TEDMED Blog

Being Wrong Can Help Get It Right

By guest contributor and TEDMED 2015 speaker Anthony S. Fauci, MD

One of the best things I have done in my career is admit that I was wrong.

In the early days of AIDS – before we had the first effective treatments – I was a complete believer in the tried-and-true research-to-pharmaceutical pipeline. This rigorous process, based on the gold standard scientific and regulatory approach to clinical trials, usually required many years to run its course. However, for people living with HIV infection in the 1980s, that was time they did not have.

In the late 1980s, the frustration of those affected by HIV/AIDS was reaching a breaking point. Their anger about the pace of research to develop HIV treatments was often directed at me, as I oversaw much of the government’s HIV/AIDS research as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. I supported what I knew to be an effective research process. However, it was not until I listened to the activists and began to appreciate their concerns by imagining myself in their place, and by inviting them into my office when they demonstrated in protest on the NIH campus that it became clear that something had to change. At that moment, that something had to be me. I ended up working with the activists to develop an unconventional “parallel track” for drug development, one that provided access to experimental drugs for patients in need at the same time that rigorous clinical trials were still ongoing.

A healthy human T cell uninfected by HIV/AIDS.

A healthy human T cell uninfected by HIV/AIDS.

Change, especially the type of change that asks us to question the systems on which we have built our careers, can be difficult. It requires us to at least question and sometimes change our beliefs and habits, and step into unfamiliar territory. Embracing flexibility is sometimes more difficult than maintaining the status quo; however, having this mindset can generate novel solutions. In the case of HIV, by changing the research paradigm and engaging HIV activists as partners in the research endeavor, we were able to develop effective HIV drugs faster, ultimately saving millions of lives.

As the HIV/AIDS pandemic has evolved over the last 35 years, being open-minded remains crucial to defeating this disease. We must continually step back, reassess, look at the larger picture, and identify solutions to seemingly intractable challenges.

Today, science has presented a clear opportunity to end the HIV/AIDS pandemic. We now know that everyone infected with HIV should be offered antiretroviral drugs as soon as the diagnosis is made, for their health and to prevent further transmission of the virus. Last year, NIH-funded research provided strong evidence of the advantage of beginning treatment soon after diagnosis rather than waiting until immune system damage occurs. Clinical trials also have demonstrated that HIV treatment benefits not only the infected individual, but also his or her sexual partners, as lowering the level of virus in the body reduces substantially the risk of transmitting it to others.

Together, HIV treatment and other proven prevention interventions – such as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, a single daily pill containing two anti-HIV drugs – provide a powerful toolbox for ending the HIV/AIDS pandemic. If the tools we already have for HIV treatment and prevention were widely implemented, and all HIV-infected individuals were identified and placed in stable, effective medical care, and uninfected individuals in high risk situations were provided prevention tools including PrEP where appropriate, more than 90 percent of new HIV infections worldwide could be prevented each year.

Sadly, the rate of new adult HIV infections has held steady at about 2 million per year since 2008, indicating that despite innovation and advances, we are still far short of our goal of ending AIDS as a major global health problem. Although we have the tools and knowledge to accomplish this goal, substantial barriers still stand in our way. Economics, race, gender, stigma and discrimination all play a role in preventing people from accessing prevention tools, getting tested, connecting to care and accessing treatment.

Hard-won scientific advances collide with these barriers, impeding the progress that research can bring. Just as we did in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, we must now step back and reassess. We must ask ourselves how we can think differently about bringing about an end to this pandemic by more effectively scaling up the powerful tools of treatment and prevention that we know can bring HIV/AIDS to heel. As I have learned, questioning and sometimes changing how we do things can be the first step toward getting things right.
—————————————————————-
Anthony Fauci: Learning from the AIDS epidemicIn his TEDMED 2015 talkNIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., shares his deeply personal account of how he had to bend certain overly rigid rules of science to fit with the emergent needs of HIV/AIDS patients and activists.

Getting Out of Diabetes Denial

By guest contributor and TEDMED 2015 speaker Laura Schmidt, PhD

As a society, we are confronting some tough facts about the way we eat and what it’s doing to our health. We live in an environment that bombards us with hyper-palatable foods and sugary drinks on a 24/7 basis—products carefully engineered by scientists to be impossibly tempting and habit-forming. It’s not surprising that many of us find it difficult to summon the willpower to avoid heavy use of these products.

But we can’t ignore the warning signs that our food environment isn’t just making us fat, it’s also making us sick. One is the appearance of adult diseases in children. In my parent’s generation, they called it “adult onset diabetes” because only adults got it. Today, one in four American children will acquire Type 2 diabetes within their lifetimes and an alarming half of our children of color.

shutterstock_293590097When problems get this big and overwhelming, there’s a strong impulse to ignore the problem—to fall into “diabetes denial” just like some people deny the reality of climate change. And at its crux, the junk food problem isn’t all that different from carbon emissions. It’s driven by globalizing industries that reap the economic rewards of free trade as governments struggle—and often fail—to establish regulations that protect human and planetary health.

What’s remarkable is how much progress we have made in the short time that I’ve been involved in food policy, particularly regarding sugar. I was an addiction researcher for years before I wandered into food policy research and got stuck. I got stuck by the sheer enormity of the problem and because I could see that time-tested regulatory solutions for alcohol and tobacco could help us clean up our food environment.

What it takes to fix wicked problems is a “virtuous cycle” of public health policymaking. This is no better illustrated than by the war on tobacco—the single greatest public health victory of the 20th century. Here’s how it works:

It starts with courageous public officials telling people the cold hard facts, thus moving the society out of denial. What follows are policies to tax the most harmful products, which generate funds for public health programs, such as public education campaigns and school-based programs. As momentum picks up, policymakers feel emboldened to pass new regulations, such as product warning labels, as well as measures that directly clean up the environment.

In the short time I’ve been working on food policy, I’ve seen the virtuous cycle take off with regards to some of the most harmful products, namely sugary drinks. Here are just a few highlights:

Courageous public officials speak out: Thomas Frieden, Director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that “Taxing sugary drinks at 1 cent per ounce could be the single most effective measure to reverse the obesity epidemic.”

Taxes generate funding for public health: First sugary beverage taxes passed within US borders: the Navajo Nation (2015), Berkeley, CA (2015), Philadelphia, PA (2016)

Policymakers are emboldened: First sugary beverage warning label legislation passed (San Francisco, CA, 2015); first US Dietary Guideline setting an national limit on added sugars (2015); first Food and Drug Administration nutrition label to warn consumers of added sugars (2016)

Direct measures to clean up food environments: First state sales ban of sugary beverages in schools (California, 2009); first city to ban sale on all city properties (New York City, 2012); hospitals begin to ban sales (2011)

The first step in recovering from addiction is to stop denying the problem. It is so gratifying to see our society move from denial to action on sugar in just a few years. May we see many more virtuous cycles that promote human and planetary health to come.


Illustration_0021_Illustration_0012_LauraSchmidt.tif

In her TEDMED 2015 Talk, UCSF researcher and sugar policy expert Laura Schmidt questions whether consumers truly have freedom of choice over the foods they purchase and eat in our sugar saturated society. 

Announcing TEDMED 2016 Speakers: Invisible Threats

What if we could expose and confront invisible threats to health?

To the naked eye, sickness and health are distinct and opposing entities – we see symptoms of illness with the same ease as we notice healthy habits. But, what if our true health status is not what meets the eye? What if we are constantly vulnerable to insidious health threats on personal and global scales? With powerful insight and active foresight, speakers in a session called “Invisible Threats” prepare us to identify and defend against the world’s most pressing health disasters.

It is our privilege to present:


Bruce Schneier
Health Data Watchman

Bruce Asks: What if our health data could be both more accessible and more secure?

Named a “security guru” by The Economist, Bruce Schneier is a world renowned expert on cyber security. Acclaimed for his recent New York Times bestseller, Data and Goliath, Bruce explains how our online presence–texts, purchasing patterns, and Facebook updates–can reveal surprising facts about our health. Read More…


Emtithal “Emi” Mahmoud
Refugee Bard

Emi Asks: What if we could speak the unspeakable?

2015 Individual World Poetry Slam Champion Emtithal “Emi” Mahmoud was born in Sudan and came to the United States in 1998, escaping the Darfur genocide with her family. A 2016 graduate of Yale University, Emi speaks with a passion to alleviate structural disparities on maternal and child health in disadvantaged communities across the world. Read More…


Jeremy Farrar
Global Health Reformer

Jeremy Asks: What if the next deadly flu outbreak could be contained in a globally coordinated fashion?

Tropical medicine expert Jeremy Farrar is the Director of the Wellcome Trust, the world’s second largest global charitable foundation, dedicated to improving health. With 18 years of experience researching infectious diseases, tropical health, and emerging infections as Director of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Vietnam, Jeremy brings global attention to the dangers of imminent pandemics. Read More…


Mona Hanna-Attisha
Pediatric Public Health Whistleblower

Mona Asks: What if the government did an optimal job of safeguarding child health?

Iraqi-born, Detroit-raised pediatrician Mona Hanna-Attisha is the whistleblower who exposed the dangerous levels of lead in Flint, Michigan’s drinking water after testing blood lead levels in its children. For revealing this threat on the national stage and founding the Flint Child Health and Development Fund, Mona is one of TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world for 2016. Read More…


RichardKogan_CircleCrop

Richard Kogan
Music-Medicine Connector

Richard Asks: What if musical exposure could transform psychopathology into radiant mental health?

Richard Kogan has a distinguished career both as a concert pianist and as a physician. A graduate of Juilliard and Harvard Medical School, he is currently Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College and Artistic Director of the Weill Cornell Music and Medicine Program. Richard has gained international renown for his lecture/concerts that explore the role of music in healing. Read More…


RichardKogan_CircleCrop

Sue Klebold
Activist Mom

Sue Asks: What if parents were better at detecting their children’s departure from brain health?

Sue Klebold is the mother of Dylan Klebold, one of the two shooters at Columbine High School in 1999. After years of evading public scrutiny, in 2016, Sue published A Mother’s Reckoning: Living In the Aftermath of Tragedy, a powerful memoir in which she explores the crucial intersection between mental health and violence. Read More…


RichardKogan_CircleCrop

Susie Baldwin
Human Rights Physician

Susie Asks: What if health professionals are positioned to provide life-changing support to trafficked people, but don’t know it?

Susie Baldwin is a Public Health and Preventive Medicine physician whose career has focused on sexual and reproductive health, women’s health, epidemiology, and supporting survivors of human trafficking. As Co-Founder and Board President of HEAL Trafficking, and Sexually Transmitted Disease Controller for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Susie activates caregivers and communities to heal human trafficking. Read More…

Register today to save your spot at TEDMED 2016 this November 30 – December 2 in Palm Springs, CA. Stay tuned for our last session announcement by subscribing to our blog and signing up for our newsletter today!

Creating sustainable, delicious meat alternatives

By guest contributor and TEDMED 2015 Speaker Patrick O. Brown, MD, PhD of TEDMED Hive Organization, Impossible Foods

The horse was a brilliant transportation technology until we developed the automobile. The typewriter was a wonder in its time until we invented the personal computer. The carrier pigeon was the state-of-the art in mobile communication, until radio communication was invented. Now it’s the cow’s turn to be replaced by better technology.

Cows, and the other animals we cultivate for food, have, for millennia, been our state-of-the-art technology for turning plants into meat. But we need to do better, and we can.

Cattle Farm - An inefficient source of meatAccording to a recent estimate by the International Livestock Research Institute, 45% of Earth’s dry land — a land area greater than North and South America, Australia and Europe combined — is currently being used to support livestock production. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, animal farming uses and pollutes more water than any other industry and generates as much greenhouse gas emissions as the entire global transportation system. And it is the major driver of deforestation and an unprecedented collapse of wildlife populations around the world.

The world is on a headlong quest to produce ever-greater quantities of meat in the belief that we need a growing supply to feed the world. We don’t. The plant crops harvested in 2015 contained more than enough of every essential nutrient to meet the nutritional needs not only of our current population but the 9 billion people who will share the planet in 2050.

Yet people love, and demand, meat; it is both unfair and unrealistic to ask people to change the diets they love. Fortunately, the problem isn’t that people love meat – it’s how we produce it. And that’s a solvable problem.

We simply need to replace the inefficient, unsustainable animal-based technology we’ve used for thousands of years with a better, more efficient and more sustainable way to transform plants into the meat and dairy foods the world loves.

Five years ago, I founded Impossible Foods, assembling a mission-driven and supremely talented research & development team to take on this challenge. They’ve been developing the know-how and inventing technology for transforming simple nutrients from plants into uncompromisingly delicious, nutritious, affordable and sustainable meats and dairy foods. Our first product, the Impossible Burger, will be available to consumers this summer.

A lifecycle analysis shows that producing an Impossible Burger requires less than 1/12th the land and 1/9th the water and emits only a quarter of the greenhouse gasses, compared to producing the same meat from a cow.

The cow is not getting any better at turning plants into meat and it never will. But with an entirely new approach, we are getting better at it every day, and we’ll keep getting better. And we won’t stop until we’ve made all the foods we currently get from animals — chicken, fish, milk, eggs — directly from plants.

———————————————————-

Pat Brown of Impossible FoodsIn his TEDMED 2015 talk, renowned geneticist and founder of Impossible Foods Pat Brown explains how he uses biochemistry to trick plants into producing the same protein as meat – all while tasting just as delicious – in his quest to eliminate the need for animal harvesting.

In the system of American science, caution has overtaken creation

By guest contributor and TEDMED 2015 speaker Roberta Ness

The scientific community is unwell. Worse, the hospital to which it has been taken is utterly unsuited to cure it. Young professionals feel that the system does not promote, but instead strangles, their creative dreams. The result: the most extraordinary potential for progress in history is being squandered.

InnovationInnovation is society’s engine of progress– our instrument for hope. Our modern love affair with innovation leads us to desire having as much of it as possible and to fear its loss. A quick web search for “innovation” yields about as many hits as the word, “boyfriend”. Yet, our system of science from its funders through its institutions, does not allow practitioners to reach their full creative potential. I know this firsthand because I have encountered so many of these frustrated scientists.. Nearly every time I lectured at a research university about how to improve innovative thinking, a young person would stand up at the back of the room during the question and answer period and say something like, “Dr. Ness, this was inspirational, but you are proposing really radical new ideas. If I tried to do what you counsel, I would never be able to get funded or be published.” I heard this lament perhaps a dozen times when finally it struck me, “duh– there’s a big problem here, and it is not due to these young, bright minds.”

The problem, I came to discover in writing my most recent book The Creativity Crisis is that caution has overtaken creation within the system of American science. Society begs for revolutionary advancement but spends its dollars on tangible products. Ideas are conceived as “individually owned” and intellectual property is shielded by patents rather than shared for the benefit of all. The hierarchy and insularity of science stymies rich collaborative possibilities, so, for instance, the historic opportunities offered by crowdsourcing goes unexploited. A suffocating burden of federal and state restrictions and regulations continue to grow as society becomes increasingly apprehensive about the harms that science can bring.

The result of this perfect storm is that the largest and most difficult problems science must solve-– climate change, emerging epidemics, social inequity, Alzheimer’s disease-– rage unabated. I believe we must find solutions to these disasters-in-progress that are far more radical than the current system permits.

Yet, not all is doom and gloom. Science continues to march forward at a prodigious pace, even if that march often produces things less necessary than nice. Some institutions such as the Howard Hughes Foundation and Google have incorporated a series of systems changes for the focused purpose of tending and nurturing creative innovation.

We need not be satisfied with a system of science that fails to achieve its full potential for advancing societal well-being. To implement original solutions to society’s most threatening problems, we must bring creation and caution into equipoise. The Creativity Crisis examines in detail the ills of modern science and multiple remedies that, by abandoning convention, may contribute to fixing the broken system. I can only hope that this book and related TEDMED talk will launch a discussion in which all of you will help to reinvent the scientific ecosystem. I believe that if you open your minds and your hearts to the potential for creative disruption, together we can solve the creativity crisis and unleash possibility.


Roberta Ness TEDMED Artist Illustration_FotorIn her TEDMED 2015 talk, innovation expert and physician-researcher Roberta Ness imparted her wisdom for combatting science’s creativity crisis and sparking the type of revolutionary innovations that science and medicine so desperately need.

Announcing TEDMED 2016 Speakers: Endgame?

What if we possess the knowledge to be the architects of our aging and eventual deaths?

As children, most of us counted down to our birthdays, eagerly anticipating the milestones that came with each new age. At some point in life, nostalgia for the past begins to replace our excitement for the future. Many of us are filled with fear and dread at the thought of aging into the unknown. What if we changed this narrative, embraced our childlike wonder, and revitalized our excitement for what lies ahead?

In a session called “Endgame?”, speakers from different walks of life will share personal discoveries and revelations that have shaped their lives. This session will challenge our personal and cultural perceptions of longevity, quality of life, caregiving, and death. Our insightful speakers include:


Caitlin Doughty
Progressive Mortician

Caitlin asks: What if we re-designed the funeral industry for an eco-friendly end of life?

With a proclivity for the macabre from an early age, atypical mortician Caitlin Doughty began her career in the funeral industry as a crematory operator. Currently a licensed funeral director and eco-friendly mortician in Los Angeles, Caitlin empower families to care for their dead and unites communities to prepare a death phobic culture for their inevitable mortality. Read More…


Cheryl Steed
Prison Psychologist

Cheryl asks: What if criminals could transform their identities after learning to become caregivers and patient advocates?

Clinical psychologist Cheryl Steed leads one of the Gold Coat Programs at the California Men’s Colony (CMC), a medium-security prison in central California. Through the program, Cheryl trains a select group of inmates–“Gold Coats”–to become caregivers to elderly or severely cognitively impaired inmates, including those with dementia. Read More…


Lucy Kalanithi
Caregiver

Lucy asks: What if we experienced death the way doctors do?

Stanford internist Lucy Kalanithi is the widow of neurosurgeon and writer Paul Kalanithi, who details his battle with Stage IV lung cancer at age 36 in his memoir When Breath Becomes Air. As a caregiver for her husband during all phases of his illness into his death, Lucy is dedicated to helping others choose the health care and end-of-life experiences that best align with their values. Read More…


Nir Barzilai
Longevity Scientist

Nir asks: What if a drug that targets the process of aging could help us live longer, higher quality lives?

Israeli internist Nir Barzilai has worked with a diversity of populations–from the Israeli Army, to a Cambodian refugee camp, to a Zulu village. Perhaps his most fascinating patient population is 600 centenarians, whom he has studied to understand the biology and genetics of exceptional longevity. Read More…


Tomás Ryan
Memory Detective

Tomás asks: What if the missing memories in amnesia were actually retrievable?

Tomás Ryan dedicates his work to understanding the neuroarchitecture of memory. Challenging conventional notions of memory storage, retrieval, and brain damage, his work sets the stage for potential memory recall in patients with amnesia due to trauma, stress, alcohol and drug abuse, dementia, and aging. Read More…

We will be announcing our final two sessions in the coming weeks! For more information about TEDMED, sign up for our newsletter and subscribe to our blog. Register today to join us at TEDMED 2016 from November 30 – December 2.

Announcing TEDMED 2016 Speakers: Truth and Beauty

What if we found beauty while confronting difficult truths?

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then why are there experiences that humans collectively consider “beautiful?” Perhaps, when we study individuals’ subjective perspectives as a whole, they can expose universal truths and a greater sense of beauty to which we can all relate.

At TEDMED 2016’s Truth and Beauty session, we will explore research, innovations, and actions that evoke beautiful new truths about health worldwide. In this session, our TEDMED 2016 speakers share the discoveries and experiences that have led them to find Truth and Beauty. With insights from state-of-the-art holographic technology, nurses’ perspectives on healing, the neurobiology of aesthetic pleasure, and emotionally evocative video games, this session expands our understanding of health, truth, and beauty.

Our captivating lineup includes:


Anjan Chatterjee
Neuroaesthetitician 

Anjan asks: What if appreciating beauty is not just pleasurable, but essential to our survival?

Cognitive neuroscientist Anjan Chatterjee seeks to answer a tantalizing question: why is beauty so gripping? In his recent book, The Aesthetic Brain: How We Evolved to Desire Beauty and Enjoy Art, Anjan explores neural responses to beauty, noting that the faces and places we find aesthetically pleasing may promote evolutionary success. Read More…


Carolyn Jones
Photographic Ethnographer

Carolyn asks: What if we could see the beauty of invisible populations?

Through her socially proactive photographs and documentary films, Carolyn Jones points our attention towards issues of global concern. Passionate about personal stories and their power to connect us all, Carolyn examines the dying experience through the eyes of American nurses in her new film, HOPE: Dying in America. Read More…


Dan Visconti
Innovative Civic-Minded Composer

Dan asks: What if video games are works of great public art?

Dan Visconti creates concert experiences that reimagine the arts as a form of cultural and civic service. A composer and concert curator who loves American vernacular musical traditions, Dan infuses his compositions with influences from jazz, rock, blues and beyond. Read More…


James Gordon
Global DIY Healing Teacher

Jim asks: What if simple self-care techniques could help free the world from the effects of trauma?

Psychiatrist, author, White House advisor, and Georgetown Medical School Clinical Professor James Gordon is a world-renowned expert in using mind-body medicine to heal depression, anxiety, and psychological trauma. A proponent of “self-care as the true primary-care,” Jim became Founder and Director of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine in 1991. Read More…


Kellee Santiago 
Evocative Game Developer

Kellee asks: What if video games are works of great public art?

Kellee Santiago designs video games that evoke emotional responses. With research focused on game design, interactive narrative, and physical and gestural interfaces for digital media, Kellee is pushing the communicative possibilities of video games as an artistic medium. Read More…


Partho Sengupta 
Physician Holographer

Partho asks: What if advancements in visualization technology could transform patient care?

Cardiologist Partho Sengupta’s hopes to revolutionize the way we approach heart disease. By harnessing the exponential growth of cardiac visualization technology, Partho uses holograms to detect early signs of cardiovascular disease and improve patient care in the US as well as low income countries. Read More…

Look out for more speaker announcements coming soon! Sign up for our newsletter and subscribe to our blog for the latest updates. Also, don’t miss your chance to register for TEDMED 2016 this November 30 – December 2 in Palm Springs, CA. Hope to see you there!

Gaining Wisdom in the Family, Workplace, Community, and Society

By guest contributor and TEDMED speaker, Dilip V. Jeste, MD.

Wisdom is a complex human trait. It includes several components: 1) ability to make appropriate social decisions, 2) overall happiness coupled with control over emotions, 3) helping others through compassion and altruism, 4) self-knowledge and ability to reflect, 5) humility to know the limits of one’s knowledge, and 6) decisiveness when needed. I believe there is an evolutionary purpose to wisdom – it enhances individual well-being along with one’s usefulness to society. Wisdom includes much more than intelligence – that is why wise people are typically intelligent, but not all intelligent people are wise!

The basic concept of wisdom is similar across the globe and has been essentially unchanged over the known history of human behavior. However, there are some cultural differences. For example, spirituality would be considered an essential component of wisdom in some cultures, but not in others. Aging is associated with increased wisdom. As I mention in my TEDMED talk, wisdom likely compensates for the loss of fertility and of physical health that accompanies aging, and allows wise grandparents to transfer their life knowledge to younger generations.

Aging is associated with increased wisdom. (Image: Shutterstock.)

Aging is associated with increased wisdom. (Image: Shutterstock.)

How do these concepts of individual wisdom apply to the wisdom of larger groups such as a family, workplace, sports team, community, or society? A large majority of the members of a wise group would have high levels of wisdom; however, it is not necessary for all members of the group to be particularly wise. Indeed, it is more useful to have diversity in multiple forms including some individuals with varied levels of wisdom. A critical necessity is having wise leadership. Openness to new experience is an essential criterion for group wisdom, but not necessarily for individual wisdom.

A wise workplace will be productive and creative, but will also be happy. Businesses that focus solely on sales or profits would not be considered wise if they require constant or unhealthy competition among their members. Similarly, a collegiate sports team that seeks to win at all costs rather than to ensure high graduation rates and a milieu of collaboration, cooperation, and empathy toward less gifted competitors, is not a wise team, regardless of the number of championships it wins. The trick is in balancing a drive for excellence and hard work, with grace in defeat and magnanimity in victories.

How can wisdom be fostered in such groups? An important means would be through behavioral strategies. Wise parents seek to raise their children to be better decision makers, less impulsive, and with more control over their emotions, more caring of their siblings and friends, while avoiding egotism or ambivalence, and promoting self-reflection. Successful parents do not rely only on teaching their children to embrace these values; they also act as role models of such behaviors by reinforcing positive behaviors and not rewarding untoward ones.

Psychiatrists, psychologists, and other therapists and counselors seek to modify the high-risk behavior of persons with mental illnesses, such as delusions, aggression, or suicidal depression, with cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). The focus of CBT is on 3c’sCatch the untoward behavior, Check that it is unhelpful, and then Change it to helpful behavior. The same principles can be applied to replace unwise behavior with wise behavior at workplace, on sports teams, and in various businesses. While employees who sell the largest volume of products can be rewarded, so too should be rewarded the people who help develop a collegial milieu which increases other workers’ level of happiness leading to greater overall productivity. For example, in basketball, they would reward players with the most assists along with those who scored the most points.

The responsibility for making a group wise lies primarily with its leadership, which then makes sure that the culture promoting wisdom trickles down the chain of command, and reaches the workers on the lowest rung. Ultimately, promoting group wisdom is not merely a nice thing to do– it is a smart thing to do!

 



Dilip Jeste

 

In his TEDMED talk, geriatric psychiatrist and neuroscientist Dilip V. Jeste reveals how our brains compensate for physical aging, and discusses an unexpected evolutionary advantage to growing old–gaining sage wisdom–which holds great promise to benefit society as a whole. Watch Dilip’s talk here.

References:

Jeste DV and Vahia I: Comparison of the conceptualization of wisdom in ancient Indian literature with modern views: Focus on the Bhagavad Gita. Psychiatry 71:197-209, 2008.

Meeks TW and Jeste DV: Neurobiology of wisdom: An overview. Archives of General Psychiatry 66:355-365, 2009.

Jeste DV and Harris JC: Commentary: Wisdom – A neuroscience perspective. Journal of the American Medical Association 304:1602-1603, 2010.

Jeste DV, Ardelt M, Blazer D, Kraemer HC, Vaillant G, and Meeks T: Expert consensus on the characteristics of wisdom: A Delphi Method study. Gerontologist 50:668-680, 2010.
Bangen KJ, Meeks TW and Jeste DV. Defining and assessing wisdom: A review of the literature. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry 21:1254-1266, 2013.

Jeste DV and Oswald AJ. Individual and societal wisdom: Explaining the paradox of aging and well-being. Psychiatry 77:317-330, 2014.

Thomas ML, Bangen KJ, Ardelt M, Jeste DV. Development of a 12-item abbreviated three-dimensional wisdom scale (3D-WS-12): Item selection and psychometric properties. Assessment 24, 2015.

Meeks TW, Cahn R, and Jeste DV: Neurobiological foundations of wisdom. In Siegel R, Germer C (eds.): Wisdom and Compassion in Psychotherapy. New York, NY: Guilford Press. pp. 189-202, March 7, 2012.

Sanders JD, Meeks TW and Jeste DV: Neurobiological basis of personal wisdom. In Ferrari M, Westrate MN (eds.): The Scientific Study of Personal Wisdom. New York, NY: Springer. pp. 99-114, 2013.

The Workforce of the Future

Vivienne Ming discusses our future workforce.

Vivienne speaking at TEDMED 2015.

“How can we make students robot-proof?”

This was the question posed to me a few years ago at the Department of Education. They were designing a 6-week job retraining program, but couldn’t divine which skills to teach that would still be employable 10 years from now. They were hoping I could help them devise a short program to teach some crucial knowledge or skill that we knew wouldn’t be displaced by artificial intelligence in the future. Here is the simple truth I shared with them: there is no skill or knowledge which is robot-proof.

Automation, Artificial Intelligence, and Why Automation Is Different This Time

The concerns of the Dept. of Ed. are well-founded. Quite apart from the hysteria surrounding general artificial intelligence – the existential threat posed by a fully aware computer that surpasses us in intelligence – they and many others are focused on a much more mundane problem: basic AI and other computerized automation will displace the world’s labor force, leaving few jobs for humans. The three largest employers in the world–agriculture, transportation, and natural resources–are all seeing huge advances in robotic automation. For example, precision farming involving drones, robotic weeders, and AI-driven irrigation produces more food but needs few humans. The productivity gain truly is a fundamental good, but what happens to the one billion agricultural workers worldwide?

Importantly, AI isn’t only replacing physical labor, but cognitive labor, and it’s doing so at an increasing rate. We now see automated systems outperforming or displacing humans in medical diagnostics, journalism, financial advising, and a vast array of other industries. A recent paper described a deep neural network that can read the technical specifications for software companies’ APIs (the rules that allow one computer system to interact with another), and can then automatically spit out a simple set of instructions for writing code using the API. It would be a rather minor additional step to have a basic AI write the code itself. Despite all the focus in recent years in teaching students to code, it seems unlikely to me that simple programming will be a viable skill 5 or 10 years from now in the same way it is today. I’ll simply “hire” an AI contractor, giving it a set of specifications and even having a conversation around the details. It will quickly and easily spit out prototypes and update them based on real-time feedback. While this sounds wonderful to me as an entrepreneur, software developers might feel like they bought a home just as the real estate bubble burst.

AI Workforce vs. Human Workforce?Techno-utopians may claim that AIs will free everyone to be artists and doctors. They imagine themselves freed of the burdens of rent and the need to take a job just for the paycheck, spending lives of purpose solving deep problems. Our schools and other social institutions, however, are simply not designed to produce a workforce full of problem-solvers. It is much more likely that we would have a world in which the labor of some is worth more than an AI, but the labor of the vast majority is worth less. What a profound divide that would be.

Craftsmen and Their Tools

Research has shown, rather dramatically, that knowledge and skills, and the grades, test scores, and degrees associated with them, are simply not predictive of employability and other life outcomes. Yet schools and so many job-training programs focus exactly on these: how to program, how to factor a polynomial, how to write a grammatically correct sentence, or how to sketch the human form. They are valuable skills, but only in the hands of someone empowered to make use of them. These are just the tools that craftsmen employ, not the craft itself. What predicts life outcomes is the quality of the craftsman. A large and growing body of research links success with qualities like general cognitive ability, metacognition, mindset, emotion regulation, and creativity. These are attributes which we have described as meta-learning–the deeper abilities that enable learning.

A further, fundamental problem is that no tool is robot-proof. There is no basic skill or knowledge which we cannot eventually build an AI to perform more economically than a human. Tools neither differentiate people from one another, nor protect them from robots. Instead of trying to guess which skills kids need to know 20 years from now, we should build craftsmen who can master any tool. A craftsman without their tools is hobbled, but tools without a craftsman are entirely pointless. To robot-proof our kids, we must develop their meta-learning skills, producing a generation of problem-solvers.

A human story

With AI’s providing all of the tools, the future of work is the hyperinflation of work: you’ll show up in the morning, and it will be a different job by the end of the day. The only job description in the future will be that of a problem-solver, with every day posing a different problem (and it sounds damned exhausting). But imagine what a society full of such craftsmen could accomplish with a toolkit full of AI tools. What could be accomplished if we truly were a society of problem-solvers, of craftsmen?

I am a huge advocate of the potential of machine learning, AI, and even the eventual power of augmented intelligence and neuroprosthetics. They are a foundational part of a world in which I want to live. But this is fundamentally a human story, not a technological one. No one is going to stop the rise of AIs. We need to match it with the rise in social institutions built on the core principle that everyone can be amazing. But it takes years, even decades, to “build” an amazing person. If technology continues to outpace culture, the results will be catastrophic.

We don’t have to accept that outcome. While there’s no online course or six-week job retraining program for meta-learning, we know how to develop it over time. We know how to build into kids a belief that their hard work will pay off. The irony is that the solution to humanity’s place in a futuristic world of robots and AIs is as old as it gets. The things that will make us robot-proof are the very same things that are predictive of life outcomes of both kids and adults today, and have probably always have been throughout the history of humankind. The best way to robot-proof your kids is to make them all the more uniquely human.


VivienneMing
This guest blog post is by TEDMED 2015 speaker Vivienne Ming. You can watch Vivienne’s TEDMED talk here.

Announcing TEDMED 2016 Speakers: Social + Science

What if social and environmental factors are inextricably entwined, not just with the culture of health, but also with its outcomes?

As children, we thought of health as sickness and cure: if we felt ill, we anticipated cough syrup, a visit to the doctor, or perhaps the unpleasant pinch of a shot. But, as we’ve aged, our understanding of health has expanded, as the field of healthcare has itself. Today, we acknowledge that health permeates all aspects of our lives–where we live, what we eat, where we work, how we age, and more. Even the simplest social interactions can shape health outcomes in ways that touch communities across the globe.

In our Social + Science session, TEDMED 2016 speakers help us explore just how social agents affect our health. From the impacts of race and poverty on human behavior to the promising potential of evidence-based medical marijuana and music therapies, this session unlocks unprecedented connections between social and scientific sides of our world. We are thrilled to introduce:


Alia Crum
Mindset Researcher

Alia asks: What if our mindset determines our health outcomes?

Stanford professor, athlete, and psychologist Alia Crum investigates the effects of mindset on core aspects of behavioral health. As the director of the Mind & Body Lab  and the health director at Stanford SPARQ, Alia leads researchers to better define and utilize the roles social and psychological forces play in overcoming chronic disease. Read More…



David Casarett
Doctorly Detective

David asks: What if mainstream healthcare operated more like a medical marijuana dispensary?

David Casarett is a palliative care physician and author who has combined an investigative first person approach   with rigorous, evidence-based medicine to make sense  of marijuana’s therapeutic potential, including its adverse   effects. David is a Full Professor of Medicine at the Duke   University School of Medicine, and Chief of Palliative  Care for the Duke Health System. Read More…


David Williams
Public Health Sociologist

David asks: What if the factors that cause some Americans to be sicker than others were as well understood as the genetic risk of disease?

David Williams has played a visible national leadership role in raising awareness levels about health disparities and identifying interventions to address them. In 2008, David was ranked as the world’s Most Cited Black Scholar in the Social Sciences, and, in 2014, Thomson Reuters ranked him as one of the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds. Read More…


Johannes Haushofer
Money Behaviorist

Johannes asks: What if we could treat the psychological consequences of poverty?

Neurobiologist and Princeton University professor Johannes Haushofer explores whether poverty has particular psychological and neurobiological consequences, and whether these consequences, in turn, affect economic decisions. Read More…


Ketki Karanam
Musical Decoder

Ketki asks: What if we could harness the personalized therapeutic effects of music?

Biologist and technology entrepreneur Ketki Karanam harnesses music to create solutions to conditions like dementia and autism through The Sync Project. As The Sync Project’s co-founder and Head of Science, Ketki created the platform to personalize the therapeutic effects of music. Read More…


Kristin Neidlinger
Expressive Tech Fashion Designer

Kristin asks: What if wearables could reflect our innermost emotions?

Kristin Neidlinger is the founder of Sensoree, wearable technology with auditory, visual and tactile displays to promote “extimacy” (externalized intimacy) and communicate the wearer’s emotions to the outside world. With a background in dance therapy and the performing arts, Kristin works with futuristic fabrics made of sustainable materials that are embedded with sensitive technologies to enhance proximity and telepathy between human and machine. Read More…

Stay tuned for more TEDMED 2016 speaker announcements in the coming weeks. Don’t forget to stay connected by signing up for our newsletter and subscribing to our blog. Register now to join us in Palm Springs, CA this November 30 – December 2.