from the world's big
Facebook co-founder: Every middle-class worker should get a $6,000 raise
It's no secret that American income inequality is at its worst point since the gilded age. So how do we stop this rampant inequality?
Chris Hughes is the co-founder of the Economic Security Project, a network of policymakers, academics, and technologists working to end poverty and rebuild the middle class through a guaranteed income. He co-founded Facebook as a student at Harvard and later led Barack Obama's digital organizing campaign for President. Hughes was the owner and publisher of The New Republic magazine from 2012 to 2016. He lives in New York's Greenwich Village with his family.
Chris Hughes: I think the American dream is safe to say if not dead it’s on life support. It’s this idea that if you do well you can get ahead in life and if you have family and kids they can perhaps do a little bit better than you did. And what we know by the numbers is that the median wages in this country hasn’t budged meaningfully in nearly 40 years, and yet the cost of living has increased by some counts by up to 30 percent. So there’s a sense that people are working hard but only a small group of people are getting extremely lucky while everybody else is really staying in place. And I think that we have the power to change that. That’s the key idea that I talk a lot about in the book is that we’ve created an economy that is structured this way we made specific decisions around how to encourage automation, globalization and the rise of finance that have created a small group of very lucky people and we have the power to change it to make sure that economic prosperity is much more broadly shared.
So, when it comes to the position we’re in now I don’t think there was one single moment or one single event that got us here, I think instead it was the collection of a lot of different decisions that begin to be made in the late 1970s and early 1980s and we’ve continued to make, in fact all the way up through, for instance, the end of last year. The tax code is one of the most important things. We’ve consistently lower tax rates on corporations and the one percent while not giving a break to the people who need it the most. At the same time we’ve ushered in an era of globalization, which by all accounts has created economic growth but without fundamental worker protections to make sure that people who are in industries that have moved overseas have been protected. And we’ve also made positive decisions, obviously like investing in the Internet, for instance, which was a government investment initially, which has created the opportunity for companies like Facebook and Google and many others to rise precipitously. But all the fruits of that innovation and of all the positive things that come with that growth have not been evenly distributed. A small group of people are doing extremely well and at the same time as everybody else is trying to make ends meet. And just as we have the power to create the economy in this current configuration, I do believe we have the power to change it.
There has been debate for decades about whether trickle down economics is the way to go. And we can talk a lot about economic theory, but in some ways I don’t think we really have to we can just use a little bit of commerce sense. If you put $100 in the pockets of someone who’s working hard to make ends meet they’re going to spend a lot of that money, most of that money on things like childcare, housing, health care wherever their bills are the highest. You give someone who is in the one percent an extra $100 they might spend one or two, but the vast majority of that money is going to get parked in a bank account and not really become part of the productive economy. One study by the Roosevelt Institute showed that if you provided $500 to every American every month it would increase gross domestic product by about seven points over the next eight years. So this idea is not just about making sure that the wealthy pay their share, it’s also about creating a kind of broad based prosperity that’s good for all Americans, the poor, middle class and wealthy alike.
My belief is that sometimes the best solution is the simplest. We should use cash, cold hard money to empower people to chase their own dreams and to re-energize the American dream. Specifically we should provide $500 to every person who works in America making less than $50,000 to enable them to spend it on what they choose, housing, healthcare, education, gas to go interview for a job. It’s these kinds of decisions that I believe fundamentally the people who are working hard are the best empowered to make. And we can use something called the earned income tax credit, which has been massively popular for decades on the left and on the right, to do this. With a meaningful expansion and modernization of it we could combat income and equality in a way that would make a historic dent in poverty and stabilize the lives of tens of millions of people in the middle class as well.
I think those people who have done the best from this new economy do have a responsibility. They’ve got a chance to climb the economic ladder, many of them also got lucky. Fortune 500 CEOs are some of the hardest working people out there. They also get very lucky. And there’s a responsibility not to pull the ladder up behind them. So in my view we should raise rates on income in excess of $250,000 to the historic average of 50 percent and also close some of the most egregious loopholes in the tax code like the Buffet Rule, which enables Warren Buffett to pay a lower tax rate than his assistant. And if we do those things we can pay for a guaranteed income of $500 a month in the here and now today. I mean the rough cost anybody who says that this idea is too big the rough cost of this over the decade would be just a bit more than the total cost of the Trump tax bill that was passed just a few months ago. So this is eminently affordable if we can develop the political will to organize for it.
It's no secret that American income inequality is at its worst point since the gilded age. To break it down for you, there's a very small yet super-rich class at the top (the 1%), and there's the rest of us (the 99%) who are duking it out in a type of capitalist serfdom. Chris Hughes, a Facebook co-founder, will be the first to tell you that he's a super lucky guy that happened to benefit massively from this system that makes the rich richer and the poor stay the same. He's come with a plan — give $500 a month to every working adult making less than $50,000 a year — to help reinvigorate the American economy and the American dream that we can pull ourselves up. If the American dream is dead, he says, then what are we fighting for in the first place? His fascinating book is Fair Shot: Rethinking Inequality and How We Earn.
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.
Duke University researchers might have solved a half-century old problem.
- 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.
Duke researchers have developed the first gel-based synthetic cartilage with the strength of the real thing. A quarter-sized disc of the material can withstand the weight of a 100-pound kettlebell without tearing or losing its shape.
Photo: Feichen Yang.<p>That's the word from a team in the Department of Chemistry and Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Duke University. Their <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/adfm.202003451" target="_blank">new paper</a>, published in the journal,<em> Advanced Functional Materials</em>, details this exciting evolution of this frustrating joint.<br></p><p>Researchers have sought materials strong and versatile enough to repair a knee since at least the seventies. This new hydrogel, comprised of three polymers, might be it. When two of the polymers are stretched, a third keeps the entire structure intact. When pulled 100,000 times, the cartilage held up as well as materials used in bone implants. The team also rubbed the hydrogel against natural cartilage a million times and found it to be as wear-resistant as the real thing. </p><p>The hydrogel has the appearance of Jell-O and is comprised of 60 percent water. Co-author, Feichen Yang, <a href="https://today.duke.edu/2020/06/lab-first-cartilage-mimicking-gel-strong-enough-knees" target="_blank">says</a> this network of polymers is particularly durable: "Only this combination of all three components is both flexible and stiff and therefore strong." </p><p> As with any new material, a lot of testing must be conducted. They don't foresee this hydrogel being implanted into human bodies for at least three years. The next step is to test it out in sheep. </p><p>Still, this is an exciting step forward in the rehabilitation of one of our trickiest joints. Given the potential reward, the wait is worth it. </p><p><span></span>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
What would it be like to experience the 4th dimension?
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.
An algorithm may allow doctors to assess PTSD candidates for early intervention after traumatic ER visits.
- 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
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.
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.