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From Naked Girls to Windows on the World: A Life in Art

Question: When did you decide to become an artist?

Milton Glaser: I decided to become an artist at the age of five when a cousin of mine came into the house and drew a picture of a horse on a paper bag, and I was so astonished that somebody could replicate life that I said, “That's what I'm going to spend my life doing.” And, of course, that's what happened subsequently. Not so much of drawing horses on the side of bags, but actually making things. I suppose that was the thing that most attracted me about the idea of being an artist.

Question: What was the first design work you were paid for?

Milton Glaser: The first thing I did that I was paid for was, at the age of eight or nine, drawing pictures of naked girls for my classmates for a penny apiece. It was not high paying, but then again it developed my aptitude.

Question: Has your artistic career path surprised you?

Milton Glaser: That's such a complicated question. I don't know exactly what my expectations were when I was living in Bologna. I could say that the only real expectation I had that was meaningful was the opportunity to do good work. And so I didn't know exactly what that path would be when I started. I knew there was such a thing as design as an activity that you could pursue, but what aspect of it I would specifically find myself doing, I really didn't know. And the truth is that throughout my career as a designer I've done all these strange things that, frankly, I did not expect to ever do, like designing restaurants and publications and supermarkets and any number of other things that could not have been anticipated except for the fact that you encountered people who gave you that opportunity.

When I was in Bologna, I was toying with the fact of becoming a graphic artist in the sense of doing prints, [then] I discovered afterwards that the designation "graphic artist" is mostly used now to describe people who do book jackets and album covers and all other things that have only a casual relationship to the world of art. So at the beginning, I didn't have a very clear definition of what I would be doing on a day-to-day basis, but I did have this sense that I wanted to be engaged in activity that would take objects that I saw around me and translate them into some kind of visual equivalent and communicate ideas to people. I know that sounds vague, but that was as specific as I was getting.

Question: How has your work evolved over your career?

Milton Glaser: Well, it's interesting to look at the history of your work. Actually, one of the benefits of being in the world of making things is that you have an accurate record of what it is you've made. And for most of us the past is a mystery. I mean, I know that the mind is extremely unreliable in terms of memory and trying to recall what it is you've already done. If any of us goes back to the house that we lived in, we are astonished [at] the degree to which it has shrunken. The nice thing about a career in the visual arts is there is an accurate record of what you once believed and what you once thought about the world and how you perceived it. I think the most wonderful thing about being in this field is that you can continue to do it for a very long time and that you don't have to do exactly the same thing for a very long time. The opportunities for change and the desirability of change becomes evident over a period of years.

I've been doing this for an awfully long time and the work in some cases is not recognizable from what it was forty or fifty years ago. And one hopes that the change is to become broader and deeper and simpler and more compelling as you go along. I don't want to be immodest, but I think my work has gotten less complex, more direct, and I'm more effective at communicating ideas in a way where they remain potent. My work was also more illustrative, more interested in a particular manifestation of style, and so on, in the early years, and it became less involved with issues of style and more involved with issues of clarity and effectiveness.

Question: What historic art movements have most influenced your work?

Milton Glaser: In terms of art movements. Well, I've been persistent in using the history of art as my basic resource. And my favorite periods are certainly the Viennese Cessation and American Modernism and my attachment to Italy and the Renaissance and Piero della Francesca. And the two poles of my affection and experience and influence are Morandiva, studied with the fantastic show here at the Metropolitan that was profound and deep and incredibly moving. He was a man who wanted nothing. He didn't want women or success or fame or money, and alternately, Picasso, who wanted everything. He wanted all the money, all the fame, all the women. And I find my personality in life bouncing between those two models.

Recorded on: August 27, 2009

Milton Glaser has had one of the most distinguished design careers of any living American artist. He tells Big Think his childhood inspirations and influences and charts his artistic evolution.

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A new hydrogel might be strong enough for knee replacements

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

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  • Duke University researchers created a hydrogel that appears to be as strong and flexible as human cartilage.
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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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