great deal of noise.
GOLODRYGA: And what about just sticking with the pandemic and the science. Let's delve further and sort of the A.I. of it all because the vaccines
have proved to be an enormous success, overall. I think that is not debatable. In particular the three that are most commonly used and approved
here in the United States.
But we saw what happened when one vaccine, when Johnson and Johnson, there were a handful of cases out of the millions of doses that were
administered, that caused -- the vaccine -- and that particular maker to pause that vaccine. That was a drastic decision as opposed to some of the
other terrible decisions made on a human level, even from leadership around the world.
Why go to such a drastic route in terms of a vaccine versus all of the other decisions?
KAHNEMAN: Well, you know, if you think about two ideas, somebody dying from a disease, say COVID, or somebody dying from a vaccine. Then one of
these is much, much more shocking than the other. And we really -- it is not 1 to 1 that you save one life and you kill one person. You have to save
many, many, many more lives than you lose in order for a vaccine to be acceptable. And in fact, it's almost -- death from vaccines are almost
unacceptable to the public.
Now, in rational terms, you should be able to -- society has to accept some risks, some nonzero risk. Eliminating the risk completely is not rational
because eliminating the risk of vaccines completely mean that many people will die from the disease. So, some balance must be found. But all of us
have that reaction that the vaccine is somehow -- we hate the idea of the vaccine killing people more than we hate the idea of people dying from the
It is the same thing with self-driving cars. When death from -- when a self-driving car causes an accident, we are much more shocked than we are
shocked by the idea of a driver making a mistake and causing an accident. So, in general, we are much more severe with algorithms.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. We are much more forgiving of human mistakes and errors than algorithmic. And yet, you seem to be optimistic about A.I. in the
future. Your work continues and thank goodness, because we need it. Are we going to be able to eliminate all noise in the future with the focus on
KAHNEMAN: Well, certainly not. But in any area where A.I. is accepted, then it will eliminate noise because the characteristic of algorithms is
that when you give them the same problem on two occasions, they generally come up with exactly the same answer. This is not true of people. So,
algorithm or noise free, it's a big advantage, relative to human judgment.
And in some domains, this is already occurring and it's going to spread. Clearly, there is going to be more A.I. and more algorithms in our lives
but it's not going to happen immediately. There are decades of development that -- where judgement -- human judgment is going to be crucial and needs
to be improved. So, our focus is reducing noise in human judgment not on replacing judgment by algorithms.
GOLODRYGA: Can the two coexist in a constructive manner decades ahead?
KAHNEMAN: Oh, I don't have a crystal ball. It's a very complicated situation. And whether humans and algorithms can really help each other or
whether, you know, it's an unstable relationship as it was in the domain of chess playing, for example. There was a period where the best combination
were top chess players helped by algorithms. But today, there are algorithms that beat the world champion essentially consistently. So, that
development, it's impossible to tell. But it's not going to be easy.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. Garry Kasparov, finally, after years was able to swallow and acknowledge that as well. But I do have to say, Daniel Kahneman, it is
just more interesting and exciting talking to you than it is to a machine. So, I look forward to many more conversations with you and many more
insightful books that we can learn from, from you as well. Thank you so much.
KAHNEMAN: Thank you. Bye-bye.
GOLODRYGA: Bye-bye. Well, now, to the new stage of the U.S. battle against the coronavirus. Last week, the CDC stunned the country announcing that
fully vaccinated people could ditch face masks. It's something that left a lot of Americans feeling uneasy. But our next guest, a professor in
medical, Dr. Monica Gandhi, explains why there is no reason to panic. Here she is digging into her science with our Hari Sreenivasan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Bianna, thanks. Dr. Gandhi, thanks for joining us.
You know, you have been one of the proponents of mask wearing for the bulk of this pandemic. If anybody follows your Twitter feed, they know that you
amplified the research on this, you talk about this. And now, you had recent op-ed in "The Washington Post" that said, you know what, people who
are vaccinated don't need it. How come?
MONICA GANDHI, PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE, UCSH/SAN FRANCISCO GENERAL HOSPITAL: You know, it may not have been messaged that well in the press briefing.
But really, that knowledge that we don't need mask after mass vaccination is based on a number of real-world effectiveness studies that came out
since the clinical trials about how well the vaccines work.
I think the vaccine clinical trials is so very December 2020 because right now, we have study after study that shows how incredibly effective these
vaccines are in the real-world. Some of the studies cited in the guidance were a May 6th publication from JAMA, from health care workers in Israel
that showed an effectiveness of 97 percent.
A study in Qatar, from The New England Journal, even despite variants, the effectiveness of these vaccines are unfazed at about 98 percent. And then
studies from the CDC in older individuals, that even when you're older, your immune response works really well and hospitalizations were completely
prevented by 95 percent.
So, a lot of -- and that was despite circulating virus. So, a lot of incredible real-world effectiveness, they also cited something really
important in this step, we keep track of breakthrough infections. And there's very rare that you get ill from breakthrough infections after
you've been vaccinated, one in a million.
So, it's that effectiveness plus all the data blocking transmission that the vaccines do. I always thought biologically that happened actually, but
again, study after study, they cited about three that shows promise (ph) in getting even asymptomatic infection in your nose. And if you have very
little virus in your nose, you can't pass it onto others. We haven't seen effectively too much transmission after vaccination.
So, putting all that data together, it sounds that a vaccinated person doesn't have to wear masks inside or out. But, you know, it was abrupt.
SREENIVASAN: Yes. That abruptness, let's talk a little bit about that. I mean, it seems the messaging has been the challenge here because so many
people have been clinging to the words of what the CDC suggests. And yet, when they said, vaccinated people don't have to wear masks, there was still
a lot of fear. I mean, it is -- I walk around in my neighborhood here and say 90 percent plus are masked.
GANDHI: Yes. I mean, I think there are two reasons for that. One that we didn't do -- I think people are doing a good job all along by saying how
well things were going. So, that it suddenly seemed like a reverse -- like a complete about face.
So, starting from April 14th, when the country in the U.S. hit a 40 percent first vaccination rate, cases started plummeting. And I mean, Michigan,
Minnesota, everywhere. Places that were giving us fear as we were rolling out the vaccines and cases were still going up. Everything went down.
Hospitalizations actually were reducing before April 14th and subsequently deaths because these vaccines were being given out to older individuals
first. And because of that, they were more likely to get sick.
So, severe illness had already decreased, April 14th cases started plummeting. We are at the lowest case rate that we've ever been, below
30,000 across the entire country. And if that had been messaged more effectively before coming out, hey, we're doing great. Keep on going.
This is really incredible, what cases and hospitalizations and desks are doing, let's get to the point where we can really feel confident. Instead,
what happened is there was like, this is really scary. Do your part to stop the spread. We are not out of the woods yet. This is super, you know,
concerning. Many Americans have not been vaccinated.
And then suddenly, May 13th, hey, we are doing great and you can take off your mask. It was abrupt. That's a messaging problem. That actually has
nothing to do with science. That's how we communicate in public health.
And then the second reason is, frankly, mask wearing became linked with a political identity which has nothing to do with its biological purpose.
SREENIVASAN: Is there any harm here in wearing masks for the foresee foreseeable future? Is there sort of an unintended consequence?
GANDHI: My concern about harm is that it messages, if a lot of people are still wearing masks after vaccination and the cases are very low. It
messages an abnormality. It messages that we're not back to normal. It messages that we didn't have this incredible fortune of having these
vaccines in this rich country that got our cases so low. And it messages that there is danger.
And I'm concerned that that message that there's still danger can lead to schools being abnormal in the fall for our children who have, frankly, the
risk -- much lower risk for severe disease, but they have been out of school because of more concerns for adults over the last year. So, I'm
concerned that that message is fear that can make parents fearful.
The second thing is that actually the best thing we can do for any virus that causes symptoms, and that's why you're sick, which is influenza and
colds, is stay home when you feel unwell. How many of us have gone to work when we don't feel well before the COVID-19 pandemic? That's the -- it's
called syndromic surveillance, but that's the best way to prevent an infection that's symptomatic from spreading.
And then the third is, there are mental health effects of the mask in the sense that it's -- I think we are looking forward to seeing faces.
President Biden said, we're going to see each other's smile again. I thought that was really moving when he said that on May 13th when he
messaged the guidance after the White House task force guidance. There is something to be said for seeing each other.
And then the fourth reason is actually -- I know it's really hard to remember this now, but we actually need some exposure to pathogens for our
microbiome. There's the NIH Microbiome Project. And the more -- you do need a little mild exposure to pathogens to keep your microbiome healthy and
SREENIVASAN: You know, one of the things that was different about how this message came out was, for so long during this pandemic, we were taught to
think about our particular communities and the spread of the virus or even the vaccination rates, but this was just kind of a blanket guidance, right?
So, what you are experiencing in California might be very different from what I'm experience here. But yet, the guidance is national.
GANDHI: Yes. I think this is a great point. So, prior to the CDC releasing this new guidance, my idea -- and I actually wrote a lot of people with
this idea, is that it would be more based on case rates in your community when you lifted masks for everybody. So that the how to -- it's really a
simple way to think of it. The vaccinated are protected by their vaccine status. And the unvaccinated, like children, are protected by low case
rates in the community like it was 2019.
So, right now, in the City of San Francisco, there are so few cases of COVID of children who are unvaccinated, they are protected by the community
case rate. But -- and so, there could have been a way to link those two metrics together, vaccination rate plus low case rates and a lift for
everybody. And instead, it was distinguishing vaccination rates as if community incidents didn't matter and that confused a lot of people as
SREENIVASAN: Given the vaccination rates nationally where they are, is it likely that we will see another surge or, again, back down to the community
level of community, specifically somewhere in America only has a 20 percent or 30 percent vaccination rates. Is there a chance that there could be
another variant that sneaks in or whatever, another surge is likely there versus an area like where I'm at or maybe it's above 50 percent that are
vaccinated has less of a chance?
GANDHI: I think that is a great question. So, I've been thinking of these things called inflection points and -- or least, that's what I call them. I
think some people call them tipping points. But it seems at 40 percent, if you didn't have a lot of immunity in your population before, that would be
like Israel who didn't have a lot of immunity but U.K. had more immunity. That would be like Michigan who didn't have as much national immunity as
At 40 percent, it seemed like cases started coming down. And then at 60 percent, first vaccination rate. And it's really important to say first
vaccination rate because there's the debate about, you know, if we could have made the extension more between first and second doses. It seems that
whatever you do at 60 percent first vaccination rate, it is hard to get cases to go up.
What do I mean by that? Liverpool -- U.K. in Lliverpool, you know, had a nightclub of 3,000 people maskless and sweaty on a dance floor as an
experiment. It was on May 5th. And then they watched cases. Cases didn't go up because they had passed that kind of magical first vaccination rate.
Actually, the U.S. passed that rate yesterday, 60 percent of Americans are first dose vaccinated.
But as you say, some areas are 43 percent and some areas are 80 percent. And like -- well, close to 80 percent in San Francisco. So, that's making
the average 60 percent. So, do I think we will have a surge in winter? I think it is only possible in places that stubbornly don't get to that 60
percent first vaccination rate. And do I think there will be places like that?
Not if we message right. I mean, actually, I think the "New York Times" did a good job yesterday with a very judgmental title actually saying, these
are the people holding you back. But instead -- regardless of the title, there was a really good example of what are the barriers to being
And one was pure logistics. If your job won't give you two hours off and you just lost pay, you're not going to go and get your vaccine. You don't
have time. So, logistics, compassion at messaging. We still have 1.5 million doses being given out in the United States a day. I think we're
going to get to the 60 percent first dose.
SREENIVASAN: Recently, there were a few stories about several New York Yankees that had breakthrough infections. And depending on who you listen
to, people were scared that, oh, my gosh. They got this vaccine but here they are still getting COVID. And other people were positive saying, you
know what, they are not in the hospital, they're not dead, which is the point of vaccines.
GANDHI: Yes. Actually, that was amazing because it sort of came out the same day as the CDC guidelines that you could take off your mask and that
cognitive desinence was difficult. So, I actually have another take on that that's a little different from what you just said but it's along the second
lines. So, eight members, I think there were staff as well of the team had COVID-19 in their nose, PCR testing and seven of the eight were
And they had been vaccinated with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine because it was kind of one and done. So, it was easy and then they could go back to
play. And two things. One is that what you just said is really important that having asymptomatic infection in your nose after vaccination if a very
different situation than before vaccination because before vaccination, the problem was that you could still have high viral loads in your nose and
spread it to others.
In fact, it was the Achilles' heel of this virus, why it spread so fast. But you could feel well and still have high viral loads in your nose. There
are now four papers that show your virus in your nose, your viral load in your nose is so low, if you are asymptomatic after vaccination, that you
are unlikely to be able to spread it to other people based on that kind of PCR testing cycle thresholds, for example.
And so, those asymptomatic infections, I think, are actually the vaccines working in the sense that you have IgG, which is an antibody, IgA, which is
(INAUDIBLE) antibody, T cells in your nose that are all generated by the vaccine, they swoop in and they get that infection, they bring your viral
loads low. You stay well and you can't transmit. So, I think that can be a success, which is why we are not asking people to test if they are
asymptomatic after vaccination in this country and why we're tracking symptomatic breakthroughs but not asymptomatic breakthroughs.
Second reason though, I just want to add, is Johnson and Johnson, if you look back at the clinical trials, what we call the phase 1, 2 trials where
they were mentioning immune responses, this was in "The New England Journal" in December. Actually, the immune response did not reach its peak
until 60 days after you have gotten the first dose vaccine.
And between two and four weeks -- at two weeks, it wasn't great, but at four weeks, it was better. So, I actually advised people to not feel that
they are totally safe after Johnson and Johnson until four weeks after that shot, not two weeks.
SREENIVASAN: Speaking of letting people run around, this is the question on every parent's mind right now, thinking about summer camps and thinking
about school in the fall, where are we at in understanding the risk to children of getting COVID, of them being hospitalized, of them transmitting
it to other children and what should parents be thinking about?
GANDHI: We wrote a commentary yesterday to two papers that were published in hospital pediatrics that showed that even when children got hospitalized
for COVID, you know, we do universal testing in hospitals. We swab everyone's nose for an infection control, principle to help keep staff
safe. And these two papers from California Hospital showed that children were not being hospitalized at the rates we thought they were. Actually,
there's actually a 40 percent overinflation.
Even in the low numbers of hospitalizations where children anyway, when they did careful chart review, it turns out children were just screened
incidentally, had it in their nose but they were in for a broken arm or something else. And so, 40 percent inflation in this children
hospitalization, which I know had made its way into the news that as if children were being more hospitalized for COVID over the last year, which
is not true.
So, number one, they're low risk for severe disease. That is important. They don't transmit as readily as they're young. That is important and
true. It has to do with receptors in your nose, which is true. So, they're less likely to transmit, even among households. And then third, is that
when we look to the summer -- and then one more point, the summer is -- you know, this outdoor transmission data, it's not that it's new, but really,
it's very difficult to get COVID outside.
And, you know, there was quite a bit of argument about this a couple of weeks ago in Congress. But it's very clear that about 1 in 1,000 of most
transmissions look like they occur outside, more like 1 in 7,000 in the best on a study at September 2020 "Lancet" article from Wuhan, China where
they really, really carefully tracked people, 7,324 infections. One linked to outside.
So, unmasking children outside in summer camps is actually completely unrelated to vaccination status. Many of them will the vaccine -- have the
vaccine by then, but they can be unmasked outside during summer camp.
And then finally, when you said, what will the fall going to look like? It depends on the case rate. So, again, a child is protected if the community
transmission is low, which is why I think you have to link everything to case rates. And the U.K. was very smart about this. 3 in 100,000 cases a
day or 21 over a 7-day period, children are safe. Unmasked, undistanced in schools.
SREENIVASAN: So, when we think about this, are there these other mitigation strategies that we should continue with? I mean, when I walk
into a building now, there's a little scanner for my temperature, there's a hand sanitizer everywhere. I mean, obviously, keeping your hands clean
helps you not get the flu as well. But what are the things that we should be continuing to be vigilant about?
GANDHI: So, there have been 22 peer review studies on the lack of any utility of temperature screen. So, we have to get away from that. That's
the entire point of the fact that you can be asymptomatic and still spread. So, that is truly a waste of resources. And I'm hopeful we will stop that.
Plexiglass shields, no utility. This really is a virus that tends to hang in the air and has to do more with that aerosol droplet debate that
plexiglass shields (INAUDIBLE) Harvard has done great work on this, no point.
And then, in terms of hand sanitizer. Great for colds. There's actually only studies with rotavirus, which is gastrointestinal virus and
rhinovirus, which is a cold virus and then influenza virus that washing hands helps, but no utility for coronavirus. So -- because it really is
very easily spread as a respiratory virus. It doesn't hang on surfaces and give people virus that way. We could be shaking hands if we wanted. I know
that's going to be hard to get back to, but we could shake hands and we don't need all that hand sanitizer.
I'm actually worried about the implications for anti-microbial resistance to have that much hand sanitizer out there. So, those three could be
abandoned right now.
SREENIVASAN: Dr. Monica Gandhi from UCSF, thanks so much for joining us.
GANDHI: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: It is such an important conversation to have and it's important to stay safe as we begin to return to normal.
And finally, let's switch gears on a light note. A good one. "What's Going On?" Marvin Gaye's 1971 question to America. Well, it's turning 50 today
and it remains as relevant as ever. The politically charged album was Gaye's efforts to wake people up from the social injustice at the time,
from police brutality, to racism, to environmental destruction. The themes of his album reflect some of the enduring challenges that the world faced
today. "What's Going On?" was an instant classic then, it flew straight to the top of the R&B chart.
And that's it for now. But we're going to leave you with some of that hit track because it's still so relevant today. And on a positive note, people
are talking about it and talk is always better than war. Thanks and have a good weekend.