5 min read

The Zeitgeist is Not Your Friend

The Zeitgeist is Not Your Friend
DALL-E doesn't understand basic physics.

This week we look at how bad policy can have long term negative effects on communities and innovation.

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Research Roundup

Predatory Policy

Bad human capital policies have ripple effects across time and communities, regardless of good intentions.

Take the well-intentioned but deeply flawed policy of using cheap loans to help every student attend university. Poor-performing, low-value institutions lured students who lacked the fundamental human capital to benefit from attending university. These relatively disadvantaged students “failed to complete a degree, struggled to repay their loans, defaulted at high rates, and foundered in the job market.” It truly is like The Big Short but for human capital and with elite employers as the shorters.

In the case of redlining policies in the US, there were never good intentions, but its effects continue to this day. “Black adults who lived in historically redlined areas had” worse cardiovascular health compared with peers in better neighborhoods. Fortunately, the research also shows that as neighborhood quality improves the relationship between historical redlining and heart health weakens.

All of this is to say, one of the surest symptoms of bad policies is that they start as self-serving even as they inevitably devolve into self-defeating.

One Size Fits None

Trying to fit everyone into a neat little box doesn't work when AI is lazily applied to medical, genetic, or other personalized data. (Who could have guessed such an obvious truth?)

Brain-phenotype models in AI can be remarkably inaccurate when used to predict brain function from personality traits for individuals who don't fit a stereotyped profile. The failings aren’t simple noise or nuance—they are often medically meaningful in clinical settings.

Not just the bleeding edge of AI but even PCA, the old workhorse of population genetics and so much more, needs a reality check (cause much of reality ain’t Guassian). Like a shitty Instagram filter, PCA can make everything look pretty while hiding data’s real complexity, and its results can be easily manipulated to generate desired outcomes.

Even in an age of massive machine learning models, we can still easily misuse AI to hide the rich heterogeneity of humanity and turn everyone into stereotypes. It’s not just boring, it’s dangerous.

#Neurodiversity #PersonalizedAI #GeneticDiversity #FiduciaryAI

Weekly Indulgence

Hell yes! I’ll be giving a keynote for Out in Tech’s Leadership Institute!

Cancel your plans for September and join me in #NYC to drive some meaningful change in the tech world.

Come level up your leadership with @Outintech. 🎉

🎟️ RSVP now at outintech.com/institute and get 20% off using code: beourguest

#London, I’m finally returning for real. I’m speaking at UCL July 3rd on AI in women’s health.

I’ll be around on July 2nd & 4th as well. Book me for a talk or just reach out for a conversation!


#DC — you’re up next, week of July 21st!

Stage & Screen

  • June 18, Stockholm: Hyper Island is hosting an AMA for me in Sweden!
  • June 19, Stockholm: Buy tickets for the Future of Talent Summit and so much more!
  • June 20-21, AmsterdamTNW ...well, I don't know exactly what I'll be talking about, but it will be huge!
  • June 21, Leeds, UKSociety of Otolaryngologists What else: changing education for doctors in an AI-rich world.
  • July 2, Boston: National Charter School Association We must change education or we'll be trapped in a future that needs explorers but builds cogs.
  • July 3, London: I'm giving a lecture AI & Women's Health at UCL (more to follow).

Find more upcoming talks, interviews, and other events on my Events Page.

If your company, university, or conference just happen to be in one of the above locations and want the "best keynote I've ever heard" (shockingly spoken by multiple audiences last year)?

<<Please support my work: book me for a keynote or briefing!>>

SciFi, Fantasy, & Me

A space epic about a character coming to realize that she’s the problem and everyone justifiably hates her…how could this possibly resonate with someone like me?

For a book dealing with some big issues of abuse and fascism, Some Desperate Glory was a surprisingly “light” read that drove me forward through its multiple timelines.

Excerpt: "Kindersight"

Though our work with Augniscient and QuickStep had been frustrating, it had attracted the attention of dreamers in the education industry, including the organizers of SXSWedu, the education-focused portion of Austin’s iconic festival. They invited my wife and I to give a talk about the problems of education technology. I’d never been to Austin before, much less SXSW, and it seemed like an excellent opportunity to share our research with thousands of others. The experience was amazing, but it was also an immersion into one of the more cognitively dissonant experiences of my life.

SXSW started as a music festival. However, when you collect many wealthy, creative types in one space, an interesting thing emerges: marketing. The festival metastasized over the years from launching music careers to becoming a viral launchpad for films and tech startups, famously introducing the wonders of Twitter to our lives. By the time I attended my first festival in 2012, SXSW combined the most obscene displays of unabashed branding (“Free cappuccino if you squeeze the Charmin on camera at the Charmin pavillion!”) with a militant insistence that no self-promotion be allowed on stage.

For me, this dissonance reached its crazed zenith with our keynote invitation. They wanted us to discuss what was wrong with EdTech...but without talking about our own research. As you might imagine, it’s rather challenging to talk about your research without talking about your research. (Imagine trying to give a 75-minute keynote to ten thousand people while playing an extended game of Taboo about your findings. Additionally, our fellow keynoters were Jeffrey Tambor and Rod Paige (former Secretary of Education during the Bush administration). Jeffrey has had his own troubles of late, but after Rod gave his keynote, an audience member walked up to Norma and me and said, “The only thing I learned in the last hour is that if the two of you had been in charge of our education for the last four years, we would all be a lot better off today.” Flattering and brutal.) It makes me wonder if Jay-Z was instructed to only perform covers that year.

Find out how Kindersight can help teachers and parents connect with their students and how to better facilitate learning outcomes when How to Robot-Proof Yourself hits the bookshelves!

Vivienne L'Ecuyer Ming

Follow more of my work at
Socos Labs The Human Trust
Dionysus Health Optoceutics
RFK Human Rights GenderCool
Crisis Venture Studios Inclusion Impact Index
Neurotech Collider Hub at UC Berkeley