Truth Decay, School Lunch Nutrition, Regulating Space: RAND Weekly Recap


RAND Weekly Recap

May 13, 2022

This week, we discuss the Truth Decay phenomenon and how to stop it; what civilian technology professionals think about military applications of artificial intelligence; the link between school lunch nutrition standards and childhood obesity; supporting veterans with invisible wounds; why focusing so much on preventing escalation in Ukraine might be counterproductive; and a new approach to regulating space activity.

Image by Stink Studios

It's Time to Tackle Truth Decay

Over the last two decades, Americans have been disagreeing more and more about basic facts. This trend is part of Truth Decay, a phenomenon that has led to the erosion of civil discourse, caused political gridlock, and created a climate of uncertainty about what's true and what isn't.

RAND has been studying Truth Decay since 2017, and this week we launched a public information campaign to help people understand how it works and what can be done to stop it.

Want to do your part? Here are some tips:

  • Consume information with intention. Consider biases, seek out different perspectives, and think critically about what you're reading, watching, or listening to.
  • Produce and share information responsibly. Carefully evaluate accounts, articles, and sources that you choose to elevate. If you do share something that you find out is false, correct it.
  • Hold friends and family accountable. If someone is sharing information that's false or misleading, push back.
  • Get offline and engage. Take your conversations out of the comments section and attempt to build bridges with people who disagree with you.
A Flight Commander Course student interacts with artificial intelligence in a live simulation on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, September 27, 2019, images by A1C Ariel Owings/U.S. Air Force and Jamesteohart/Adobe Stock; design by Carol Ponce/RAND Corporation

A student during an AI-enabled simulation on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, September 27, 2019

Images by A1C Ariel Owings/U.S. Air Force and Jamesteohart/Adobe Stock; design by Carol Ponce/RAND Corporation

How Tech Experts View the Military's Use of Artificial Intelligence

RAND researchers recently asked a group of software engineers and other technical staff to consider a variety of scenarios describing how the U.S. military might employ artificial intelligence. The scenarios ranged from using AI to control lethal activities on the battlefield to back-office activities far removed from any potential use of force. Overall, it appears that most civilian experts do not oppose the use of AI for many military applications. As the study's lead author James Ryseff put it on Twitter, they don't “oppose their companies being involved in 'the business of war.'”

School cafeteria workers serving healthy lunches to children, photo by SDI Productions/Getty Images

Photo by SDI Productions/Getty Images

School Lunch Nutrition Standards and Obesity Among Low-Income Students

School meals are a critical source of nutrients for low-income children, but a growing body of evidence suggests that, prior to 2010, they may have contributed to childhood obesity. According to a new RAND study, stronger nutritional requirements adopted in 2012 may be helping. The findings show that healthier nutritional standards were linked to less weight gain among elementary students who receive free or reduced-price lunches.

Scholars of the Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program with Lisa Hallett, cofounder of "wear blue: run to remember," a nonprofit running community that honors the service and sacrifice of the U.S. military, August 2019, photo by Grant Miller/Bush Institute

Scholars of the Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program with Lisa Hallett, cofounder of “wear blue: run to remember,” a nonprofit running community that honors veterans, August 2019

Photo by Bush Institute/Grant Miller

Supporting Veterans with Invisible Wounds

Posttraumatic stress disorder. Depression. Traumatic brain injury. These and other “invisible wounds” are common among post-9/11 veterans. And even though there are effective treatments available, many veterans don't receive the care they need. That's why RAND researchers, in collaboration with the Veteran Wellness Alliance, developed 10 quality standards for treating invisible wounds. They focus on providing care that is veteran-centered, accessible, evidence-based, and measurable.

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on arming Ukraine, after touring a Lockheed Martin weapons factory in Troy, Alabama, May 3, 2022, photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on arming Ukraine in Troy, Alabama, May 3, 2022

Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

The Escalation Fixation

The phrase “world war” has been dangerously overused in recent weeks, says RAND's Raphael Cohen. In theory, warnings about Russia's war in Ukraine escalating into global conflict are meant to encourage more-prudent policymaking. But in practice, he says, the focus on preventing escalation may have slowed Western aid to Ukraine and made the international security picture more precarious. Cohen suggests a different strategy to prevent a future world war: focus on defeating Russia.

Illustration of astronauts on a space colony unloading boxes from a spaceship, photo by CSA-Printstock/Getty Images

Photo by CSA-Printstock/Getty Images

A New Way to Think About Space Regulation

From the risk of satellite collisions to growing concerns about extraterrestrial conflict, outer space is getting increasingly dangerous. As a result, regulating space activity is more important than ever. RAND experts say that now is the time to make the rules for space. If regulations are put in place before any one nation, company, or stakeholder has too much skin in the game, then there is a greater chance of maximizing fairness and justice for all.

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