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Convincing Jay-Z to Wear Timbs Again

Question: How did Timberlands become synonymous with hip hop?

Jeff Swartz: We didn’t know what hip-hop was, what it meant or what it represented and so after the fact. I mean long after the train left the station where people said to us you know young people are wearing the boots. We thought yeah, the young Con Edison guy. No, no, no, 16, 18 year-old kids are wearing the boot as a fashion statement. They’re not lacing it up. What do you mean they’re not? Their feet will get wet if they don’t lace up their boot. I mean I don’t mean to sound like I fell off a turnip truck, but I’m telling you until 1994, ’95 we had no idea. Now I’m not proud of that. I’m just telling you the truth.

How did that consumer decide our brand was valuable? The postmortem says you showed respect because you were in the neighborhoods where we live and work. You made a product without compromise meaning it was tougher than the rest as the Bruce Springsteen song goes and you did fine until you decided you were cool. When you decided you were cool now we’re… We are now an element of hip-hop culture and so now we have to add colors and fancy styles and the consumer said back, “If we wanted colors and styles we wouldn’t have bought you in the first place.” “Stop doing this.” We said, “It’s working.” Our sales were way up and we were rocking and rolling and we were believing that we were cool and the truth is the only thing that isn’t cool is when you try to be, so I’m told. When we were authentically who we are, we make the best damn boot in the whole world. We guarantee it for life and it won’t disappoint you, consumer came to us and said, “That’s respectful and we appreciate it, but if you want to make it cool hey look, look in the mirror.” “That isn’t you.” And we didn’t listen and the last five years has been that cycle of boom and now bust against that consumer, not against that consumer in terms of values, meaning the hip-hop consumer as best I understand it continues to believe in the authentic things we do. They just were put off by our attempt to be topical and cool.

Question: Jay-Z says Timbs are out. Can you win him back?

Jeff Swartz: Now I don’t know about Jay-Z, Mr. Shawn Carter. I don’t know what it would take to get him to wear a pair of Timberland boots again. I don’t know if he wants to. I don’t know what it would do for our brand if he did. He is a very influential guy, but the truth is that’s never been our strategy. Our strategy has been about put your head down and make something so good that they got to have it. Who is they? Well, we think about different consumers all time, men, women, children. Would we like to do business with the hip-hop consumer? Boy, young people with the energy of that movement, music and culture they’re a deeply important part of the fashion scene and we’re going to work humbly and hard to earn their trust.

Recorded on September 21, 2009

Timberland CEO Jeff Swartz didn’t try to win the acceptance of the hip hop generation; it just happened. And now he might be losing them.

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.

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  • 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?

Two different experiments show hints of a 4th spatial dimension. Credit: Zilberberg Group / ETH Zürich
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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.

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