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AI Coding Technology Doesn't Pose a Threat to Human Workers A new coding technology, Codex, writes code with AI to tackle programming challenges that would otherwise be difficult for humans to solve. However, according to Tom Smith, who oversees an A.I. startup called Gado Images, the technology doesn't pose a threat to professional coders. In fact, he sees it as a tool that could "make a coder's life a lot easier". Built by OpenAI, one of the most ambitious artificial intelligence research labs, Codex sheds light on the current state of artificial intelligence. Huge leaps and bounds have been made, though most AI systems complement human workers instead of replacing them. With the consistent rise of technology called neural networks, machines can now learn skills by looking at large amounts of data. By statistically computing and analyzing cat photos, a neural network can recognize a cat. This is the same technology that recognizes your voice, translates between languages, and drives self-driving cars. Years ago, researchers at similar labs to OpenAI built neural networks that analyzed large amounts of text, including digital books, articles, and other text on the internet. After computing patterns in the text, the networks were able to predict the next word in the sentence. With some short seed text, the AIs could produce full paragraphs by completing the thought. GPT-3, created by OpenAI, could write Twitter posts, speeches, poetry, and news for example. Surprisingly, the program could even write its own computer code, though the programs were short and simple. The AI had learned from code on the internet. OpenAI took the project a step further, and created Codex, training a new system on an enormous database of prose and code. The resulting system understands both prose and code and cooperates with user input. If you tell it to do something, it will do something. Codex can generate programs in 12 languages and translate between them. But it only writes the right code 37% of the time. It makes mistakes, and it can't reason like a human. It doesn't really think on its own. From a beta testers' perspective, the code that Codex produces is impressive. But it needs some tweaking to work correctly. That means that codex is only useful to an experienced programmer. Using the technology, GitHub, a popular online service for computer programmers, now offers a tool called Copilot that suggests the next line of code, like how autocomplete tools suggest the next word when texting or emailing. It's a way of writing code without writing a lot of code, at least with GitHubs product. It's not always perfect, but it is close enough. Codex could help novices learn to code, and professionals code faster. With his start-up, Gado Images, Mr. Smith set out to sort through photo archives of newspapers and libraries, captioning and tagging the photos before sharing them. But technology could only do part of the job. Its output still needed to be manually reviewed and edited before it worked. And a seasoned archivist still needed to find the best and most important photos. These tools don't completely remove the need for humans. They can be helpful at making our jobs easier though. AI isn't taking all the jobs, instead, it's making all of them easier.

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Less Sugar in Packaged Foods Could Prevent Heart Disease According to a new health and economic model, it's imperative that manufacturers of packaged food products reduce the sugar added to their products. Reducing added sugar by 20% from foods and 40% from drinks could prevent 2.48 million strokes, heart attacks, cardiac arrests, and other cardiovascular disease problems. The study, published in Circulation, also concludes that 490,000 cardiovascular deaths and 750,000 diabetes cases in the U.S. could be prevented by reducing sugar content in products. The researchers, from the Massachusetts General Hospital, the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene created a model to simulate the impacts of policy proposed by an organization called NSSRI, an initiative aimed at reducing the sugar content of sugary products. NSSRI, the U.S. National Salt and Sugar Reduction Initiative, finalized the policy this February. Their goal is to get sugar giants in the industry to reformulate their products. However, implementing a national policy would require government support to monitor and regulate companies as they work toward the targets of sugar reduction. The researchers hope to build a consensus and "push the reformulation initiative forward in the next few years," according to Siyi Shangguan, MD, MPH. show that it would be healthier and better to put less sugar in products. The U.S. could expect to save $4.28 million in healthcare costs, and $118.04 billion over the lifetime of the current population ages 25 to 79, according to the researchers' model. Even more money could be saved with the societal costs of lost productivity from Americans developing diseases from excessive sugar consumption averted. The policy would become cost-effective at six years and cost-saving at nine years. Previous product reformation efforts have been successful in reducing other harmful nutrients such as trans fat and sodium. However, the U.S. lags behind other countries in sugar-formulation efforts, while the UK, Norway, and Singapore are taking the lead on sugar-reformulation efforts. Consumption of sugary packaged foods and beverages is strongly linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of mortality in the U.S. Another scientist participating in the study, Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, says that sugar is one of the "most obvious additives" in the food supply which should be reduced to reasonable amounts. The findings suggest that it is "time to implement a national program" in order to meet sugar reduction targets, which can generate major improvements in the health of the population.

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Are COVID-19 Vaccines Effective Against the Delta Variant? According to data from a national study, vaccines are effective at preventing hospitalizations and emergency medical visits related to COVID-19. The same study also shows that Moderna's vaccine is the most effective, significantly reducing hospitalizations even in the presence of the new COVID-19 variant. Vaccines are strongly recommended to everyone eligible to reduce serious illness and ease the burden on our healthcare system. The data, provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s VISION Network, included more than 32,000 medical encounters from nine states during June, July, and August 2021. During this time, when the variant became the predominant strain, the study showed that vaccinated people are 5-7 times less likely to need emergency department care or hospitalization. This overall effect is similar to before the variant. In the study, the vaccines were effective at preventing hospitalizations in adults 18 and older as follows:

  • Moderna was 95 percent effective
  • Pfizer was 80 percent effective
  • Johnson and Johnson was 60 percent effective
Vaccine effectiveness is also lower for people ages 75 or older according to the study, which previous research did not show. This could be due to the increased time since vaccination. In preventing emergency department and urgent care visits, analysis showed that:
  • Moderna was 92 pecrent effective
  • Pfizer was 77 percent effective
  • Johnson and Johnson was 65 percent effective
According to scientists, these findings need further monitoring and evaluation. Dr. Grannis, with the study, says that "vaccines continue to offer much more protection" than not getting one. Data shows that "symptoms are less severe" in vaccinated individuals, according to Grannis. COVID-19 vaccines are powerful tools for combating a pandemic that has devastated and continues to devastate many communities. Funded by the CDC, the VISION network includes seven organizations that contribute to and analyze data from U.S. healthcare systems to study COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness. In addition to Regenstrief Institute, other members of the network are Columbia University Irving Medical Center, HealthPartners, Intermountain Healthcare, Kaiser Permanente Northern California, Kaiser Permanente Northwest, and the University of Colorado.

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