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Redefine Your Limits by Being Honest With Yourself

Do you retreat from your ambitions out of fear? Self-preservation isn't doing you any favors, says Kyle Maynard. Confront your excuses and live more honestly.

Kyle Maynard: What is one big excuse that you could take on right now, today, and do something about? If you started there what would your life look like in 30 days? What would it look like a year from today? What would it look like five years from today? 

And if we took on some of our bigger excuses, can you imagine what would happen inside of even just New York alone, if you had one percent of the population that took on their biggest excuse, what the creative generative effect of that would bring?

Frankly our brain is hardwired to survival, and because of that our brain with any fear that we have or any justification that we make as to why we do something or not do something, I believe a lot of those answers come back to survival.  And there's usually a positive intention behind some of the excuses that we go and make, maybe even preservation of our own energy or preservation of self. There's a lot of times where fears are good, rational fears, and there's a good intention behind them; it's just uncovering that and kind of unpacking it, and seeing what's really going on there. 

I think for starters I think some of the excuses I make come to mind, in terms of common excuses: I don't have enough time; I'm too busy; I've got too much on my plate; I’m too young; I don't have enough money or… too much money? — I don't know if that's really an excuse, but there's a million: “I’m not good enough…” 

But I think it's really actually the more creative excuses, the ones that are a little bit more sneaky and insidious, the ones where we can convince ourselves that they're good reasons. So a lot of times if I don't want to compete in something or I feel like I'm not going to win or whatever, I’ve got some type of fear of failure, then I'll make a really creative excuse.  

We make thousands of justifications I think probably, a week. Excuses to me are a mountain, and there's no end to the trail, there's no summit to it. We're never going to arrive at a point where we're completely free of our excuses. But I think the idea is just have a little bit more awareness around some of the bigger ones. 

I think it starts with telling the truth to yourself about something. Right? I believe that the extent to which you can tell the truth to yourself about whatever excuses you're making is the extent to which you can be free from it. You have to start there.  

I love the spirit of the message of, for instance, of saying something like, “Anything is possible,” but I don't actually believe it. Anything is maybe possible in the future, but at this moment in time I'm not going to go and bench press 10,000 pounds; at this moment in time we aren't going to go and colonize Mars. So you've got these bigger society wide excuses that we make as human beings. You've got individual smaller excuses that we make just as people living our day-to-day lives.

I would say too, for people watching this, the worst thing that could happen is that, frankly the worst thing (from my perspective at least) is: someone watches this and starts beating themselves up over the excuses that they go and make.  And if people go and say to me after a speech is done, “Wow you've done some awesome things with your life, but I suck, and I can't do anything,” I go, “Well, you kind of missed the point…”

I want people to know that I am a master excuse-maker, and I know just now how many excuses I go and truly make, and I have to go and tell the truth to myself about the excuses that I'm making now.

It's kind of this idea—and I didn't come up with it—it was Alfred Korzybski in 1931 who said that “The map is not the territory.”  

And we all walk around with our own mental maps based on our experiences, maps of the world, and we like to go and think of those maps as reality instead of realizing they're just freaking maps. And they're just up here [in the mind], and some maps are better than others. A good map you can navigate accurately with, a bad map not so much, and we all have our own maps. 

Really I would start with telling the truth to yourself.



Why don’t we chase our dreams? What if everyone confronted the daily excuses they make for themselves? Innovation would explode around us. Life satisfaction would soar. Any yet we typically keep a safe distance from our inner-most ambitions. Self-preservation is linked to a deep evolutionary drive that makes us err on the side of caution to avoid social isolation or decimation at the toothy end of a lion. It’s time to tear down these ancient and ultimately irrational behaviors, says Kyle Maynard. Being the first quadruple amputee to reach the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Aconcagua without the aid of prosthetics, he has lived his life on the philosophy of ‘No Excuses’. Being honest with yourself about what your excuses are empowers you to push back against them and truly live. Kyle Maynard is the author of No Excuses: The True Story of a Congenital Amputee Who Became a Champion in Wrestling and in Life.

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.

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
Technology & Innovation

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.