November 15th, 2014
02:02 PM ET

When big data meets education

Fareed speaks with Anant Agarwal, who runs edX, a so-called massive open online course or MOOC. Watch the full interview this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.

So one of the criticisms people make about MOOCS is the very successful, it's vast. You have hundreds of thousands of students or tens of thousands taking a class. But you make the case that actually, the very size of the student body taking the same course makes it possible, ironically, to make the education more personal. Explain.

Absolutely. Yes. So we are gathering the big data of learning. And big data and data mining have improved virtually every field known to mankind. We can now improve education, whether online or in the classroom. So as an example, we could do A/B testing on an educational platform...

Explain what A/B testing is.

So on edX we launched A/B testing, where, as part of a course, a professor can have multiple sequences for students, an A sequence, a B sequence and a C sequence. And the platform automatically distributes the students among these sequences. And the professor can give a test at the end and figure out which of these sequences worked best. So in the future, they can then decide that the B sequence, the B approach of teaching was the best...

So you're beta testing the course as you go along.

It's like software. Today, software is in continual beta. You don't spend a year testing it. You put it out there. You do A/B testing and you continually improve it. So we could keep improving education like we improve Web sites today.

And I imagine that also what can happen is as students take tests, because you have so much information on a single course, if a student does badly in the second quiz, you can immediately direct them to some remedial module and say clearly, we know from hundreds of thousands of students taking the same test that you need to go and relearn these two things or something like that.

Absolutely. The Holy Grail for all of us is personalized learning, the kind of learning where you have a tutor sitting next to you like the, you know, like the old ages and the relics where we had only children of kings and so on, who were able to work with a single guru.

Here, the idea would be like you said, to be able to use big data to analyze how a student is learning. And depending on that, to make available specialized pathways for each student and personalize the learning for each student so that if I didn't know something, I'm shown that piece of knowledge. But if I know it already, then I can move ahead faster. So we are launching a few courses along these lines imminently.

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Topics: GPS Show
November 15th, 2014
01:58 PM ET

Interrogators 'doing a job'?

Fareed speaks with Jon Stewart, who directed the new movie 'Rosewater', about its portrayal of torture. Watch the full interview this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.

The certainty of the truth, what you portray a lot is these guys who, they think they know the truth, but you're always wondering, when watching the movie, are these interrogators really...They seem, at some level, very insecure. It's a very deft way of portraying it. There's a lot of bravado, but they're very insecure.

Stewart: Well, you also have to portray it within – they're human beings. People that are interrogators or torturers, this is a job. It's not something that we might see in sort of a more sensationalized cinematic version of it of, the Bruce Willis over the guy, tell me where the bombs are. This guy’s got to come in every day. He's got to be there by 8:00. It's a bureaucracy. He has to work within that. The Green Movement, to these interrogators, was, in many ways, just a chance to get some overtime. You know, the prisons are so filled with people, I think that the gentleman who was responsible for Maziar's torment, in some ways, probably wouldn't have had an opportunity to deal with someone, you know, a “VIP prisoner” – more educated, more Western – if it had not been for the overwhelming amount of people that they were trying to filter through this prison at the time.

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Topics: GPS Show
November 15th, 2014
01:51 PM ET

'The system right now is incentivized for status quo'

Fareed speaks with Maziar Bahari, author of Then They Came for Me, and Rosewater director Jon Stewart about the looming deadline for a nuclear deal with Iran. Watch the full interview this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.

You're not hopeful on an Iranian deal?

Bahari: I don't think so. I don't think that there will be a deal on November 24, because I don't think that there is a real will, either in Iran or the United States, to have a deal on the 24th. And there are also radical interest groups in both countries. In Iran, the Revolutionary Guards are making a lot of money because of the sanctions and because there is no relationship between Iran and the United States. And in this country, as you know, there are many lobbies for making a lot of money by supporting the sanctions and not having...

Stewart: Not a lot of incentives on either side.

And fair to say that whatever deal Obama were to bring, it would be pilloried...

Stewart:...That's my favorite is the new climate deal. So all they talk about in Congress is we're not going to do a climate deal, because if we don't get China on board, it's meaningless. It's utterly meaningless. OK, we've got China on board...No deal...So you realize the system right now is incentivized for status quo, for stagnation. You don't raise money on bipartisanship, on cooperation and good governance. You raise money on demonization. And that's where we sit.

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Topics: GPS Show
November 15th, 2014
01:47 PM ET

Jon Stewart on portrayal of torture in Rosewater

Fareed speaks with Jon Stewart about his new movie 'Rosewater'. Watch the full interview this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.

Did you think about how you were going to make this movie work despite the fact that everybody knows how it ended? To me, what was so effective was the torture felt very scary even though I kind of knew that he was going to be all right at the end.

Right. I think that's something that is the difficulty within a story like this...thank goodness we knew the ending.

So it was a question of creating dynamics within that that were hopefully complex enough that could give people some insight into it, but also, again, a more visceral experience, that feeling of being on the edge of your seat and that discomfort, only to have that alleviated in sort of one large cathartic moment. And to break that through and watching not just that he would get out, but how he regained his humanity and how he sustained himself.

There are so many interesting lessons to be gained from how Maziar was able to retain his humanity given the conditions that he was under.

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Topics: GPS Show
November 15th, 2014
01:44 PM ET

Jon Stewart discusses Iran's government

Fareed speaks with Jon Stewart about Iran's government and the new movie 'Rosewater'. Watch the full interview this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.

So you guys spent a lot of time thinking about this country, this regime. Jon, what do you think? We're in these negotiations with Iran. What do you think of the Iranian regime?

I can't presume to get ahead of it. I can tell you what I think of it in the context of this story.

I think that they have a certainty of the truth. I think they understand how to retain their power base and that they believe that this type of activity is within their self-interest. But that it is a relatively shortsighted kind of an approach to holding onto power.

And I think this is about carving out space for people in that country to have more expression.

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Topics: GPS Show
November 14th, 2014
06:25 PM ET

Why health matters to economies

Francis Collins is director of the National Institutes of Health. This is the fourth in a series of articles from the World Economic Forum on the key challenges facing the world in 2015 as part of their Outlook on the Global Agenda. The views expressed are the writer’s own.

There’s a well-understood correlation that as the economy of a country improves, so the health of its citizens improves. What may be less obvious is that the opposite is also true – improving the health of a nation’s citizens can directly result in economic growth, because there will be more people able to conduct effective activities in the workforce.

Health presents a challenge for all nations; in a study by the Pew Research Center, a median of 85 percent of respondents believe it was a problem in their country. Effective public health systems are essential for providing care for the sick, and for instituting measures that promote wellness and prevent disease. Tobacco, for instance, is one of the greatest scourges we face. In working to combat diseases such as lung cancer and heart disease, we have to fight the causes; there’s a clear need for educational campaigns and other mechanisms to discourage people from smoking in the first place. If the plan to improve health in a nation is to simply build a few more hospitals, that won’t solve the problem.

For developed economies, ageing populations place a heavy strain on healthcare networks. In developing nations, a lack of resources or inadequate infrastructure present separate challenges. Currently, NIH is wrestling with the Ebola crisis in West Africa. When you see the devastation this disease has wrought upon the region, it’s clear that healthcare systems in this part of the world were totally unprepared for the enormous challenge. FULL POST

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Topics: Health
Breaking down the latest ISIS message
November 14th, 2014
03:35 PM ET

Breaking down the latest ISIS message

CNN speaks with Fareed about a message on an ISIS social media account, which claims to be from the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, saying that the U.S.-led coalition is "terrified, weak and powerless." This is an edited version of the transcript.

What are your first impressions when you hear this message, supposedly from al-Baghdadi, using the words weak, powerless, failed and going as far as mentioning the additional 1,500 troops the president has announced?

This is an old tactic. Al Qaeda used to do it all the time. There’s always a lot of bluster and braggadocio. But I also think it's important to remember something I have often said. They are trying to set a bait – they want the United States more involved. It helps them recruit.

Remember, ISIS has gone from nothing to becoming the replacement for al Qaeda, the most well-known jihadi organization in the world. How? By taking on the 800-pound gorilla of the world, the United States of America. FULL POST

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Topics: Iraq • Syria
November 13th, 2014
11:54 PM ET

China’s growing clout

By Fareed Zakaria

As Moscow continues to send its forces into Ukraine, it seems clear that Vladimir Putin’s Russia presents the United States and the West with a frontal challenge. But in the longer run, it is not Russia’s overt military assault but China’s patient and steady non-military moves that pose the larger challenge. Russia is a great power in decline. Its economy amounts to just 3.4 percent of global gross domestic product. China’s is nearly 16 percent and rising, now almost four times the size of Japan’s and five times that of Germany, according to the World Bank.

Presidents Obama and Xi Jinping deserve the accolades they are receiving for their historic agreement on climate change, which suggests that the United States and China are moving toward a new, productive relationship. Except that, even while negotiating this accord, Xi’s government has been laying down plans for a very different foreign policy — one that seeks to replace the American-built post-1945 international system with its own. There is clearly a debate going on in Beijing, but if China continues down this path, it would constitute the most significant and dangerous shift in international politics in 25 years.

Read the Washington Post column

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Topics: Fareed's Take
Zakaria: Russia move into Ukraine 'troubling'
November 13th, 2014
05:00 PM ET

Zakaria: Russia move into Ukraine 'troubling'

Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

CNN speaks with Fareed about recent developments in Iraq and Russia. This is an edited version of the transcript.

Is the American public ready for what potentially could be many, many years of war in tackling the situations in Iraq and Syria?

I think if it's a very limited kind of assistance then perhaps they would. But otherwise, I don't think so because really what you have is this whole region, Iraq and Syria, have been unsettled by a Sunni revolt. A revolt of the Sunnis who don’t want to be ruled by what they see as two apostate regimes – a Shiite regime in Baghdad and the Alawite regime in Damascus.

Now, how you're going to solve that is a very complicated problem. You can bomb and degrade ISIS, but somebody then has to hold the territory and build a political order that includes both the Sunnis and the non-Sunnis. That's a very complicated act of, on the one hand, being able to create and hold political order, but also then build a real nation where everyone feels invested.

The United States, especially with limited military intervention, isn’t going to be able to do that. It has a strategy in Iraq where it has a partner, the Iraqi government, that it is pressing to be more inclusive. There’s an Iraqi army that can hold territory. FULL POST

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Topics: Uncategorized
November 12th, 2014
05:58 PM ET

How 'free' are former Soviet Republics?

For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Many of us remember when the Berlin Wall fell – the celebratory atmosphere, the cheers, the singing, the hammering, the fireworks – and most of all the promise of freedom. On the 25th anniversary we thought we'd look at Freedom House's rankings of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Republics to see how those liberated countries have actually fared.

Eastern European countries like Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have all done very well, although countries like Albania and Bosnia/Herzegovina do need improvement with scores of "partly free."

Of the 15 former Soviet Republics; however, only three countries – the Baltic States – received an overall score of "free".  Five received were "partly free," but seven received a score of "not free."

Twelve of the 15 countries do not have an entirely free press. In fact, only North Korea has less press freedom than Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan! Most received poor scores on civil liberties and political rights. And finally, only six of the 15 countries can be considered electoral democracies at all, according to the most recent data.

Twenty-five years from now, let's hope we see an improved picture – one worthy of the feeling we all had on that day.

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Topics: Last Look
November 12th, 2014
05:51 PM ET

Is world lacking leadership?

By Shiza Shahid, Special to CNN

Shiza Shahid is co-founder and global ambassador for the Malala Fund. The views expressed are her own. This is the third in a series of articles from the World Economic Forum on the key challenges facing the world in 2015 as part of their Outlook on the Global Agenda. The views expressed are her own.

A startling 86 percent of respondents to the Survey on the Global Agenda agree that we have a leadership crisis in the world today. Why would they say this? Perhaps because the international community has largely failed to address any major global issue in recent years. It has failed to deal with global warming, then barely dealt with the failure of the global economy, which has caused such severe problems in North America and Europe. Meanwhile violence has been left to fester in the Middle East, the region our Survey showed is most affected by, and concerned about this problem. So why are we suffering such a lack of leadership?

Well, as our governments have grown, their mechanisms have been plagued by decades of factional alignment, dynasty and deep corruption. In China, for example, 90 percent of people surveyed by Pew said corruption was a problem; separate studies found that 78 percent of Brazilian respondents and 83 percent of those in India regard dishonest leadership as a serious issue.

The deeper you go into these endemic failures, the harder it is for anyone to emerge as a strong leader; one is forced to play the game the way it’s built – which is inevitably in the interest of the system, and rarely in the interest of the people. In many countries, the only people with the institutional power to break through are strong military leaders or radicals like Narendra Modi in India. Yet, given the rise of independent and social media, populations with democratic experience swiftly become disillusioned with the excesses of these military authorities. FULL POST

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Topics: Uncategorized
November 12th, 2014
01:54 PM ET

What I'm reading: Crimea’s rapid Russification

By Fareed Zakaria

“The hotels in Simferopol are packed. It is late autumn and the administrative capital of Crimea has been overrun, not by holidaymakers – the season and political climate are hardly suitable – but by Russian officials. ‘Even in summer we’re not this busy,’ says the manager of a small guesthouse. The functionaries are here to bring all the key administrative sectors – health, education, security, taxation, banking – in line with Moscow standards. A census has started. Eight months after the peninsula was annexed, Russification is in full swing,” writes Isabelle Mandraud in The Guardian.

“In 1970 fewer than a third of 16- to 18-year-olds [in China] were deemed to be short-sighted (meaning that distant objects are blurred). Now nearly four-fifths are, and even more in some urban areas,” The Economist says. “A fifth of these have ‘high’ myopia, that is, anything beyond 16 centimeters (just over six inches) is unclear. The fastest increase is among primary school children, over 40 percent of whom are short-sighted, double the rate in 2000. That compares with less than 10 percent of this age group in America or Germany.”

“The incidence of myopia is high across East Asia, afflicting 80-90 percent of urban 18-year-olds in Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan. The problem is social rather than genetic.” FULL POST

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