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Five Reads: After Parkland

The Forrest Four-Cast: February 15, 2019

Parkland, One Year Later
How to respond to an unspeakable act of violence? It’s a question with moral, personal, political, and journalistic dimensions. One year ago, a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 people and wounding many others. This week a partnership among The Trace, the Miami Herald, and McClatchy launched Since Parkland, a powerful website chronicling the 1,200 American children killed by guns in the last year — all written by student journalists.

Student activist and Parkland survivor David Hogg will be interviewed by veteran CBS anchor Dan Rather at SXSW Edu 2019, which also features panels on student journalism, and the emotional toll of mass violence.

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A Year of Surprises
Africa is the world’s youngest continent. A blood test that can predict premature birth. Data can be sexist. Those are some of the nine surprises that philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates listed in their annual letter, which is perhaps surprisingly a pleasure to read. “Some worry us,” they write. “Others inspire us. All of them are prodding us to action. We hope they do the same for you, because that’s how the world gets better.”

Melinda Gates delivered a powerful keynote address at SXSW 2018. Take a look at this year’s impressive line-up of SXSW keynote speakers.

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Smart Clothing Keeps Cool
Adaptable fabric holds a wealth of possibilities. Researchers at University of Maryland have developed a fabric whose insulation varies depending on how much you sweat. The fabric is a woven yarn of polymer fibers coated with carbon nanotubes. Under cool, dry conditions, the fibers are relaxed and insulate well. But in the presence of moisture, the fibers tighten up, creating holes in the weave that allow heat to escape.

SXSW 2019 features panels on shapeshifting materials, performance apparel, medicinal clothing, and sustainable beauty.

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What’s up, AI Doc?
Researchers in China and the U.S. built an AI system that can correctly diagnose common childhood conditions — from influenza to meningitis — just by scanning a patient’s health records. The neural net was trained on records from 600,000 patients at a pediatric hospital in China and learned to produce diagnoses with impressive accuracy. For example, it was 90 percent accurate in diagnosing asthma, compared to a range of 80 percent to 94 percent for the physicians in the study.

SXSW 2019 features several panels on implications around AI and health, including beating the hype of AI in healthcare, healthcare’s digital disruptors, and can health tech increase compassion?

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Cryptocurrency Was Their Way Out. They’re Still Stuck.
A generation of young Koreans — many trapped in dead-end jobs — looked to cryptocurrency as a way to strike it rich. South Korea is the third biggest market for crypto, after the U.S. and Japan. But the budding entrepreneurs — who call themselves “dirt spoons” — are finding that blockchain’s pitfalls are deeper than its promises.

On the other hand, the New York Times reported on Valentine’s Day that J.P. Morgan will introduce its own digital token for real-world use. Just two years ago, JPMorgan Chase’s chief executive, Jamie Dimon called Bitcoin a “fraud” and said that employees caught trading it would be fired for being “stupid.” The times they are a changin’.

Joseph Lubin, founder of ConsenSys, a blockchain production studio that develops applications and utilities for the next generation decentralized web: Ethereum, will deliver an interactive keynote address at SXSW 2019. That will be among several other intriguing panels on crypto and blockchain, including the promise of blockchain: hope and hype, why VCs have joined the block party, and a session with crypto pioneers the Winklevoss twins.

Five Reads Archive
Feb. 8: DeepMind Medicine
Feb. 1: Ready, Set AOC
January 25: CompSci Gets Way Cool
January 18: Spying on Crime
January 10: Taming Toxic Trolls
January 4: Big Tech = Big Trouble
December 28: Austin is Weird and Wired
December 22: The End of Traffic
December 15: Guarding the Truth
December 5: Becoming an Obama
November 30: The Trouble for Juul
November 21: Life Is Good
November 16: Whither Facebook
November 9: Why Does the US Love Guns?
November 2: Esther Perel Knows Love

Hugh Forrest serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW, the world’s most unique gathering of creative professionals. He also tries to write at least four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts often cover tech-related trends; other times they focus on books, pop culture, sports and other current events.

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Celebrating creativity at SXSW. Also, reading reading reading, the Boston Red Sox, good food, exercise when possible and sleep sleep sleep.

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