AI needs a human touch to function at its highest level

There is an old saying that speaks to the current state of AI: “To someone holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” As companies, governments, and organizations scramble to be in the vanguard of this new generation of artificial intelligence, they are trying their best to persuade everyone that all of our human shortcomings will be absolved by this technological evolution. But what exactly will it solve? Machine learning is an incredibly powerful tool, but, like any other tool, it requires a clear understanding of the problems to be solved in the first place — especially when those problems involve real humans.

Human versus machine intelligence

There is an oft-cited bit from Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series in which an omniscient computer is asked for the ultimate answer to life and the universe. After 7.5 million years, it provides its answer: the number 42. The computer explains to the discombobulated beings who built it that the answer appears meaningless only because they never understood the question they wanted answered.

What is important is identifying the questions machine learning is well-tailored to answer, the questions it struggles with, and perhaps most importantly, how the paradigmatic shift in AI frameworks is impacting the relationship between humans, their data, and the world it describes. Using neural nets has allowed machines to become uncannily accurate at distinguishing idiosyncrasies in massive datasets — but at the cost of truly understanding what they know.

In his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid, Douglas Hofstadter explores the themes of intelligence. He contemplates the idea that intelligence is built upon tangled layers of “strange loops,” a Möbius strip of hierarchical, abstracted levels that paradoxically wind up where they started out. He believes that intelligence is an emergent property built on self-referential layers of logic and abstractions.

This is the wonder that neural nets have achieved — a multi-layered mesh of nodes and weights that pass information from one tier to the next in a digital reflection of the human brain. However, there is one important rule of thumb in artificial intelligence: The more difficult it is for a human to interpret and process something, the easier it is for a machine, and vice versa.

Calculating digits of π, encrypting messages using unimaginably huge prime numbers, and remembering a bottomless Tartarean abyss of information can occur within the blink of an eye using a computer, which manages to outperform millennia of human calculations. And yet humans can recognize their friend’s face in an embarrassing baby photo, identify painters based on brush strokes, and make sense of overly verbose and ruminating blog entries. These are domains that machine learning has made vast improvements in, but it is no wonder that as the human brain-inspired architecture of neural nets brings machines up to parity, and in some cases beyond, in areas of human cognition, machines are beginning to suffer some of the same problems humans do.

Nature or nurture?

By design, we are unable to know what neural nets have learned, and instead we often keep feeding the system more data until we like what we see. Worse yet, the knowledge it has “learned” is not discrete principles and theories, but rather contained in a vast network that is incomprehensible to humans. While Hofstadter might have contemplated artificial intelligence as a reflection of human intelligence, modern AI architects have no tendency to share the same preoccupation. Consequently, modern neural nets, while highly accurate, do not elucidate any understanding of the world for us. In fact, there are several well-publicized instances where AI went afoul, manifesting in a socially unacceptable reality. Within a day of Microsoft’s AI chatbot Tay being active, it learned from Twitter users how to craft misogynistic, racist, and transphobic tweets. Did Tay learn a conceptual sociohistorical theory of gender or race? I would argue not.

Why AI can’t be left unattended

Paradoxically, even if we assume that the purpose of an AI isn’t to understand human concepts at all, these concepts often materialize anyway. As another example of misguided AI, an algorithm was used to predict the likelihood of someone committing future crimes. Statistically based software models learned racial biases, assigning higher risks to black defendants with virtually no criminal records, if any, than to white defendants with extensive histories of violent crime. Facial recognition software is also known to have its biases, to the point that a Nikon camera was unable to determine if a Taiwanese-American woman had her eyes open or not. Machine learning is only as good as the data it is built upon, and when that data is subject to human biases, AI systems inherit these biases. Machines are effective at learning from data, but unlike humans, have little to no proficiency when it comes to taking into account all the things they don’t know, the things missing from the data. This is why even Facebook, which is able to devote massive AI resources to its efforts to eliminate terroristic posts, concedes that the cleanup process ultimately depends on human moderators. We should be rightfully anxious about firing up an AI, whose knowledge is unknowable to us, and leaving it to simmer unattended.

The AI community cannot be haphazard about throwing open the AI gates. Machine learning works best when the stakeholders’ problems and goals are clearly identified, allowing us to chart an appropriate course of action. Treating everything as a nail is likely to waste resources, erode users’ trust, and ultimately lead to ethical dilemmas in AI development.

Mike Pham is a technical product manager at Narrative Science, a company that makes advanced natural language generation (Advanced NLG) for the enterprise.

9 Signs Your Skin Needs More Care

Skin problems can plague you throughout life. Some people deal with acne for a lifetime. Some people have a variety of skin issues throughout life. There are many issues you can face when it comes to the skin, but the good news is there are ways to fix most of them because most of the time it’s your lifestyle that are truly the cause of the problem. Check out 9 sure signs your skin needs more care.

1. You break out a lot
Acne and pimples can be caused by hormones, bad diet, and even lack of water. Try increasing your water intake to flush out toxins. If you have a build-up of toxins in your body, this can cause breakouts. You also want to eat a healthy diet. Too much fat and sugar can lead to break-outs as well. Eat a diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables. Green tea can also help with break-outs as it contains antioxidants.

2. Your skin is dry and scaly
Dry skin can come from the lack of proper hydration. You want to drink at least eight glasses of water per day. This will make your skin look fresher and less dry. Dry skin can also occur if you don’t exfoliate and moisturize your skin. You can use a shower puff daily in the shower and that will keep your skin smooth. Moisturize after you get out of the shower and your skin is still damp so that your skin can absorb the moisturizer.

3. Your skin tone is uneven
Blotchy skin can be reflective of your inner health. If your skin looks uneven, you might want to improve the nutrition you’re getting and increase your water intake. Taking these simple actions should improve the look of your skin.

4. You are noticing wrinkles before you should
Wrinkles can occur prematurely due to sun exposure, smoking, and lack of hydration. Lifestyle choices can determine when you and how much wrinkles will appear. If you want to avoid wrinkles for as long as possible it’s important to eat well. Include plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet. Limit your exposure to the sun and always wear a hat. Most importantly don’t smoke. If you do smoke and you care about your looks, this is the best motivation to quite smoking.

5. Your lips are dry and cracking
If your lips are dry and cracking, this is most likely due to dehydration. You can use a lip balm to lock in moisture, but first you need to hydrate from the inside. Drink water throughout the day and you will notice your lips become less dry. You can also use a gentle exfoliant on your lips to slough away dead skin cells.

6. You tan and burn
Exposing your skin to the sun for long periods of time without proper sunblock can create dry, leather-like skin. You also increase your chance of getting skin cancer by exposing your skin to the sun unprotected. You may notice your skin aging more quickly than you expected if you’re a frequent sun tanner. You will begin to see wrinkles and discolouration long before you should, which will make you look older. If you use a tanning bed, the effects are just the same as the sun. Protect yourself by wearing a high SPF sunblock all year round.

7. Your skin is oily
Skin that is oily can be genetic, but it can also be caused by poor food choices and your skin care routine. If you over-exfoliate your skin or use too many products this can actually cause your skin to produce more oils. If you have naturally oily skin, but sure to choose skin care products that are made for oily skin.

8. You hide your underarms
Underarms are a trouble spot for many people, especially women. It’s an area that is mostly ignored unless it’s being shaved or being slathered in deodorant. Your underarms may be dry due to daily shaving. This is normal, but you can exfoliate and moisturize your underarms. Choose a deodorant that has a moisturizer in it.

9. You have scars
Many people deal with scars from either accidents they’ve had or picking at scabs or zits. The first thing you need to stop doing is picking at your skin. It’s tempting to do, but what you’re left with is a dark blemish that can be difficult to get rid of. Over time a scar may become lighter, but that’s not the case for everyone. If you are prone to picking at scabs or zits, cover them immediately with a band-aid to avoid the temptation.

Whenever you are dealing with skin issues, start with improving your diet to see if the issues clear up. In many cases they will, but if they don’t you can make an appointment with a dermatologist.

The ‘three-parent baby’ fertility doctor needs to stop marketing the procedure, FDA says

Photo by Eugene Ermolovich (CRMI)/Wikimedia Commons
The doctor who created a genetically modified “three-parent baby” has been reprimanded by the Food and Drug Administration for aggressively marketing the unapproved experimental procedure.

John Zhang, CEO of the New Hope Fertility Center in New York, famously combined the DNA of three people to help a mother who was a carrier for a genetic disease conceive an apparently healthy baby boy last year. Now, Zhang and his company are marketing the pricy procedure as the “first proven treatment for certain genetic disorders and a successful solution to age-related infertility.”

However, the FDA does not allow clinical research in people that would involve genetically modifying an embryo. And because Zhang’s technique and the one child it produced are both still in their infancy, we don’t know how well the treatment really works, or if it comes with any unforeseen consequences. On Friday, the FDA posted a letter to Zhang online, informing him that marketing the procedure is illegal, since the FDA hasn’t given him permission to test it in people. The agency asked him to correct his violations, and respond in writing.

“IT’S A CATCH 22.”
Zhang sought permission to conduct clinical research in April 2016, the FDA’s letter says. But the FDA is legally barred from evenconsidering requests to modify the genes of an embryo that could then be inherited. “It’s a Catch 22,” says Leigh Turner, a bioethicist at the University of Minnesota who first brought the FDA’s letter to public attention.

Zhang promised that until the FDA gave him permission, his company Darwin Life wouldn’t generate any more modified embryos in the US, the letter says. However, he, Darwin Life, and New Hope Fertility Center continue to market the procedure — calling it HER IVF, or Human Egg Rejuvenation In Vitro Fertilization. The Darwin Life website says that HER IVF is“designed to reverse the effects of age on human oocytes and repair certain cellular defects.” The procedure will cost about $100,000, MIT Technology Review’s Emily Mullin reported in June 2017.

But without clinical trials, it’s impossible to say what the risks and the benefits of the procedure truly are for people trying to avoid passing a genetic disease to their children. Or whether the technique is even capable of “rejuvenating” an older woman’s egg “by replacing its ‘batteries,’” as Zhang’s blog claims.
“You have individuals who are desperate to have a child, who are concerned about mitochondrial disease, and so are vulnerable to these aggressive marketing tactics,” Turner says. “This is an area where I think there’s something to be said about being cautious, being careful, being prudent, and not just jumping out there into the market place.” Zhang, New Hope, and Darwin Life were unavailable for comment. (Zhang responded via email he might be available to comment later in the week, and the story will be updated at that time.)

Zhang isn’t the first to combine the DNA of three individuals in a single embryo, but long term studies of the so-called three-parent babies of the 1990s are limited. He is the first to use a technique called nuclear transfer, which takes advantage of the fact that there are two different kinds of DNA in human cells. The bulk of the mother’s genome is tangled in the egg’s nucleus, but separate strands of DNA floating in the egg cell build the body’s energy generators, the mitochondria.

Mutations in mitochondrial DNA are passed down by the mother, and can cause life-threatening and incurable diseases in her child. By combining the nuclear DNA of the mother with the unmutated mitochondrial DNA from an egg donor, it might be possible to prevent a child from inheriting the disease.

Zhang and his colleagues modified a human embryo to try and bypass a mutation in the mother’s mitochondria. In New York, the team injected the mother’s nuclear genome into the hollowed egg from a donor. After fertilizing the egg, they then shipped the embryo to Mexico to implant in the mother’s uterus. In its letter, the FDA informed Zhang that such embryo exports are not permitted.

In April 2017, Zhang reported that the baby was still healthy seven months after it was born. But in an editorial published alongside the study, experts noted that without tracking the child’s health through adulthood, it’s impossible to say whether the procedure is safe or effective in the long term. Follow up studies will be tricky, because the child’s parents have said that they don’t want their child’s genes tested for the mutation unless it’s absolutely necessary.

The UK has approved a similar mitochondrial replacement technique, but only in attempts to prevent the child from inheriting a genetic disease. Last year experts recommended that mitochondrial replacement therapies also be allowed in the US to prevent genetic diseases, under very specific conditions. However, it currently remains banned.

“This is a biologically extreme and risky procedure,” Marcy Darnovsky, executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society, told MIT Technology Review. “If you’re talking about using these techniques for age-related infertility, that’s really moving the human experimentation to a very large scale.”

Here’s The Secret Ingredient Your Tomato Sauce Needs

© Vladimir Godnik/Getty Images

Tomato sauce is an essential kitchen staple that every cook must master. Avoid the mistake of making a bland tomato sauce by adding peanut butter (yes, we’re entirely serious).

The Secret Ingredient

This surprising ingredient will round out the flavor and give the sauce a salty kick. Packed with nutrients, peanut butter will also add protein and healthy fats to your dish.

Don’t be afraid to combine tomatoes and peanut butter — you might find that it’s a match made in heaven. Just add the peanut butter once you’ve sautéed the onion and garlic. Be careful not to add too much, as it might overwhelm the other flavors in the sauce. Once this forms a paste, add the tomatoes and let simmer.

Serve over spaghetti, on a pizza, or in a marinade. It’s one of the most versatile sauces around, so the possibilities are endless! For more inspiration, check out food blogger Blue Bear Wood’s peanut butter tomato sauce recipe here.

Like this cooking tip? Find out what your soups and stews are missing.

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Education International puts teachers’ needs at the centre of sustainable development

With the United Nations striving to increase sustainable development education around the world, Education International President Susan Hopgood called for more “tools, time and trust” to strengthen the teaching profession and deliver on the SDGs.

The voice of the teaching profession was loud and clear at the United Nations on 28 June where leading Sustainable Development Goal 4 stakeholders convened for a high-level education event in New York.

“Education systems must be recognised as the drivers that ensure our children have the knowledge and the tools to not only navigate both an increasingly warming climate and shifting political landscape, but to grow-up with an appreciation of both the world around them and of their fellow citizens,” said EI President Susan Hopgood during the panel discussion  “Education for Sustainable Development and Education for Global Citizenship,” which specifically focused on target 4.7.

Hopgood detailed EI’s three major components required to create and maintain sustainable development education. These include a system approach, a strong teaching profession, and a properly developed curriculum.

In taking aim at systemic challenges facing sustainable development education, Hopgood highlighted the need greater financing.

“Governments globally are not meeting their funding commitments to education, and where they do make investments, these benefit the privileged at the expense of the most marginalised, effectively widening inequalities.”

The event was part of a long-term commitment by the UN and Goal 4 stakeholders to raise awareness and better understanding of the sustainable development agenda.

Nutritional Needs During Pregnancy

Your body goes through numerous physical and hormonal changes during pregnancy. The way you nourish your body during this time will affect your health and your baby’s. You must eat a healthful, balanced diet to help ensure you stay healthy throughout your pregnancy. The food you eat is your baby’s main source of nourishment, so it’s critical to consume foods that are rich in nutrients. Proper nutrition can help promote your baby’s growth and development.

By following some fairly easy nutrition guidelines, you can be on your way to a healthy pregnancy.

Your body has increased nutritional needs during pregnancy. Although the old adage of “eating for two” isn’t entirely correct, you do require more micronutrients and macronutrients to support you and your baby.

Micronutrients are dietary components, such as vitamins and minerals, that are only required in small amounts. Macronutrients are nutrients that provide calories, or energy. These include carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

You need to consume more of each type of nutrient during pregnancy.

Nutrient Daily requirements for pregnant women
calories additional 300, in second and third trimesters
calcium 1200 milligrams
folate 600–800 micrograms
iron 27 milligrams
Most pregnant women can meet these increased nutritional needs by choosing a diet that includes a variety of healthy foods. A simple way to ensure you’re getting all the necessary nutrients is to eat different foods from each of the food groups every day. In fact, all meals should include at least three different food groups.

Each food group has something to offer your body. For example:

Grains are a good source of energy.
Fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants, fiber, and water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins.
Meats, nuts, and legumes provide your body with protein, folate, and iron.
Dairy products are great source of calcium and vitamin D.
What and how much to eat

Your body can’t function properly if it’s missing the nutrients from any of these food groups. Remember that your goal is to eat a wide variety of foods during pregnancy. Whenever possible, choose natural, low-fat foods over processed junk foods. Chips and soda, for example, contain no nutritional value. You and your baby will benefit more from fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, such as chicken, fish, beans, or lentils.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to avoid all of your favorite foods during pregnancy. However, you must balance them with nutritious foods so that you don’t miss any important vitamins or minerals.

Including the following nutrients in your daily diet will help ensure that you satisfy your body’s nutritional needs during pregnancy.


Protein is critical for ensuring the proper growth of fetal tissue, including the brain. It also helps with breast and uterine tissue growth during pregnancy. It even plays a role in your increasing blood supply, allowing more blood to be sent to your baby.

You should eat three servings of protein per day. Good sources include:

lean beef and pork
peanut butter
cottage cheese

Calcium helps build your baby’s bones and regulates your body’s use of fluids.

Pregnant women need at least three servings of calcium per day. In pregnant teens, the recommendation is five servings. Good sources of calcium include:


Folate, also known as folic acid, plays an important part in reducing the risk of neural tube defects. These are major birth defects that affect the baby’s brain and spinal cord, such as spina bifida and anencephaly.

When you’re pregnant, you need 600 to 800 micrograms of folate. You can get folate from these foods:

dried beans and lentils
dried beans and lentils
nuts and peanut butter
dark green leafy vegetables

Iron works with sodium, potassium, and water to increase blood flow. This helps ensure that enough oxygen is supplied to both you and your baby.

You should be getting 27 milligrams of iron per day. Good sources of this nutrient include:

dark green, leafy vegetables
citrus fruits
enriched breads or cereals
lean beef and poultry
enriched breads or cereals
dried fruits
Other considerations

Aside from eating well, it’s important to drink at least eight glasses of water each day and to take prenatal vitamins. It’s difficult to obtain sufficient amounts of certain nutrients, including folate and iron, from food alone. Make sure to speak with your doctor about which prenatal vitamins you should take to ensure that you and your baby stay healthy.

Cravings and food aversions

During pregnancy, many women experience aversions to particular foods, meaning the never want to eat them. They may also have cravings for at least one type of food. It’s unclear why women develop food cravings or aversions during pregnancy. However, researchers believe hormones play a role

Common cravings during pregnancy include:

spicy foods
comfort foods, such as mashed potatoes and pizza
It’s fine to give in to these cravings sometimes, especially if you crave foods that are a part of a healthy diet. However, you should try to limit your intake of junk food and processed foods.

Food aversions may only be problematic if they involve foods that are important for the baby’s growth and development. Talk to your doctor if you have adverse reactions to foods you should be eating during pregnancy. Your doctor can suggest other foods or supplements to compensate for the lack of certain nutrients in your diet.


Pica is a disorder that causes cravings for items that contain no nutritional value. Pregnant women with pica may want to eat clay, cigarette ashes, or starch, among other strange substances. When a woman has pica during pregnancy, it may indicate a lack of a specific vitamin or mineral.

It’s important to notify your doctor if you crave nonfood items or have eaten nonfood items. Eating such items can be dangerous for you and your baby.

Healthy weight gain during pregnancy

Many women are concerned about weight gain during pregnancy. They fear they will gain too much weight and never get back to their prepregnancy size. However, some weight gain is normal during pregnancy, and it shouldn’t be cause for concern. The extra weight provides nourishment to the baby. Some of it is also stored for breastfeeding after the baby is born.

Women gain an average of 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy. It’s normal to gain less weight if you start out heavier or to gain more weight if you were underweight before pregnancy. You can speak with your doctor about the appropriate amount of weight for you to gain during your pregnancy. The chart below provides some general guidelines.

Recommended weight gain during pregnancy

Starting weight Body mass index* Recommended weight gain
underweight < 19.8 28 to 40 pounds normal weight 19.8 to 26.0 25 to 35 pounds overweight 26.0 to 29.0 15 to 25 pounds obese >29.0 0 to 15 pounds
*Body mass index can be calculated using the following equation: weight (in pounds) / height (in inches)2x 703.

Don’t worry too much about the number on the scale. Instead of focusing on your weight, you should concentrate on eating a variety of nutritious foods. Healthy eating is incredibly important, and dieting to lose weight or prevent weight gain is harmful to you and your baby.

Healthy exercise

Besides eating a nutrition-focused diet, exercising during pregnancy can help you manage your weight. Swimming and walking are good choices. However, you should avoid any extreme sports or contact sports, such as rock climbing and basketball.

If you didn’t exercise before your pregnancy, start out slowly and don’t overdo it. It’s also important to drink plenty of water so that you don’t get dehydrated. Make sure to talk to your doctor before you start a new exercise routine.

Takeaway: Evaluate your diet

Make sure you’re eating a balanced and nutritious diet during your pregnancy so you and your growing baby can be as healthy as possible. Think about nutritional value, and limit your intake of high-fat, high-sugar, and high-sodium foods.

Eat These:
at least three servings of protein per day
six or more servings of whole grains per day
five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day
three or more servings of dairy products per day
foods with essential fats
prenatal vitamins
Avoid These:
excessive caffeine
raw meats and seafood
high-mercury fish
uncooked processed meats
unpasteurized dairy
You can work with your doctor and dietitian to create a more specific meal plan based on your age, weight, and medical history.

Are there any foods that should be avoided during pregnancy?
Coffee is sometimes debated, as is fish.
Many studies have looked at coffee consumption during pregnancy, but it’s unclear whether or not drinking coffee increases your risk of miscarriage. It’s currently considered safe to drink up to one 12-ounce cup of coffee per day during pregnancy.

While essential fatty acids found in fish oil are important for baby’s brain development, fish may contain the metal mercury, which is known to cause birth defects. To avoid this, avoid eating shark, swordfish, and king mackerel. You should also limit any white tuna you eat to six ounces or less per week. Shrimp, salmon, catfish, and pollock are generally considered safe.

Avoid all alcohol and tobacco products during pregnancy. These are known to interfere with the baby’s development and cause problems after birth.

– Healthline Medical Team

Trump needs to do way more on the opioid epidemic than declare a national emergency

Justin Merriman/Getty Images
After his administration briefly suggested he wouldn’t, President Donald Trump on Thursday said he would declare a national emergency over the opioid epidemic.

The move has been celebrated by public health experts and advocates who are closely following the crisis. But the celebration has been tempered by one problem: No matter what Trump’s new declaration leads to, it most likely won’t be enough to stop as many as hundreds of thousands more from dying due to the epidemic — because the crisis has festered for so long that even emergency protocols just aren’t enough anymore.

To understand why, it’s important to understand the full scale of the opioid epidemic. Consider these numbers:

In 2015, more than 52,000 people in the US died of drug overdoses, about two-thirds of which were linked to opioids. And in 2016, 59,000 to 65,000 are believed to have died of drug overdoses, according to an early analysis by the New York Times — more Americans than died in the Vietnam War. These are the highest death tolls from overdoses recorded in any single year in US history.
Between 1999 and 2015, more than 300,000 people died of opioid overdoses — greater than the population of Cincinnati.
In the same time frame, more than 560,000 died of all drug overdoses — greater than the population of Atlanta.
One forecast by STAT concluded that as many as 650,000 people will die over the next 10 years from only opioid overdoses — more than the entire city of Baltimore.
We don’t know what Trump’s declaration will look like and what kind of guidance will accompany it. (White House officials didn’t offer any specifics when asked.) But generally, an emergency declaration could open up a bit of funding — maybe a few hundred million — and some regulatory waivers that will allow, say, Medicaid to take new action to cover treatment or perhaps let the administration negotiate down prices for the opioid overdose antidote naloxone.

Simply put, this isn’t enough. Experts have told me that it will likely require tens of billions in new funding a year to get a full grip over the opioid epidemic. (For reference, a 2016 studyestimated the total economic burden of prescription opioid overdose, misuse, and addiction at $78.5 billion in 2013.)

“Crises in a nation of 300 million people don’t go away for $1 billion,” Stanford drug policy expert Keith Humphreys previously told me, referring to the money Congress allocated for the epidemic in the 21st Century Cures Act. “This is the biggest public health epidemic of a generation. Maybe it’s going to be worse than AIDS. So we need to go big.”

The good news is we know what to do: As I noted in my explainer about how to stop the opioid epidemic, more resources could be used to boost access to treatment, pull back lax access to opioid painkillers while keeping them accessible to patients who truly need them, and adopt harm reduction policies that mitigate the damage caused by opioids and other drugs. (More details in the full explainer.)

The catch is all of this will require a comprehensive bill, not just executive action and declarations. You can’t allocate tens of billions of dollars a year without some action by the legislative branch in particular.

But to do something like that, Trump and Congress will have to develop the political will to act. So far, they haven’t done much. The only notable bill Congress has passed is the 21st Century Cures Act, which was signed into law last year by President Barack Obama and added $1 billion over two years for drug addiction treatment. Besides that, Trump and Republicans’ efforts to repeal Obamacare threaten to make the crisis worse — by reducing access to health insurance that can be used to pay for addiction care.

An emergency declaration could spur Trump’s administration and Congress to take this issue more seriously.

But I am skeptical. As former CDC Director Tom Frieden recently told me, “There’s always the argument that declaring something an emergency increases attention to it, but in this case there’s a lot of attention — just not a lot of effective action so far.”