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Jason Silva Weighs in on Good Web Content

Question: How do you encourage people to use the Internet for intelligent content?

Jason Silva: Our head of programming, David Newman who in very many ways has become a mentor, to us, he used to say and I love this, "The high road is wide open, the low road is crowded." Because we were the last independent cable network in a world of media conglomerates I think it freed us to seek exceptionality in a way that others perhaps governed by the bottom line couldn't do it. We could start from scratch and therefore that allowed for a space of elevating the conversation. I also think the people were hungry for that. I think reality television has fried some people's brains and I think people were ready for something of more significance for real conversation about this global enterprise.

It's very progressive, people that really are socially conscientious about things that matter to them, and you get a lot of green eco, sort of renewable energy, type of content, people exploring these things, a lot of stuff on politics, unique perspectives on politics around the world, a lot of stuff from the Middle East. I remember a piece of content for example that, you know, one of the very first piece of contents that ever aired on Current was this piece about underground parties seen in Tehran in Iran where this filmmaker, Yazmin showcased how kids have to party in secret hiding from their religious police ‘cause it's very much a theocracy so it's kinda like the religious values are enforced onto people. So you can't drink, you can't party, you can't really... and so it had to be done in hiding.

So here is something that you don't really see... hear about in CNN where you're talking about all these crazy, you know, nuclear, the possibility of nuclear proliferation there, things like that. But here you're seeing like regular kids just trying to have a good time and they're being forced to do it underground. I think it kinda, it reaches people in that demographic here in the States. I think also seeing the election of Obama, I think you've seen a generation of people that are empowered and feel empowered and want to have a say in the world. And I think that that has risen up from the ashes of crap that has been on a lot of television recently.

Question: Do people prefer to consume low-brow content?

Jason Silva: We try to cover the world of young adults and their voice, and from their point of view we tried to do so in a bold and reverend fashion. We don't dump things down for our audience. In fact, even the stuff that is hilarious on the network is jhighly intelligent. We have an animated series called Super News which kind of mocks pop culture in a brilliant fashion.

We have a show that's sort of a comic indictment of the media called Infomania which also is very clever. I mean I mean I think that You can appeal to mass consciousness and pop culture. I mean it doesn't have to be high brow subject matter but it can be tackled even if it's low brow subject matter or mainstream subject matter.

We did an hour, a secular hour exploration of religion and spirituality. You know, if you saw the recent cover of Newsweek it says, the end of Christian America as far as its influence on politics in many ways, which I think is a very good thing. I think religion has no place in politics and so we did an exploration of the way that some people in different religious communities are trying to reach out to larger and larger groups that are no longer identifying themselves of any religion.

Me and Max always liked to have a spirited intellectual discussion if possible, but do so in a way that's fun and natural, and real, and it's the same that we would be having if we were having a cocktail at the bar.

Recorded on: April 14, 2009

The Obama generation demands smarter online material.

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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
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  • 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.