David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
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How to be a better listener: Attention, context, urgency

Colonel Chris Hadfield talks to us about the formalities that astronauts have to use, and how it can help us here on earth.

Chris Hadfield: I’m certain my wife would not agree that I have good listening skills. It’s human nature: you get preoccupied with your own thoughts, and when I’m busy thinking about something I don’t hear very well, because my brain is sort of already engaged and I don’t necessarily turn noise into a cogent-enough thought that it gets in and I actually acknowledge what somebody is saying—so I’m just as guilty as anyone of not being a good listener.

I think in order to overcome that you have to deliberately listen, and not just to the words, not just the text, but what was the reason behind the text? What do those words mean culturally? How did the person say them and why? Why did they say them now? What’s the sense of urgency? What is the actual message they’re trying to get across? And so, of course, the best way to verify all that is to engage in discussion. Repeat back what you think you heard.

A really clinical example is where Mission Control is calling up something important to the spaceship and we know that communication is lousy—there’s little tiny speakers and it’s radios and it’s clipped and it’s digitized, and so we can’t just count on everybody immediately understanding and having good listening skills.

So we have like, “Houston, station.” “Station, Houston, I’m listening.”

“Okay Houston what I wanted to talk to you about was—whatever—the carbon dioxide removal equipment, and there’s a problem with the CDRA today and I’m in the checklist on page 221 part B, let me know when you’re there.” “Okay. All right. I’m open to that page now. Go ahead.”

So think about how that communication is happening. You’ve gotten their attention, they’ve told you “okay you have my attention” and “now this is the thing I’m talking about are you on the same page as me?” “Yes. I am on the same page as you.” “Okay. Now that both of us are on the same page now let’s actually discuss why we’re trying to accomplish this thing. What are the details? What do we need to know? What do you know that I don’t know?” And then come to a mutual conclusion of “Okay this is what I’m going to do.” “Yep I agree that’s what you’re going to do.”

It’s so incredibly formalized: we’re talking with the ground, but it’s a microcosm of a regular conversation between any two people, we just maybe aren’t quite as rigorous about it. But I think you should keep that in mind, if you’re trying to be a good listener, picture how the ground listens to a spaceship and try and be that person. Truly give them your attention. Try and get on the same page. Question, have a conversation. Make sure you understand the intent. Repeat it back. And then get your actions verified after you do them. And if you can manage to do all those things, even quickly, then I think you have the best chance of being a good communicator—and more importantly, a good listener.

  • How do you not just listen but be a good listener?
  • You need to focus on why someone is saying what they do.
  • The formalized communication of NASA is a microcosm of a regular conversation between any two people.

Colonel Chris Hadfield knows that excellent communication is of utmost importance when you're an astronaut floating in space, and half of good communication is good listening.

Does conscious AI deserve rights?

If machines develop consciousness, or if we manage to give it to them, the human-robot dynamic will forever be different.

  • Does AI—and, more specifically, conscious AI—deserve moral rights? In this thought exploration, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, ethics and tech professor Joanna Bryson, philosopher and cognitive scientist Susan Schneider, physicist Max Tegmark, philosopher Peter Singer, and bioethicist Glenn Cohen all weigh in on the question of AI rights.
  • Given the grave tragedy of slavery throughout human history, philosophers and technologists must answer this question ahead of technological development to avoid humanity creating a slave class of conscious beings.
  • One potential safeguard against that? Regulation. Once we define the context in which AI requires rights, the simplest solution may be to not build that thing.

A new hydrogel might be strong enough for knee replacements

Duke University researchers might have solved a half-century old problem.

Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images
Technology & Innovation
  • Duke University researchers created a hydrogel that appears to be as strong and flexible as human cartilage.
  • The blend of three polymers provides enough flexibility and durability to mimic the knee.
  • The next step is to test this hydrogel in sheep; human use can take at least three years.
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Hints of the 4th dimension have been detected by physicists

What would it be like to experience the 4th dimension?

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Technology & Innovation

Physicists have understood at least theoretically, that there may be higher dimensions, besides our normal three. The first clue came in 1905 when Einstein developed his theory of special relativity. Of course, by dimensions we’re talking about length, width, and height. Generally speaking, when we talk about a fourth dimension, it’s considered space-time. But here, physicists mean a spatial dimension beyond the normal three, not a parallel universe, as such dimensions are mistaken for in popular sci-fi shows.

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Predicting PTSD symptoms becomes possible with a new test

An algorithm may allow doctors to assess PTSD candidates for early intervention after traumatic ER visits.

Image source: camillo jimenez/Unsplash
Technology & Innovation
  • 10-15% of people visiting emergency rooms eventually develop symptoms of long-lasting PTSD.
  • Early treatment is available but there's been no way to tell who needs it.
  • Using clinical data already being collected, machine learning can identify who's at risk.

The psychological scars a traumatic experience can leave behind may have a more profound effect on a person than the original traumatic experience. Long after an acute emergency is resolved, victims of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) continue to suffer its consequences.

In the U.S. some 30 million patients are annually treated in emergency departments (EDs) for a range of traumatic injuries. Add to that urgent admissions to the ED with the onset of COVID-19 symptoms. Health experts predict that some 10 percent to 15 percent of these people will develop long-lasting PTSD within a year of the initial incident. While there are interventions that can help individuals avoid PTSD, there's been no reliable way to identify those most likely to need it.

That may now have changed. A multi-disciplinary team of researchers has developed a method for predicting who is most likely to develop PTSD after a traumatic emergency-room experience. Their study is published in the journal Nature Medicine.

70 data points and machine learning

nurse wrapping patient's arm

Image source: Creators Collective/Unsplash

Study lead author Katharina Schultebraucks of Columbia University's Department Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons says:

"For many trauma patients, the ED visit is often their sole contact with the health care system. The time immediately after a traumatic injury is a critical window for identifying people at risk for PTSD and arranging appropriate follow-up treatment. The earlier we can treat those at risk, the better the likely outcomes."

The new PTSD test uses machine learning and 70 clinical data points plus a clinical stress-level assessment to develop a PTSD score for an individual that identifies their risk of acquiring the condition.

Among the 70 data points are stress hormone levels, inflammatory signals, high blood pressure, and an anxiety-level assessment. Says Schultebraucks, "We selected measures that are routinely collected in the ED and logged in the electronic medical record, plus answers to a few short questions about the psychological stress response. The idea was to create a tool that would be universally available and would add little burden to ED personnel."

Researchers used data from adult trauma survivors in Atlanta, Georgia (377 individuals) and New York City (221 individuals) to test their system.

Of this cohort, 90 percent of those predicted to be at high risk developed long-lasting PTSD symptoms within a year of the initial traumatic event — just 5 percent of people who never developed PTSD symptoms had been erroneously identified as being at risk.

On the other side of the coin, 29 percent of individuals were 'false negatives," tagged by the algorithm as not being at risk of PTSD, but then developing symptoms.

Going forward

person leaning their head on another's shoulder

Image source: Külli Kittus/Unsplash

Schultebraucks looks forward to more testing as the researchers continue to refine their algorithm and to instill confidence in the approach among ED clinicians: "Because previous models for predicting PTSD risk have not been validated in independent samples like our model, they haven't been adopted in clinical practice." She expects that, "Testing and validation of our model in larger samples will be necessary for the algorithm to be ready-to-use in the general population."

"Currently only 7% of level-1 trauma centers routinely screen for PTSD," notes Schultebraucks. "We hope that the algorithm will provide ED clinicians with a rapid, automatic readout that they could use for discharge planning and the prevention of PTSD." She envisions the algorithm being implemented in the future as a feature of electronic medical records.

The researchers also plan to test their algorithm at predicting PTSD in people whose traumatic experiences come in the form of health events such as heart attacks and strokes, as opposed to visits to the emergency department.