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Kishore Mahbubani: Economic Progress, But No Human Rights

Question: How do you account for a lack of progress in human rights?

Kishore Mahbubani: : Well, I think it is good live in a world where we acknowledge that we are all imperfect, rather live in a world where one side says we are perfect and you are imperfect. Certainly China, Singapore and other societies have a some way to go in moving forward, but the critical question is what direction are they moving in? Take China, for example. If you look at it from the viewpoint of a Chinese citizen, the last 150 years before the full modernizations began were among the worst 150 years of Chinese history. The British came in the 1840s and said, “we want to buy your tea, please accept our opium in return” and the Chinese said “no, we don’t want your opium.” The British bombarded there ports, seized the Hong Kong and insisted that the Chinese accept opium in return. Now, if you are going through those kinds of humiliations, you have gone through the invasion by Japan, you’ve seen civil war, you’ve seen famine, to go through a period of 30 years by a complete peace, where every year, your living standard improves dramatically and the most amazing statistic in my book was the one given to me by Larry Summers, where he said that in the western industrial revolution, where you saw this significant improvement in standard of living, you could see an improvement in one life time of 50%. Now in Asia you are not seeing an improvement of 50%, not 100%, not 200%, but 10,000%, and that’s a remarkable transformation. So hundreds of millions of Chinese families who struggled to find food, who struggled to find shelter, who never dreamt of sending children to school, guess what? They can do all these things and China by the way the only reason why the United Nations is going to meet its millennium development goal of halving global poverty is because China has reduced the number of people living on less than a dollar a day from 600 million to 200 million: 400 million people, larger than the population of United States, larger than the population of Europe, has suddenly been lifted up. Now, that is a remarkable improvement in the sense of human freedom than you have. So, if you tell these 400 million people, “how come you don’t have democracy here?” Well, it will come. Give us time. In the case of United States right, you greed on the principle of the equality of man in 1770s. It took you almost years to get your slavery after accepting the principle of equality of men. It took you 150 years to give the women right to vote, and it took you almost 200 years to finally give the blacks effectively the right to vote. Come on. If the United States took 200 years right to establish a real democracy, how do you expect China which is a much larger, much older society to transform itself overnight? It’s very unrealistic, but as long as China is moving in the right direction we should welcoming it, because you can see this progressively as China will have the largest middle class of any society by 2030, in which you have 60 million people in the middle class and these 360 million middle class citizens will want to have exactly the kind of open society that United State and Europe has. So, it’s coming. Give it time.


Give Asia time, Mahbubani says. Progress is coming.

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.

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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

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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.