David Goggins
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International Poker Champion
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Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
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Matt Miller Rebuilds Education

Question: What are dead ideas in education?

Miller:    The dead idea I focused on education on the book is the idea that schools are a local matter and by that I mean the kind of unique tradition we have in the US which is different in all the other advanced countries of having schools funded and standard set and everything run basically from what are now 15,000 local school districts.  And, you know, in the early 19th century when the system got started, it was perfectly sensible.  In the 21st century when we’re in a global economy, when our kids are competing for jobs with kids in India and China and other rising powers, it’s absolutely holding us back in two big ways I think.  First, we have the most inequitable system of school financing in the world.  No other nation would tolerate this.  So where you got, say, because of the local property tax and local state tax funding base of American education, no one ever talks about this, but the federal government only contributes about $0.09 out of $1 to K to 12 education and property taxes and assorted state taxes make up the rest.  So, if you’re in a poor neighborhood, if you’re in a poor urban neighborhood, for example, in Chicago, you’ve got the least experienced teachers being recruited there, you’ve got rundown buildings, shabby facilities, you know, sewage [pouring into things], things that haven’t been fixed, 15 minutes up the road, you’ll have schools in the Chicago suburbs where you’ve got the best teachers in the state, because money can buy that, because teachers are the biggest part of a school budget.  You’ve got sparkling facilities, Olympic quality swimming pools, you know, Broadway style theaters.  These are 15 minutes away and it’s solely a function of this local funding that we live with.  Now, we sort of talk about local control.  You know, it’s kind of like motherhood and apple pies if it was this incredible virtue, and, obviously, I’m all for parental involvement in schools, you know, local ownership of the sense of what the school is doing, but we’re the only country that let’s kids’ fate depends so much on the wealth of the area he happens to be born in and I think that’s wrong.  And even more than that, it’s hurting our economy as a whole when we’re letting tens of millions of kids be left behind in situations like these and we’ll need a greater federal role in national education funding and in standards if we’re going to get where we need to go.

Question: Would school choice give us more flexibility with education decisions?

Miller:    You could do it through more choice.  I mean one of the interesting things I’m always fascinated by is that Conservative Education Reformers will often point to places like Sweden or Holland where they have essentially a kind of universal charter system where parents can choose where they want to go and they tout that as a model of, look, there it can show you in an advanced country, you can do a kind of universal choice.  And what I say to them is that’s true but a bedrock principle that those countries also had is that per pupil funding is the same whether you’re rich or poor.  In fact, in those countries, they think that poorer kids need higher per pupil funding because they are overcoming different family disadvantages.  And so my challenge to my conservative friends is don’t talk about choice without talking about equity.  Don’t point to a model that’s choice without adapting the equity that they find, when they look at the US, they’re appalled by the fiscal inequity and they know it matters.

The author shares his vision for a better education system.

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.