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Westlake Legal Group > Stanford University

Google Glass Has an Afterlife as a Device to Teach Autistic Children

SAN FRANCISCO — When Esaïe Prickett sat down in the living room with his mother, father and four older brothers, he was the only one wearing Google Glass.

As Esaïe, who was 10 at the time and is 12 now, gazed through the computerized glasses, his family made faces — happy, sad, surprised, angry, bored — and he tried to identify each emotion. In an instant, the glasses told him whether he was right or wrong, flashing tiny digital icons that only he could see.

Esaïe was 6 when he and his family learned he had autism. The technology he was using while sitting in the living room was meant to help him learn how to recognize emotions and make eye contact with those around him. The glasses would verify his choices only if he looked directly at a face.

He and his family tested the technology for several weeks as part of a clinical trial run by researchers at Stanford University in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. Recently detailed in The Journal of the American Medical Association, Pediatrics, the trial fits into a growing effort to build new technologies for children on the autism spectrum, including interactive robots and computerized eyewear.

The Stanford study’s results show that the methods have promise and indicate that they could help children like Esaïe understand emotions and engage in more direct ways with those around them. They could also measure changes in behavior, something that has historically been difficult to do.

Experts believe that other new technologies may help in similar ways. Talking digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, for example, could help children who misuse their pronouns. But even as these ideas spread, researchers warn that they will require rigorous testing before their effects are completely understood.

Catalin Voss started building software for Google Glass in 2013, not long after Google unveiled the computerized eyewear amid much hullabaloo from the national media. An 18-year-old Stanford freshman at the time, Mr. Voss began building an application that could automatically recognize images. Then he thought of his cousin, who had autism.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_157780347_20215954-a643-4ad4-9163-6224d3b296e6-articleLarge Google Glass Has an Afterlife as a Device to Teach Autistic Children Wearable Computing Stanford University Research Innovation Google Inc Google Glass Computers and the Internet autism

Esaïe practicing facial expressions with his brother Morgan while wearing Google Glass.CreditCayce Clifford for The New York Times

Growing up, Mr. Voss’s cousin practiced recognizing facial expressions while looking into a bathroom mirror. Google Glass, Mr. Voss thought, might improve on this common exercise. Drawing on the latest advances in computer vision, his software could automatically read facial expressions and keep close track of when someone recognized an emotion and when they did not.

“I was trying to build software that could recognize faces,” Mr. Voss said. “And I knew that there were people who struggled with that.”

At the time, the brief moment Google Glass spent in the national spotlight was already coming to an end. Google stopped selling the device to consumers amid concerns that its built-in camera would compromise personal privacy.

But Google Glass lived on as something to be used by researchers and businesses, and Mr. Voss, now a Ph.D. student, spent the next several years developing his application with Dennis Wall, a Stanford professor who specializes in autism research, and others at the university.

Their clinical trial, conducted over two years with 71 children, is one of the first of its kind. It spanned everything from severe forms of autism, including children with speech impairments and tactile sensitivities, to much milder forms. Children who used the software in their homes showed a significant gain on the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, a standard tool for tracking the behavior of those on the autism spectrum, Mr. Voss said.

The gain was in line with improvements by children who received therapy in dedicated clinics through more traditional methods. The hope is that Mr. Voss’s application and similar methods can help more children in more places, without regular visits to clinics.

“It is a way for families to, on some level, provide their own therapy,” Mr. Voss said.

Jeffrey Prickett, Esaïe’s father, said he had been drawn to the study because he had known it would appeal to his son, who enjoys using iPad apps and watching DVD movies.

Catalin Voss was a Stanford freshman when he started to build an application for Google Glass that could automatically recognize images.CreditJessica Chou for The New York Times

“He does fine interacting with people,” Mr. Prickett said. “But he does better interacting with technology.”

Mr. Prickett found it hard to judge whether the Google device helped his son recognize emotions, but he saw a marked improvement in Esaïe’s ability to make eye contact.

Heather Crowhurst, who lives near Sacramento, said she had experienced something similar with her 8-year-old son, Thomas, who also participated in the trial. But Thomas was not entirely captivated with the digital therapy. “It was kind of boring,” he said.

The concern with such studies is that they rely on the observations of parents who are helping their children use the technology, said Catherine Lord, a clinical psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of autism. The parents are aware of the technological intervention, so their observations may not be reliable.

Still, the Stanford team considers its study a first step toward wider use of this and other technologies in autism. It has licensed the technology to Cognoa, a Silicon Valley start-up founded by Dr. Wall. The company hopes to commercialize the method once it receives approval from the Food and Drug Administration, which oversees the use of medical devices in the United States. That may still be years away.

Other companies are taking a different approach. Brain Power, a start-up in Massachusetts that has built similar software for Google Glass, is selling its technology to local schools. The company considers it a teaching tool, not a medical device.

Patrick Daly, the assistant superintendent of the school district in North Reading, Mass., is testing Brain Power’s technology after watching its effect on his 9-year-old son, who is on the spectrum. The district intends to test the technology over the next few years.

Dennis Wall, left, a Stanford professor who specializes in autism research, and Mr. Voss.CreditJessica Chou for The New York Times

Previously, the district tried to teach similar skills through iPad computer tablets. Mr. Daly sees Google Glass as a big improvement.

“It can actually maintain eye contact,” he said. “They are not looking down while they try to learn an emotion.”

Robokind, a start-up in Dallas, applies the same philosophy to different hardware. The company spent the past several years designing a robot that attempts to teach many of the same skills as technologies built for digital eyewear. Called Milo, the doll-like, two-foot-tall robot mimics basic emotions and tries to make eye contact with students. It also asks questions and tries to engage students in simple conversations.

Robokind has sold hundreds of the robots to schools for testing. Each one costs $12,000, plus more than $3,500 for additional software.

In some ways, such a device is a poor substitute for real human interaction. But the strength of this and other technologies is that they can repeat tasks time and again, without getting tired or bored or angry. They can also measure behavior in precise ways, said Pam Feliciano, the scientific director of the nonprofit Simons Foundation Powering Autism Research.

For these reasons, Ms. Feliciano also sees promise in Amazon’s Alexa. Her 14-year-old son is on the spectrum and struggles with his pronouns. He sometimes calls himself “you,” not “I.”

Her task is to correct him each time he makes a mistake. But she’s human and gets tired. She does not always remember. A device like Alexa could help, she said, provided that researchers can show it is reliable and effective.

“The technologies are there,” she said. “It is just a matter of the right technologists working with the right clinicians.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Google Glass May Have an Afterlife as a Device to Teach Autistic Children

SAN FRANCISCO — When Esaïe Prickett sat down in the living room with his mother, father and four older brothers, he was the only one wearing Google Glass.

As Esaïe, who was 10 at the time and is 12 now, gazed through the computerized glasses, his family made faces — happy, sad, surprised, angry, bored — and he tried to identify each emotion. In an instant, the glasses told him whether he was right or wrong, flashing tiny digital icons that only he could see.

Esaïe was 6 when he and his family learned he had autism. The technology he was using while sitting in the living room was meant to help him learn how to recognize emotions and make eye contact with those around him. The glasses would verify his choices only if he looked directly at a face.

He and his family tested the technology for several weeks as part of a clinical trial run by researchers at Stanford University in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. Recently detailed in The Journal of the American Medical Association, Pediatrics, the trial fits into a growing effort to build new technologies for children on the autism spectrum, including interactive robots and computerized eyewear.

The Stanford study’s results show that the methods have promise and indicate that they could help children like Esaïe understand emotions and engage in more direct ways with those around them. They could also measure changes in behavior, something that has historically been difficult to do.

Experts believe that other new technologies may help in similar ways. Talking digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, for example, could help children who misuse their pronouns. But even as these ideas spread, researchers warn that they will require rigorous testing before their effects are completely understood.

Catalin Voss started building software for Google Glass in 2013, not long after Google unveiled the computerized eyewear amid much hullabaloo from the national media. An 18-year-old Stanford freshman at the time, Mr. Voss began building an application that could automatically recognize images. Then he thought of his cousin, who had autism.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_157780347_20215954-a643-4ad4-9163-6224d3b296e6-articleLarge Google Glass May Have an Afterlife as a Device to Teach Autistic Children Wearable Computing Stanford University Research Innovation Google Inc Google Glass Computers and the Internet autism

Esaïe practicing facial expressions with his brother Morgan while wearing Google Glass.CreditCayce Clifford for The New York Times

Growing up, Mr. Voss’s cousin practiced recognizing facial expressions while looking into a bathroom mirror. Google Glass, Mr. Voss thought, might improve on this common exercise. Drawing on the latest advances in computer vision, his software could automatically read facial expressions and keep close track of when someone recognized an emotion and when they did not.

“I was trying to build software that could recognize faces,” Mr. Voss said. “And I knew that there were people who struggled with that.”

At the time, the brief moment Google Glass spent in the national spotlight was already coming to an end. Google stopped selling the device to consumers amid concerns that its built-in camera would compromise personal privacy.

But Google Glass lived on as something to be used by researchers and businesses, and Mr. Voss, now a Ph.D. student, spent the next several years developing his application with Dennis Wall, a Stanford professor who specializes in autism research, and others at the university.

Their clinical trial, conducted over two years with 71 children, is one of the first of its kind. It spanned everything from severe forms of autism, including children with speech impairments and tactile sensitivities, to much milder forms. Children who used the software in their homes showed a significant gain on the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, a standard tool for tracking the behavior of those on the autism spectrum, Mr. Voss said.

The gain was in line with improvements by children who received therapy in dedicated clinics through more traditional methods. The hope is that Mr. Voss’s application and similar methods can help more children in more places, without regular visits to clinics.

“It is a way for families to, on some level, provide their own therapy,” Mr. Voss said.

Jeffrey Prickett, Esaïe’s father, said he had been drawn to the study because he had known it would appeal to his son, who enjoys using iPad apps and watching DVD movies.

Catalin Voss was a Stanford freshman when he started to build an application for Google Glass that could automatically recognize images.CreditJessica Chou for The New York Times

“He does fine interacting with people,” Mr. Prickett said. “But he does better interacting with technology.”

Mr. Prickett found it hard to judge whether the Google device helped his son recognize emotions, but he saw a marked improvement in Esaïe’s ability to make eye contact.

Heather Crowhurst, who lives near Sacramento, said she had experienced something similar with her 8-year-old son, Thomas, who also participated in the trial. But Thomas was not entirely captivated with the digital therapy. “It was kind of boring,” he said.

The concern with such studies is that they rely on the observations of parents who are helping their children use the technology, said Catherine Lord, a clinical psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of autism. The parents are aware of the technological intervention, so their observations may not be reliable.

Still, the Stanford team considers its study a first step toward wider use of this and other technologies in autism. It has licensed the technology to Cognoa, a Silicon Valley start-up founded by Dr. Wall. The company hopes to commercialize the method once it receives approval from the Food and Drug Administration, which oversees the use of medical devices in the United States. That may still be years away.

Other companies are taking a different approach. Brain Power, a start-up in Massachusetts that has built similar software for Google Glass, is selling its technology to local schools. The company considers it a teaching tool, not a medical device.

Patrick Daly, the assistant superintendent of the school district in North Reading, Mass., is testing Brain Power’s technology after watching its effect on his 9-year-old son, who is on the spectrum. The district intends to test the technology over the next few years.

Dennis Wall, left, a Stanford professor who specializes in autism research, and Mr. Voss.CreditJessica Chou for The New York Times

Previously, the district tried to teach similar skills through iPad computer tablets. Mr. Daly sees Google Glass as a big improvement.

“It can actually maintain eye contact,” he said. “They are not looking down while they try to learn an emotion.”

Robokind, a start-up in Dallas, applies the same philosophy to different hardware. The company spent the past several years designing a robot that attempts to teach many of the same skills as technologies built for digital eyewear. Called Milo, the doll-like, two-foot-tall robot mimics basic emotions and tries to make eye contact with students. It also asks questions and tries to engage students in simple conversations.

Robokind has sold hundreds of the robots to schools for testing. Each one costs $12,000, plus more than $3,500 for additional software.

In some ways, such a device is a poor substitute for real human interaction. But the strength of this and other technologies is that they can repeat tasks time and again, without getting tired or bored or angry. They can also measure behavior in precise ways, said Pam Feliciano, the scientific director of the nonprofit Simons Foundation Powering Autism Research.

For these reasons, Ms. Feliciano also sees promise in Amazon’s Alexa. Her 14-year-old son is on the spectrum and struggles with his pronouns. He sometimes calls himself “you,” not “I.”

Her task is to correct him each time he makes a mistake. But she’s human and gets tired. She does not always remember. A device like Alexa could help, she said, provided that researchers can show it is reliable and effective.

“The technologies are there,” she said. “It is just a matter of the right technologists working with the right clinicians.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Facial Recognition Tech Is Growing Stronger, Thanks to Your Face

SAN FRANCISCO — Dozens of databases of people’s faces are being compiled without their knowledge by companies and researchers, with many of the images then being shared around the world, in what has become a sprawling ecosystem fueling the spread of facial recognition technology.

The databases are pulled together with images from social networks, photo websites, dating services like OkCupid and cameras placed in restaurants and on college quads. While there is no precise count of the data sets, privacy activists have pinpointed repositories that were built by Microsoft, Stanford University and others, with one holding more than 10 million images while another had more than two million.

The face compilations are being driven by the race to create leading-edge facial recognition systems. This technology learns how to identify people by analyzing as many digital pictures as possible using “neural networks,” which are complex mathematical systems that require vast amounts of data to build pattern recognition.

Tech giants like Facebook and Google have most likely amassed the largest face data sets, which they do not distribute, according to research papers. But other companies and universities have widely shared their image troves with researchers, governments and private enterprises in Switzerland, India, China, Australia and Singapore for training artificial intelligence, according to academics, activists and public papers.

Companies and labs have gathered facial images for more than a decade, and the databases are merely one layer to building facial recognition technology. But people often have no idea that their faces ended up in them. And while names are typically not attached to the photos, individuals can be recognized because each face is unique to a person.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_157756593_03c2fff0-6c72-469f-b32c-cd683893caf1-articleLarge Facial Recognition Tech Is Growing Stronger, Thanks to Your Face Start-ups Stanford University Social Media Research Privacy Microsoft Corp facial recognition software Face duke university Data-Mining and Database Marketing Computers and the Internet Computer Vision Clarifai Inc Artificial Intelligence

A visualization of 2,000 of the identities included in the MS Celeb database from Microsoft.CreditOpen Data Commons Public Domain Dedication and License, via Megapixels

Questions about the data sets are rising because the technologies that they have enabled are now being used in potentially invasive ways. Documents released last Sunday revealed that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials employed facial recognition technology to scan motorists’ photos to identify undocumented immigrants. The F.B.I. also spent more than a decade using such systems to compare driver’s license and visa photos against the faces of suspected criminals, according to a Government Accountability Office report last month. On Wednesday, a congressional hearing tackled the government’s use of the technology.

There is no oversight of the data sets. Activists and others said they were angered by the possibility that people’s likenesses had been used to build ethically questionable technology and that the images could be misused. At least one face database created in the United States was shared with a company in China that has been linked to ethnic profiling of the country’s minority Uighur Muslims.

Over the past several weeks, some companies and universities, including Microsoft and Stanford, removed their face data sets from the internet because of privacy concerns. But given that the images were already so well distributed, they are most likely still being used in the United States and elsewhere, researchers and activists said.

“You come to see that these practices are intrusive, and you realize that these companies are not respectful of privacy,” said Liz O’Sullivan, who oversaw one of these databases at the artificial intelligence start-up Clarifai. She said she left the New York-based company in January to protest such practices.

“The more ubiquitous facial recognition becomes, the more exposed we all are to being part of the process,” said Liz O’Sullivan, a technologist who worked at the artificial intelligence start-up Clarifai.CreditNathan Bajar for The New York Times

“The more ubiquitous facial recognition becomes, the more exposed we all are to being part of the process,” she said.

Google, Facebook and Microsoft declined to comment.

[If you’re online — and, well, you are — chances are someone is using your information. We’ll tell you what you can do about it. Sign up for our limited-run newsletter.]

One database, which dates to 2014, was put together by researchers at Stanford. It was called Brainwash, after a San Francisco cafe of the same name, where the researchers tapped into a camera. Over three days, the camera took more than 10,000 images, which went into the database, the researchers wrote in a 2015 paper. The paper did not address whether cafe patrons knew their images were being taken and used for research. (The cafe has closed.)

The Stanford researchers then shared Brainwash. According to research papers, it was used in China by academics associated with the National University of Defense Technology and Megvii, an artificial intelligence company that The New York Times previously reported has provided surveillance technology for monitoring Uighurs.

The Brainwash data set was removed from its original website last month after Adam Harvey, an activist in Germany who tracks the use of these repositories through a website called MegaPixels, drew attention to it. Links between Brainwash and papers describing work to build A.I. systems at the National University of Defense Technology in China have also been deleted, according to documentation from Mr. Harvey.

Stanford researchers who oversaw Brainwash did not respond to requests for comment. “As part of the research process, Stanford routinely makes research documentation and supporting materials available publicly,” a university official said. “Once research materials are made public, the university does not track their use nor did university officials.”

Duke University researchers also started a database in 2014 using eight cameras on campus to collect images, according to a 2016 paper published as part of the European Conference on Computer Vision. The cameras were denoted with signs, said Carlo Tomasi, the Duke computer science professor who helped create the database. The signs gave a number or email for people to opt out.

The Duke researchers ultimately gathered more than two million video frames with images of over 2,700 people, according to the paper. They also posted the data set, named Duke MTMC, online. It was later cited in myriad documents describing work to train A.I. in the United States, in China, in Japan, in Britain and elsewhere.

Duke University researchers started building a database in 2014 using eight cameras on campus to collect images.CreditOpen Data Commons Attribution License, via Megapixels
The Duke researchers ultimately gathered more than two million video frames with images of over 2,700 people.CreditOpen Data Commons Attribution License, via Megapixels

Dr. Tomasi said that his research group did not do face recognition and that the MTMC was unlikely to be useful for such technology because of poor angles and lighting.

“Our data was recorded to develop and test computer algorithms that analyze complex motion in video,” he said. “It happened to be people, but it could have been bicycles, cars, ants, fish, amoebas or elephants.”

At Microsoft, researchers have claimed on the company’s website to have created one of the biggest face data sets. The collection, called MS Celeb, spanned over 10 million images of more than 100,000 people.

MS Celeb was ostensibly a database of celebrities, whose images are considered fair game because they are public figures. But MS Celeb also brought in photos of privacy and security activists, academics and others, such as Shoshana Zuboff, the author of the book “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism,” according to documentation from Mr. Harvey of the MegaPixels project. MS Celeb was distributed internationally, before being removed this spring after Mr. Harvey and others flagged it.

Kim Zetter, a cybersecurity journalist in San Francisco who has written for Wired and The Intercept, was one of the people who unknowingly became part of the Microsoft data set.

“We’re all just fodder for the development of these surveillance systems,” she said. “The idea that this would be shared with foreign governments and military is just egregious.”

Matt Zeiler, founder and chief executive of Clarifai, the A.I. start-up, said his company had built a face database with images from OkCupid, a dating site. He said Clarifai had access to OkCupid’s photos because some of the dating site’s founders invested in his company.

He added that he had signed a deal with a large social media company — he declined to disclose which — to use its images in training face recognition models. The social network’s terms of service allow for this kind of sharing, he said.

“There has to be some level of trust with tech companies like Clarifai to put powerful technology to good use, and get comfortable with that,” he said.

An OkCupid spokeswoman said Clarifai contacted the company in 2014 “about collaborating to determine if they could build unbiased A.I. and facial recognition technology” and that the dating site “did not enter into any commercial agreement then and have no relationship with them now.” She did not address whether Clarifai had gained access to OkCupid’s photos without its consent.

Clarifai used the images from OkCupid to build a service that could identify the age, sex and race of detected faces, Mr. Zeiler said. The start-up also began working on a tool to collect images from a website called Insecam — short for “insecure camera” — which taps into surveillance cameras in city centers and private spaces without authorization. Clarifai’s project was shut down last year after some employees protested and before any images were gathered, he said.

Mr. Zeiler said Clarifai would sell its facial recognition technology to foreign governments, military operations and police departments provided the circumstances were right. It did not make sense to place blanket restrictions on the sale of technology to entire countries, he added.

Ms. O’Sullivan, the former Clarifai technologist, has joined a civil rights and privacy group called the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project. She is now part of a team of researchers building a tool that will let people check whether their image is part of the openly shared face databases.

“You are part of what made the system what it is,” she said.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Social Security Is Staring at Its First Real Shortfall in Decades. Big Cuts Could Follow.

A slow-moving crisis is approaching for Social Security, threatening to undermine a central pillar in the retirement of tens of millions of Americans.

Next year, for the first time since 1982, the program must start drawing down its assets in order to pay retirees all of the benefits they have been promised, according to the latest government projections.

Unless a political solution is reached, Social Security’s so-called trust funds are expected to be depleted within about 15 years. Then, something that has been unimaginable for decades would be required under current law: Benefit checks for retirees would be cut by about 20 percent across the board.

“Old people not getting the Social Security checks they have been promised? That has been unthinkable in America — and I don’t think it will really happen in the end this time, because it’s just too horrible,” said Alicia Munnell, the director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. “But action has to be taken to prevent it.”

While the issue is certain to be politically contentious, it is barely being talked about in Washington and at 2020 campaign events. The last time Social Security faced a crisis of this kind, in the early 1980s, a high-level bipartisan effort was needed to keep retirees’ checks whole. Since that episode, the program has often been called “the third rail of American politics” — an entitlement too dangerous to touch — and it’s possible that another compromise could be reached in the current era.

Benefit cuts would be devastating for about half of retired Americans, who rely on Social Security for most of their retirement income. A survey released in May by the Federal Reserve found that a quarter of working Americans had saved nothing for retirement.

The shrinking of Social Security’s assets expected in 2020 would mark a significant change in the program’s cash flow, one that could complicate Americans’ retirement planning — even for the many relatively affluent citizens for whom Social Security is still a major source of income in old age.

“Fifteen years is really just around the corner for people planning their retirements,” said John B. Shoven, a Stanford economist who is also affiliated with the Hoover Institution and the National Bureau of Economic Research.

“The cuts that are being projected would be terrible for a lot of people,” he said. “This needn’t happen and it shouldn’t happen, but we’ve known about these problems for a long time and they haven’t been solved. They’re getting closer.”

Social Security has a long-known basic math problem: more money will be going out than coming in. Roughly 10,000 baby boomers are retiring each day, with insufficient numbers of younger people entering the work force to pay into the system and support them.

And life expectancy is increasing. By 2035, Social Security estimates, the number of Americans 65 or older will increase to more than 79 million, from about 49 million now. If the program has not been repaired, they will encounter a much poorer Social Security than the one seniors rely on today.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_150067614_f21c786e-dbaf-4974-a5ea-08bd94d82976-articleLarge Social Security Is Staring at Its First Real Shortfall in Decades. Big Cuts Could Follow. United States Politics and Government United States Economy Taxation Stanford University Social Security (US) Retirement Law and Legislation House of Representatives Hoover Institution Heritage Foundation Harvard University Federal Budget (US) Democratic Party Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Representative John Larson and Senator Richard Blumenthal discussing their Social Security legislation at a senior center in Bristol, Connecticut.CreditMonica Jorge for The New York Times

Under current law, cuts would start in 2034, when the main trust fund is expected to be depleted, or in 2035, if Congress authorizes Social Security to pay old-age benefits through the Disability Insurance Trust Fund.

Consider a woman with average annual earnings of $51,795 (in current dollars) over the course of her career, who retires at age 67 in 2037. The latest Social Security study indicates that she will be entitled to $27,366 in inflation-adjusted benefits. But if the trust fund shortfall has not been remedied, Social Security would be permitted to pay her only $21,669 — a 21 percent cut.

Nearly every older American would be affected, but those at the lowest income levels would be hurt the most. Social Security benefits are progressive, providing greater assistance for those with greater need. A worker with average career earnings of $12,949 until 2037 is entitled to receive the equivalent of 75.6 percent of that income, but with mandatory cuts, this person would have to survive on just 59.9 percent, the Social Security report says.

According to a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 9 percent of all retirees lived in poverty in 2017 — but the figure would have been 39 percent if not for Social Security.

For African Americans, the study found, the anti-poverty effect has been even greater: 19 percent lived in poverty, but 52 percent would have done so if they had not received Social Security payments. For Hispanics, the numbers were 17 percent and 46 percent.

The reductions of roughly 20 percent on average are just a starting point. If current laws are unchanged and current economic projections remain intact, the cuts would rise to 25 percent in later years, a New York Times analysis of Social Security data indicates.

Unless Congress and the White House reach an agreement before the trust funds are emptied, most Americans will face hard choices: delaying retirement and working longer if they can, or simply surviving on less.

The Social Security mess already complicates some commonly accepted retirement-planning wisdom — such as the advice to delay claiming benefits until age 70.

People who do so are entitled to an 8 percent annual increase in benefits. That makes Social Security “the best annuity that money could buy,” said Wade Pfau, a professor of retirement income at the American College of Financial Services, in a 2015 report. But he redid his calculations at the request of The Times, and for workers who are 55 now, statutory benefit cuts just when they turn 70 could make that approach far less attractive, Professor Pfau said.

Cutting the Social Security checks of people in retirement is, to say the least, politically dangerous.

David Stockman, President Ronald Reagan’s budget director, tried to do just that in 1981. What happened in that episode gives some clues for a possible solution today.

Like other conservatives of that era, Mr. Stockman viewed Social Security as a form of “closet socialism” that needed to be scaled back. With the program facing a solvency crisis, he proposed immediate reductions in retirees’ benefits.

Older Americans rebelled, and members of Congress listened to them. “I just hadn’t thought through the impact of making it effective immediately,” Mr. Stockman observed ruefully in his 1986 book, “The Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan Revolution Failed.”

Rosly Ray in a Social Security Administration video kiosk room at a public library in Quincy, Florida, last year.CreditMark Wallheiser for The New York Times

A nimble politician, Reagan rejected Mr. Stockman’s recommendations and formed a bipartisan commission to study the issue. Ultimately, Reagan reached a long-term agreement with the Democratic speaker of the House, Thomas P. O’Neill Jr., who viewed the preservation of Social Security as essential.

While they made no immediate cuts in Social Security checks, they reduced benefits in more subtle ways, using measures that are still being used, like gradually delaying the standard retirement age from 65 to 66, where it stands today, and eventually to 67.

Taxes increased, too — bolstering cash flows and creating the trust fund surpluses that have given retirees and current politicians some breathing room.

But in ways large and small, the Reagan-O’Neill Social Security fix is coming undone. Notably, the hefty balances in those trust fund accounts today — some $2.9 trillion — may be having an unintended consequence.

“The trust fund surpluses were intended to provide a buffer that would give politicians enough time to show some fiscal responsibility,” said Robert D. Reischauer, a former Social Security trustee who was also head of the Congressional Budget Office and is now president emeritus of the Urban Institute. “But the problem is that without an immediate crisis, the politicians don’t have to act. And really, they would rather sleep. So when the crisis eventually comes, as it will, it is likely to be much, much worse because of the delay.”

John Cogan, a professor of public policy at Stanford, said Social Security’s fundamental problem was that benefits had been rising faster than revenue. Cuts, he said, will be unpalatable but inevitable.

“The solution, I think, is to slow the growth in real benefits promised to future recipients,” he said.

Democrats in Congress have suggested an increase in Social Security benefits, accompanied by higher taxes for the wealthy. In combination, the bill’s various measures would eliminate the program’s financial shortfall, according to projections by Stephen C. Goss, the chief actuary of Social Security.

Conservatives continue to push for sharp reductions in the size of Social Security as well as Medicare, saying the United States can’t afford the growing burden of the two “entitlement programs.”

“Entitlement programs in the United States have expanded more than tenfold since their inception, but workers are nowhere near 10 times better off as a result,” the Heritage Foundation said in a May 20 policy proposal. The conservative think tank favors cuts to benefits and siphoning money from payroll taxes into individual investment accounts. That echoes an initiative that President George W. Bush once embraced but Democrats blocked.

There are no signs of an imminent breakthrough, though Professor Cogan said that, as in the past, the impending prospect of benefit cuts “is likely to change the political atmosphere and make it possible to find a compromise.”

But Mr. Reischauer fears that, given the current acrimony of American politics, there will be no compromise until the last minute.

“We will need a combination of increased taxes and reduced benefits, undoubtedly,” he said. “But if we wait, the deficits will only grow and the eventual solution will be much more painful.”

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Social Security Is Staring at Its First Real Shortfall in Decades

A slow-moving crisis is approaching for Social Security, threatening to undermine a central pillar in the retirement of tens of millions of Americans.

Next year, for the first time since 1982, the program must start drawing down its assets in order to pay retirees all of the benefits they have been promised, according to the latest government projections.

Unless a political solution is reached, Social Security’s so-called trust funds are expected to be depleted within about 15 years. Then, something that has been unimaginable for decades would be required under current law: Benefit checks for retirees would be cut by about 20 percent across the board.

“Old people not getting the Social Security checks they have been promised? That has been unthinkable in America — and I don’t think it will really happen in the end this time, because it’s just too horrible,” said Alicia Munnell, the director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. “But action has to be taken to prevent it.”

While the issue is certain to be politically contentious, it is barely being talked about in Washington and at 2020 campaign events. The last time Social Security faced a crisis of this kind, in the early 1980s, a high-level bipartisan effort was needed to keep retirees’ checks whole. Since that episode, the program has often been called “the third rail of American politics” — an entitlement too dangerous to touch — and it’s possible that another compromise could be reached in the current era.

Benefit cuts would be devastating for about half of retired Americans, who rely on Social Security for most of their retirement income. A survey released in May by the Federal Reserve found that a quarter of working Americans had saved nothing for retirement.

The shrinking of Social Security’s assets expected in 2020 would mark a significant change in the program’s cash flow, one that could complicate Americans’ retirement planning — even for the many relatively affluent citizens for whom Social Security is still a major source of income in old age.

“Fifteen years is really just around the corner for people planning their retirements,” said John B. Shoven, a Stanford economist who is also affiliated with the Hoover Institution and the National Bureau of Economic Research.

“The cuts that are being projected would be terrible for a lot of people,” he said. “This needn’t happen and it shouldn’t happen, but we’ve known about these problems for a long time and they haven’t been solved. They’re getting closer.”

Social Security has a long-known basic math problem: more money will be going out than coming in. Roughly 10,000 baby boomers are retiring each day, with insufficient numbers of younger people entering the work force to pay into the system and support them.

And life expectancy is increasing. By 2035, Social Security estimates, the number of Americans 65 or older will increase to more than 79 million, from about 49 million now. If the program has not been repaired, they will encounter a much poorer Social Security than the one seniors rely on today.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_150067614_f21c786e-dbaf-4974-a5ea-08bd94d82976-articleLarge Social Security Is Staring at Its First Real Shortfall in Decades United States Politics and Government United States Economy Taxation Stanford University Social Security (US) Retirement Law and Legislation House of Representatives Hoover Institution Heritage Foundation Harvard University Federal Budget (US) Democratic Party Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Representative John Larson and Senator Richard Blumenthal discussing their Social Security legislation at a senior center in Bristol, Connecticut.CreditMonica Jorge for The New York Times

Under current law, cuts would start in 2034, when the main trust fund is expected to be depleted, or in 2035, if Congress authorizes Social Security to pay old-age benefits through the Disability Insurance Trust Fund.

Consider a woman with average annual earnings of $51,795 (in current dollars) over the course of her career, who retires at age 67 in 2037. The latest Social Security study indicates that she will be entitled to $27,366 in inflation-adjusted benefits. But if the trust fund shortfall has not been remedied, Social Security would be permitted to pay her only $21,669 — a 21 percent cut.

Nearly every older American would be affected, but those at the lowest income levels would be hurt the most. Social Security benefits are progressive, providing greater assistance for those with greater need. A worker with average career earnings of $12,949 until 2037 is entitled to receive the equivalent of 75.6 percent of that income, but with mandatory cuts, this person would have to survive on just 59.9 percent, the Social Security report says.

According to a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 9 percent of all retirees lived in poverty in 2017 — but the figure would have been 39 percent if not for Social Security.

For African Americans, the study found, the anti-poverty effect has been even greater: 19 percent lived in poverty, but 52 percent would have done so if they had not received Social Security payments. For Hispanics, the numbers were 17 percent and 46 percent.

The reductions of roughly 20 percent on average are just a starting point. If current laws are unchanged and current economic projections remain intact, the cuts would rise to 25 percent in later years, a New York Times analysis of Social Security data indicates.

Unless Congress and the White House reach an agreement before the trust funds are emptied, most Americans will face hard choices: delaying retirement and working longer if they can, or simply surviving on less.

The Social Security mess already complicates some commonly accepted retirement-planning wisdom — such as the advice to delay claiming benefits until age 70.

People who do so are entitled to an 8 percent annual increase in benefits. That makes Social Security “the best annuity that money could buy,” said Wade Pfau, a professor of retirement income at the American College of Financial Services, in a 2015 report. But he redid his calculations at the request of The Times, and for workers who are 55 now, statutory benefit cuts just when they turn 70 could make that approach far less attractive, Professor Pfau said.

Cutting the Social Security checks of people in retirement is, to say the least, politically dangerous.

David Stockman, President Ronald Reagan’s budget director, tried to do just that in 1981. What happened in that episode gives some clues for a possible solution today.

Like other conservatives of that era, Mr. Stockman viewed Social Security as a form of “closet socialism” that needed to be scaled back. With the program facing a solvency crisis, he proposed immediate reductions in retirees’ benefits.

Older Americans rebelled, and members of Congress listened to them. “I just hadn’t thought through the impact of making it effective immediately,” Mr. Stockman observed ruefully in his 1986 book, “The Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan Revolution Failed.”

Rosly Ray in a Social Security Administration video kiosk room at a public library in Quincy, Florida, last year.CreditMark Wallheiser for The New York Times

A nimble politician, Reagan rejected Mr. Stockman’s recommendations and formed a bipartisan commission to study the issue. Ultimately, Reagan reached a long-term agreement with the Democratic speaker of the House, Thomas P. O’Neill Jr., who viewed the preservation of Social Security as essential.

While they made no immediate cuts in Social Security checks, they reduced benefits in more subtle ways, using measures that are still being used, like gradually delaying the standard retirement age from 65 to 66, where it stands today, and eventually to 67.

Taxes increased, too — bolstering cash flows and creating the trust fund surpluses that have given retirees and current politicians some breathing room.

But in ways large and small, the Reagan-O’Neill Social Security fix is coming undone. Notably, the hefty balances in those trust fund accounts today — some $2.9 trillion — may be having an unintended consequence.

“The trust fund surpluses were intended to provide a buffer that would give politicians enough time to show some fiscal responsibility,” said Robert D. Reischauer, a former Social Security trustee who was also head of the Congressional Budget Office and is now president emeritus of the Urban Institute. “But the problem is that without an immediate crisis, the politicians don’t have to act. And really, they would rather sleep. So when the crisis eventually comes, as it will, it is likely to be much, much worse because of the delay.”

John Cogan, a professor of public policy at Stanford, said Social Security’s fundamental problem was that benefits had been rising faster than revenue. Cuts, he said, will be unpalatable but inevitable.

“The solution, I think, is to slow the growth in real benefits promised to future recipients,” he said.

Democrats in Congress have suggested an increase in Social Security benefits, accompanied by higher taxes for the wealthy. In combination, the bill’s various measures would eliminate the program’s financial shortfall, according to projections by Stephen C. Goss, the chief actuary of Social Security.

Conservatives continue to push for sharp reductions in the size of Social Security as well as Medicare, saying the United States can’t afford the growing burden of the two “entitlement programs.”

“Entitlement programs in the United States have expanded more than tenfold since their inception, but workers are nowhere near 10 times better off as a result,” the Heritage Foundation said in a May 20 policy proposal. The conservative think tank favors cuts to benefits and siphoning money from payroll taxes into individual investment accounts. That echoes an initiative that President George W. Bush once embraced but Democrats blocked.

There are no signs of an imminent breakthrough, though Professor Cogan said that, as in the past, the impending prospect of benefit cuts “is likely to change the political atmosphere and make it possible to find a compromise.”

But Mr. Reischauer fears that, given the current acrimony of American politics, there will be no compromise until the last minute.

“We will need a combination of increased taxes and reduced benefits, undoubtedly,” he said. “But if we wait, the deficits will only grow and the eventual solution will be much more painful.”

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Ted Lieu’s Creative Uses for Donor Dollars, Part 2: Shades of Varsity Blues?

Outspoken California Rep. Ted Lieu has a reputation for philanthropy and service to his community. A look at his campaign finance records reveals that he’s especially generous when it comes to making contributions with other people’s money – namely, his donors.

In light of the fact that Democrats give much less to charity than Republicans do, the fact that Lieu thinks it’s okay to use his donors’ money to fund his charitable giving (instead of his own) isn’t really surprising. He could justify it as streamlining the process, since he’s really just bypassing the IRS.

Under federal law, candidates are allowed to make charitable contributions from their campaign accounts, with one caveat.

“Campaign committees can give gifts to charity. The amount donated to a charitable organization cannot be used for purposes that personally benefit the candidate.”

Sometimes it’s easy to determine if the contribution personally benefits the candidate; other times, it’s a little more shady.

Take, for example, a pair of $25,000 contributions Rep. Lieu, the father of two teenage sons, made to Stanford University in 2017 and 2018. Were they made out of pure generosity, or for some other reason?

Below is the FEC Form 3, Schedule B, showing a $25,000 “donation” on June 29, 2018.

 

Westlake Legal Group FEC-Form-3-Stanford Ted Lieu’s Creative Uses for Donor Dollars, Part 2: Shades of Varsity Blues? Varsity Blues ted lieu Stanford University Front Page Stories Front Page FEC donor dollars Allow Media Exception

And another FEC Form 3, Schedule B, showing a $25,000 “donation” on September 11, 2017.

Westlake Legal Group FEC-Form-3 Ted Lieu’s Creative Uses for Donor Dollars, Part 2: Shades of Varsity Blues? Varsity Blues ted lieu Stanford University Front Page Stories Front Page FEC donor dollars Allow Media Exception

Rep. Lieu is a Stanford alumnus, so he’s likely donated money to the institution before. Considering that he’s a parent of two active teenage sons, living in one of the most expensive areas in the country, and earning a $174,000 a year salary, it’s safe to say that he couldn’t afford to make $25,000 a year in donations – especially in one lump sum – out of his own funds.

Why is Rep. Lieu suddenly giving so generously to his alma mater (which is one of the elite universities involved in the “Varsity Blues” scandal)? There’s nothing concrete tying his gift to any personal gain, but since one of Lieu’s sons is in high school, the timing is rather curious.

(This is Part 2 in a series examining Rep. Ted Lieu’s use of donor dollars. Read Part 1, which covers Lieu’s donor dollar-funded contributions to the foundation that helps fund his kids’ robotics team, here.)

Jennifer Van Laar is Deputy Managing Editor of RedState. Follow her on Twitter and/or Facebook.

The post Ted Lieu’s Creative Uses for Donor Dollars, Part 2: Shades of Varsity Blues? appeared first on RedState.

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Gene-Edited Babies: What a Chinese Scientist Told an American Mentor

PALO ALTO, Calif. — “Success!” read the subject line of the email. The text, in imperfect English, began: “Good News! The women is pregnant, the genome editing success!”

The sender was He Jiankui, an ambitious, young Chinese scientist. The recipient was his former academic adviser, Stephen Quake, a star Stanford bioengineer and inventor.

“Wow, that’s quite an achievement!” Dr. Quake wrote back. “Hopefully she will carry to term…”

Months later, the world learned the outcome of that pregnancy: twins born from genetically engineered embryos, the first gene-altered babies. Reaction was fierce. Many scientists and ethicists condemned the experiment as unethical and unsafe, fearing that it could inspire rogue or frivolous attempts to create permanent genetic changes using unproven and unregulated methods.

A Chinese government investigation concluded in January that Dr. He had “seriously violated ethics, scientific research integrity and relevant state regulations.”

Questions about other American scientists’ knowledge of Dr. He’s plans and their failure to sound a loud alarm have been an issue since Dr. He revealed his work in November.

But now, Dr. Quake is facing a Stanford investigation into his interaction with Dr. He. That inquiry began after the president of Dr. He’s Chinese university wrote to Stanford’s president alleging that Dr. Quake had helped Dr. He.

“Prof. Stephen Quake provided instructions to the preparation and implementation of the experiment, the publication of papers, the promotion and news release, and the strategies to react after the news release,” he alleged in letters obtained by The New York Times. Dr. Quake’s actions, he asserted, “violated the internationally recognized academic ethics and codes of conduct, and must be condemned.”

Dr. Quake denied the allegations in a lengthy interview, saying his interaction with Dr. He, who was a postdoctoral student in his lab eight years ago, had been misinterpreted.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_147376122_bdb9ea0f-614e-467c-98f1-ecbfe2fa0079-articleLarge Gene-Edited Babies: What a Chinese Scientist Told an American Mentor your-feed-science Stephen Quake Stanford University Research He Jiankui Genetics and Heredity Genetic Engineering Ethics (Personal)

Dr. He with a copy of “The Human Genome,” a book he edited, at his company Direct Genomics in 2016.CreditChina Stringer Network/Reuters

“I had nothing to do with this and I wasn’t involved,” Dr. Quake said. “I hold myself to high ethical standards.”

Dr. Quake showed The Times what he said were the last few years of his email communication with Dr. He. The correspondence provides a revealing window into the informal way researchers navigate a fast-moving, ethically controversial field.

The emails show that Dr. He, 35, informed Dr. Quake, 49, of milestones, including that the woman became pregnant and gave birth. They show that Dr. Quake advised Dr. He to obtain ethical approval from Chinese institutions and submit the results for vetting by peer-reviewed journals, and that he agreed to Dr. He’s requests to discuss issues like when to present his research publicly.

None of the notes suggest Dr. Quake was involved in the work himself. They do contain expressions of polite encouragement like “good luck!” Though Dr. Quake said he urged Dr. He not to pursue the project during an August 2016 meeting, the emails, mostly sent in 2017 and 2018, don’t tell him to stop.

As global institutions like the World Health Organization work to create a system to keep cowboy scientists from charging into the Wild West of embryo editing, Dr. Quake’s interactions with Dr. He reflect issues that leading scientific institutions are now grappling with.

When and where should scientists report controversial research ideas that colleagues share with them in confidence? Have scientists acted inappropriately if they provide conventional research advice to someone conducting an unorthodox experiment?

“A lot of people wish that those who knew or suspected would have made more noise,” said R. Alta Charo, a bioethicist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who co-led a 2017 national committee on human embryo editing.

But she said scientists were not necessarily complicit if instead of trying to stop rogue experimenters, they advised them to follow ethical and research standards in hopes that institutions would intervene.

Rice University has been investigating Michael Deem, Dr. He’s Ph.D. adviser, because of allegations that he was actively involved in the project; he had said publicly that he had been present during parts of it. Dr. Deem’s lawyers issued a statement strongly denying the allegations.

Dr. He emailed Dr. Quake months before the gene-edited babies were born.

The correspondence Dr. Quake shared provides new details about Dr. He’s project, also called germline editing, including indications that the twin girls were quite premature and remained hospitalized for several weeks. They were born in October, contrary to previous reports.

Dr. Quake is an entrepreneur whose inventions include blood tests to detect Down syndrome in pregnancy and to avoid organ transplant rejection. He is co-president of an institute funded by the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan. He does not do gene editing and said he was surprised when Dr. He told him during a 2016 visit to Stanford that he wanted to be the first to create gene-edited babies.

“I said, ‘That’s a terrible idea. Why would you want to do that?’” Dr. Quake recalled. “He kind of pushed back and it was clear that he wasn’t listening to me.”

Dr. Quake changed tack. “I said, ‘All right, if you’re not going to be convinced that I think this is a bad idea and you want to go down this path, then you need to do it properly and with proper respect for the people who are involved, and the field.’”

That meant obtaining ethical approval from the equivalent of American institutional review boards (known as I.R.B.s), Dr. Quake advised, as well as getting informed consent from the couples participating and only editing genes to address a serious medical need.

“I didn’t think it was something he would seriously do,” said Dr. Quake, adding that he assumed if Dr. He sought ethical approval and was rebuffed, “presumably he’d stop.”

Soon afterward, Dr. He emailed: “I will take your suggestion that we will get a local ethic approve before we move on to the first genetic edited human baby. Please keep it in confidential.”

In June 2017, Dr. He, nicknamed JK, emailed a document saying a hospital ethics committee had approved his proposal, in which he boasted that his plan could be compared to Nobel-winning research.

“It was good to see that he had engaged with his I.R.B.-equivalent there and had approval to do his research, and I’m thinking it’s their responsibility to manage this,” Dr. Quake said in the interview. “If in my interactions with JK I had any hint of misconduct, I would have handled it completely differently. And I think I would have been very aggressive about telling people about that.”

Dr. He’s team working on an embryo in a sperm injection microscope in Shenzhen, China. Dr. He has said he was altering a gene mutation that allows people to become infected with H.I.V.CreditMark Schiefelbein/Associated Press

As a postdoctoral adviser to Dr. He and other students, Dr. Quake considered his role to be mentorship. Dr. He’s work in his lab did not involve gene editing; it concerned immune responses to the flu vaccine.

Dr. He was “bright and ambitious,” Dr. Quake said, but “he was, I felt, always in too much of a hurry and I, you know, worried that he was a sort that would cut corners a little bit.”

After leaving for the university job in China in 2012, Dr. He sought Dr. Quake’s help with starting a company based on a genome-sequencing technique Dr. Quake had invented. Dr. Quake, whose American firm selling that technique had gone bankrupt, made introductions that helped Dr. He license patents for his company, Direct Genomics. Dr. Quake visited in 2015 but eventually declined an offer to serve on the company’s scientific advisory board.

In Dr. He’s 2017 correspondence, he said he would be editing a gene called CCR5, altering a mutation that allows people to become infected with H.I.V. Many scientists have since argued it was medically unnecessary because babies of H.I.V.-positive parents can be protected other ways. Dr. Quake said he believed there was not scientific consensus about that.

In early April 2018, Dr. He’s “Success!” email said “the embryo with CCR5 gene edited was transplanted to the women 10 days ago, and today the pregnancy is confirmed!”

Dr. Quake did not reply immediately. Instead, he forwarded the email to someone he described as a senior gene-editing expert “who I felt could give me advice.” He redacted the name of the expert.

“FYI this is probably the first human germ line editing,” Dr. Quake wrote. “I strongly urged him to get IRB approval, and it is my understanding that he did. His goal is to help hiv positive parents conceive. It’s a bit early for him to celebrate but if she carries to term it’s going to be big news I suspect.”

The expert replied: “I was only telling someone last week that my assumption was that this had already happened. It will definitely be news …”

Dr. Quake considered that response “very blasé,” he said. “He’s not surprised at all. And he’s not saying, ‘Oh my god, you got to notify the mythical science police.’”

Dr. He visited Dr. Quake at Stanford to discuss the results of the experiment.

Six months later, in mid-October, Dr. He emailed again: “Great news! the baby is born (please keep it in confidential).”

Dr. He asked to meet on a planned visit to San Francisco, saying, “I want get help from you on how to announce the result, PR and ethics.”

Dr. Quake replied, “Let’s definitely meet up.”

In that meeting, Dr. Quake recalled, Dr. He walked him through what he had done. “And I pressed him on the ethical approval, and I said this is going to get an enormous amount of attention, it’s going to be very closely scrutinized. Are you sure you’ve done everything correctly?”

Dr. He’s response unsettled him, he said. “The little corner-cutting thing came up again: ‘Well, there were actually two hospitals involved and you know, we had approval from one and we did work at both hospitals.’ And I said, ‘Well you better make sure you have that straightened out.’”

Back in China, Dr. He wrote: “Good news, the hospital which conducted the clinical trial approved the ethic letter,” adding, “They signed to acknowledge the ethic letters from another hospital.”

Dr. Quake replied, “Great news, thanks for the update.”

In late October, Dr. Quake texted someone he called an “extremely prominent scientist in the field,” writing: “First genome edited human baby — done! (in China, where else?)”

“Interesting. Source?” the scientist responded.

“Someone I know well who walked me through all the data,” Dr. Quake wrote. “Should go public soon.”

He added, “Mums the word for a few more weeks but I thought you would like to know.”

At the scientist’s suggestion, they spoke on the phone.

Asked about the scientist’s reaction, Dr. Quake said, “Also not terribly surprised, not an oh-my-god thing, like it’s inevitable, like the inevitable has happened.”

Dr. He explaining the experiment at a summit on human genome editing in Hong Kong on Nov. 28. Dr. Quake had asked him to “please remove my name” from the slide acknowledging people who helped with his research.CreditAnthony Wallace/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The scientist suggested that Dr. He share his work at a genome-editing conference in Hong Kong.

About a week later, Dr. He’s publicist, Ryan Ferrell, contacted Dr. Quake, worried that Dr. He presenting the project publicly so soon could cause “severe and permanent harms to his reputation and the field.” And, “the twins are still in the hospital, so no positive imagery.”

Dr. Quake, in Hong Kong for other commitments, met Dr. He and Mr. Ferrell, telling them, “you’re going to be held to a very high standard,” he said. “‘People’s first response is going to be you’re faking it.’”

He advised Dr. He to submit the research to a peer-reviewed journal, and Dr. He did so.

Then, because journal review takes time, Dr. Quake said he advised Dr. He not to go public in Hong Kong, but to speak privately with key experts there so they can “get socialized to what’s coming and will be more likely to comment favorably on your work.”

But Dr. He was not persuaded. “I do not want to wait for 6 months or longer to announce the results, otherwise, people will say ‘a Chinese scientist secretly hide the baby for 6 months.’”

Dr. Quake pushed back: “It is prudent to let the peer review process follow its course.”

But Dr. He went forward with his Hong Kong talk. Two days before it, after news of the twins broke, Dr. Quake emailed, “Good luck with your upcoming presentation!” But he added, “please remove my name” from the slide acknowledging people who had helped.

“He was spinning up this huge press thing around it,” Dr. Quake explained in the interview. “It was going to go well or poorly, I didn’t really know. But it wasn’t something I was involved in and I didn’t want my name on it.”

Dr. Quake is not sure what consequences he thinks Dr. He should face.

But he believes that the shock and horror some scientists now express belies the unruffled response of the experts he consulted.

Asked if he should have handled things differently, Dr. Quake said: “Well, hindsight is 20-20. I mean, you could say yes I should have done many other things.”

“But,” he continued, “as these things unfold, you’re in the moment, and you know, he’s doing legitimate scientific research — many people would define it that way. He’s got I.R.B. approval and his institution is regulating the human subject stuff and you sort of believe all that.”

He added: “To the extent that it wasn’t obvious misconduct, what does a person in my position do? Encourage him to do it right, his research, right? I mean, that’s what I believed I was doing.”

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