#141 Healthcare Data Revolution: Dr. Joe Habboushe

Wouldn't it be great if consumers could access all their personal medical records quickly and share them with doctors, family members and others they trust?

This could lead to revolutionary changes in patient outcomes with less bureaucracy and fewer medical mistakes and unnecessary tests.

In recent weeks, major announcements by Apple and Google, plus a new healthcare alliance by Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan Chase are signs of accelerated change.

No one is better equipped to interpret these changes than physician and entrepreneur, Dr. Joe Habboushe, our expert guest on this episode of "How Do We Fix It?"

Joe is CEO of MD Calc--a leading online medical tool for clinical decisions by physicians-- and a specialist in emergency medicine at NYU Medical Center in New York.

On this show we look at opportunities and hazards in the changing relationship between doctors and parents. We discuss privacy concerns and examine how data, smartphone apps and other innovations could reduce costs and lead to better diagnosis of common illnesses and physical ailments.

#140 The Truth About Self-Driving Cars

It's time to put the brakes on the hype about self-driving cars. Despite industry and media forecasts, it may be more than a decade before many fully autonomous vehicles are on the road. Lawsuits and patent disputes are among the many hurdles that face auto manufacturers and tech firms.

But this doesn't mean that technology is being thrown into reverse gear. Semi-autonomous cars with vehicle assist and other features are much safer than earlier generations of automobiles. Self-driving delivery trucks and vans are no longer a fantasy.

"Fix It" guest Eddie Alterman, Editor-in-Chief of Car and Driver magazine is deeply skeptical about the widely-touted changes proclaimed by major manufacturers. "It's a scary concept anyway you look at it," he tells us. "The autonomous car is a very inelegant, very complex and a very fraught solution to the problem of texting while driving... and of information coming into the car when people should be driving."

For Google, Apple, Microsoft and other big data companies, autonomous cars are a big opportunity. Instead of keeping their eyes on the road, motorists would use their driving time to consume more digital media. 

But Eddie says a mix of self-driving and traditional vehicles on the road would create danger. "People will deal with or accept flawed humans crashing into each other. I don't think people will accept supposedly fail-safe machines crashing into each other."

Solutions 

  • Understand the risks of mixing traditional cars with self-driving vehicles on the same roadway.
  • Promote the use of semi-autonomous background technology to make driving safer. Examples: cruise control, vehicle stability, lane departure warning systems.
  • Adopt autonomous vehicles in "closed" environments such as industrial sites.
  • Encourage car-sharing and other initiatives to reduce commute times.  
  • Resist the temptation to encourage drivers to surrender control of their time behind-the-wheel.

#137 The Dangers Of Utopia: Michael Shermer

By overwhelming majorities, human beings have faith in the afterlife. While fewer Americans believe in God, as many as 80% still believe in life after death. Surprisingly, this includes one-in-three agnostics and atheists. According to the Roper Center for Public Opinion the numbers have stayed stable in recent decades.

Does this human refusal to accept that all we have is the here-and-now lead to a dangerous belief in religious fantasies and utopia? Do we chase after myths while ignoring practical steps we could take now to improve life for ourselves and others?

Our guest, Michael Shermer, is the publisher of Skeptic Magazine and the author of the new book "Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia." Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson calls him "a beacon of reason in an ocean of irrationality."

Michael walks us through efforts by "techno-optimists" to extend life hundreds of years into the future, from cryonic suspension-- efforts to freeze our brains with all of their neural connects and memories in tact--  to transhumanists, who want to transform us into super-humans.

He is profoundly skeptical of these well-funded efforts, saying that all we have is the present. "Make today count," Michael tells us. "Make every relationship you have count. Make your interactions with community, strangers and society count in just a tiny little bit."

#135 What's Ahead in 2018: Richard and Jim's Forecast

2018 is certain to bring surprises. In this episode, Jim and Richard bravely venture out onto the high diving board of ideas and plunge into the pool of predictions. We also asked listeners and "How Do We Fix It?" guests for their forecasts of the year to come.

Well-known author and skeptic Michael Shermer says "2018 will be the best year in the history of humanity as measured by health, longevity, medicine, technology, science and culture."

Disruptive marketer and communications designer Geoff Colon tells us that "people are tired of how noisy the world has become. So I see more people deleting apps from their phones and spending less time in the Twitter-verse."

Jim and Richard give their predictions on the 2018 mid-term elections and the new tax code (they go out on a limb here). Both forecast troubled days ahead for Facebook, Google and other giant internet firms, as they run into a buzz saw of criticism over their business practices. 

On the international stage, Richard predicts the U.S. will continue its recent retreat from diplomacy and be weaker as a result.  China's strength will grow. Jim says U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley will be a shining star in the Republican party.  

What are your predictions? Go to Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Tell us what you think, using the hashtag #FixItForecasts. Our Twitter i.d. is @fixitshow. Find us at "How Do We Fix It?" on Facebook and Instagram.

#133 Facebook and YouTube Threats: Zeynep Tufekci

Billions of people use Facebook and YouTube. But do social media platforms threaten our privacy and our freedom?  The problem goes well beyond hate messages and other forms of inappropriate content, or fake news and "dark posts"— targeted ads not visible to the public.

"The crucial problem here is we have no protections about the data that's collected," says our guest, Professor Zeynep Tufekci. "We have no protections about how that data is used and we have a business model where we are the product and not the customer."

Zeynep is the author of the critically-acclaimed book, "Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest." At the University of North Carolina, she teaches a class: "Big Data, Algorithms and Society."

"They have all our data...They control all the gatekeeping," Zeynep says of Facebook and other internet giants. "The threat that I fear is that we're building the infrastructure for a sort of soft authoritarianism."  

Much of the information these companies have collected on us is "sold to the highest bidders whatever they may be peddling.

The ability of tech firms to spy on us, while nudging and seducing users into different forms of behavior, is constantly changing. "The past five years have been mind-blowing. We are growing a form of machine intelligence," says Zeynep. Unlike the past "this one is learning itself and we don't understanding how it's doing what it's doing." 

"How Do We Fix It?" is a solutions podcast. This episode examines potential remedies, including the need for greater corporate transparency, sunsetting data, government regulation and voluntary actions by Facebook and other big tech firms. Those of us who use social media sites should inform ourselves about how they work. This show is a good place to start.

#129 Fixes for Manufacturing: Krisztina "Z" Holly

This week we dismantle the myth that American manufacturing is in a death spiral. It’s not. Our guest is MIT-trained engineer and tech entrepreneur Krisztina “Z” Holly, host of the podcast, “The Art of Manufacturing."

Even as factory jobs have declined, manufacturing growth has surged during the past three decades. Manufacturing production grew 2.9% in October compared to 2016, according to the Federal Reserve. From construction equipment to food products and semiconductors, manufacturers are riding a tide of business optimism.

This episode looks at new innovations in manufacturing and how the future could be brighter.

In addition to her popular podcast, Z is Founder & Chief Instigator of LA Mayor Garcetti’s "Make it in in LA" manufacturing initiative.

#126 Using Data To Predict the Future: Rebecca Costa

Can data be used to prevent mass shootings, dramatically reduce opioid addiction and tell elderly people that they about to fall? Our guest, Rebecca Costa, says it can.

In this episode we look at why predictive analytics may be the most profound technological change in the past 15 years-- even more important than smartphones.

In her new book, “On The Verge,” and on this podcast, Rebecca says we now have the power to predict the future, adapting in advance to changing conditions.  She also tells us about the ideas raised on the popular radio show, “The Costa Report” and in her bestselling book, “The Watchman’s Rattle.”

Predictive analytics depend on the ability to collect massive amounts of data, using algorithms to analyze seemingly random bits of information. We explore why all this is coming together now. One example being used by doctors today is predictive healthcare.

Rebecca says that foresight and “fore action”will help human beings “assume our rightful place as aspiring Masters of the Universe.”