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Tom Arnold and Multi-Lateral Institutions

Question: Are multi-lateral institutions adequately prepared to confront crises?

Arnold:    The food crisis earlier this year brought a number of the institutions to focus on, and I would think maybe raise their game in terms of addressing some of these issues.  I mean, the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, set up a high-level task force to see how he could make sure that the UN agencies were working together more effectively to tackle the issue of hunger.  I think the World Bank under Bob Zoellick has provided some very good leadership.  I think the World Food Programme under Josette Sheeran has also provided leadership.  But, I mean, I think critical to all of this is how do we find, because no matter how well the international institutions work together, what really matters is can we find ways of working more effectively at the country level, and that principle that, you know, ownership for a country’s development primarily rests with the government and the leaders and the people of developing countries, and that the donors and the NGOs and all the rest of us are there to fit in and to support those efforts.  Now, that’s the challenge, and if we’re looking at the whole question of making all of these developing countries, particularly the poorest, more food secure, less food insecure, finding ways of very good collaboration at national level is what needs to happen.

Question: How has the UN changed under Ban Ki-Moon?

Arnold:    I think Ban Ki-moon came in following a very successful, in my view, Secretary General in Kofi Annan who had raised the profile of the United Nations over his tenure of ten years.  I think Ban Ki-moon’s tenure, and he’s only not yet two years into it, has been characterized by really actually making, focusing in on the right strategic choices.  I mean, after nine months of his tenure, he was, he called a substantial meeting on climate change and has, I think, really tried to focus the world, obviously other people are focused as well on that issue, but the United Nations is an important forum to look at that issue.  When the food crisis came along in the first half of this year, he set up the high level task force, and I think, again, he’s to be applauded for that.  He’s also trying to make progress in very difficult situations like Darfour, but I’m afraid progress hasn’t been very marked there, but I don’t think that’s Ban Ki-moon’s fault.  I mean I think this is a very [intractable] problem and one hopes that maybe with a new US administration, maybe some more progress can be made, but even if the new US administration wants to make that progress, it’s not of course guaranteed that, you know, the conditions are there but so, there are some… so, in answer to your overall question, I think he’s done, I think he’s done quite well in his first two years.  I think, obviously, getting the United Nations to work as a cohesive force in the world is an amazingly difficult challenge.  I think the whole, I think what the new crisis has brought or will bring are way, are maybe asking questions, new questions, about global governance, and I think one of the real challenges, one of the real tasks that needs to be done is bringing some of the emerging nations, the likes of India, South Africa, Brazil, etc., giving them a greater role in how the world is governed and in, you know, facilitating them play a bigger role in this as well.  So, I think, you know, over Ban Ki-moon’s term, that’s going to be part of his agenda, and I hope he will be able to deal with that.

The CEO puts his lens to the United Nations.

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.

Videos
  • 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.

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