Health Tech: Dr John Leddo On How MyEdMaster’s Technology Can Make An Important Impact On Our…

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Health Tech: Dr John Leddo On How MyEdMaster’s Technology Can Make An Important Impact On Our Overall Wellness

Obviously, you need a lot of technical knowledge to create technology. Since technology evolves rapidly, the technical knowledge you need is also changing rapidly. You need to keep up. When I first started out, we had AI and also natural language processing. This was a great starting point for the educational and medical AI I was developing in the 1990’s. However, machine learning launched a whole new ballgame for the self-learning AI work we’re doing now.

In recent years, Big Tech has gotten a bad rep. But, of course, many tech companies are doing important work making monumental positive changes to society, health, and the environment. To highlight these, we started a new interview series about “Technology Making An Important Positive Social Impact”. We are interviewing leaders of tech companies who are creating or have created a tech product that is helping to make a positive change in people’s lives or the environment. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. John Leddo.

Dr. John Leddo holds a PhD in educational psychology from Yale University and has over 35 years of professional experience. He specializes in using artificial intelligence and machine learning to create self-learning systems and to teach others. He is the owner of MyEdMaster, LLC, which provides tutoring services as well as conducts R&D to incorporate AI and machine learning in educational software, medical software, and devices to be integrated into the Internet of Things.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory and how you grew up?

I split my childhood between Brooklyn, NY and Denver, CO. I was always good at math and science, and I figured that when I grew up, I’d be a mathematician, physicist or chemist. When I was a teenager, I got a scholarship to attend Phillips Exeter Academy, a prestigious prep school. While there, two things impressed me greatly. First, I felt that I was getting an amazing education, for which I was grateful. Second, the students there, who generally came from affluent families, had a sense of empowerment and felt that they were destined to be very successful. I decided that everyone should have that same opportunity to get a great education and live an empowered, successful life. I decided to major in educational psychology. Since then, I’ve been focusing on how AI can help people get better educations and live healthier lives.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

My interesting story is actually a chain of interconnected events. My experience with medical technology had been using AI and machine learning for more traditional applications like creating medical simulation-based training and training assessment systems that use AI to put teacher-like instruction and feedback right into the technology. More recently, I did projects in using machine learning for medical diagnosis. However, I was also reading a lot about the recent work in longevity and anti-aging and began following an anti-aging protocol in my own life. I noticed significant improvements like weight loss, greater energy, no longer getting sick and even seeing my hair get noticeably less gray. For humanitarian reasons, I launched an experiment at MyEdMaster to see what would happen if others followed a similar protocol to the one I was doing. We had people’s biological age measured through DNA testing before and after the experiment, which lasted four months. I was pleasantly surprised that all of the participants lowered their biological ages. The range was five to twelve years! I thought that if people could show this much reduction in their biological ages in just four months, we need to develop a tool to help everyone get younger and healthier. That served as the impetus for the wellness and longevity app that MyEdMaster is now creating.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I am most grateful to my PhD advisor, Dr. Robert Abelson, a leader in the field of psychology and artificial intelligence. He was the ultimate mentor, who nurtured my creative abilities. He was also a very beautiful soul. The work I do today is based on his pioneering work. I first learned about him when I read his work and fell in love with it. I wrote him a letter (back then, we didn’t have email), telling him that I loved his work and wanted to be his student. He asked me to come to Yale for an interview, and, to my amazement, he spent the whole day with me. We spent hours brainstorming ideas, and it was clear that we were clicking. At the end of the day, as I was set to leave, he said, “As far as I’m concerned, we’re going to admit you.” One night, I received a call from Dr. Abelson. He said, “You’ll be getting an official letter from Yale, but I wanted you to know from me that you are being admitted.” I said, “Can I accept with you?”, to which he replied, “I guess so.” I immediately said, “I accept!” I am still touched to this day that he believed in me and wanted to personally let me know I was going to Yale. Having him as a mentor was the greatest blessing. Whenever I counsel students, I tell them that one of the most important things they can do is find the right mentor.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

A favorite quote I have, and one that drives my personal and professional goals, is that all human achievement starts with learning. If we are to solve any of our societal problems or otherwise advance, we need to learn. This is why I chose to become a scientist and why I focus on finding solutions to education, so that I can help others learn as much as possible. I also focus on health and longevity because one needs to be healthy in order to live a full life.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

The first trait is persistence. When your life is devoted to a cause that’s greater than yourself, in my case helping people actualize themselves through education and better health, you won’t achieve this in a short time, and it won’t be easy. If it were, then society would have no problems. It has taken me most of my life to find ways to help people learn better and be healthier and the current phase of my life is devoted to getting this knowledge out into the world. This is a process of making small steps on a continuous basis.

The second trait is a love of learning. Going back to my life lesson quote, all human achievement starts with learning. We don’t have all the answers today, and, as the world changes, the answers will change, too. I have to keep evolving my own knowledge to keep up with the changes going on in the world. Take my quest to help people live healthier and longer lives. This is not settled science. As we learn more, the recommendations change. I’ve been interested in the relationship between diet and health since I was a teenager. Back then, the advice was to eat a lot of meat and keep the carbohydrates and fat low. Then, the keto diet was popular and still is. The recommendation was high protein and high fat with almost no carbohydrates. Then, the FDA published its recommended diet that was high in gains, which have a lot of carbs. Now, we see gluten free and grain free diets as the rage. People are espousing plant-based diets, like the Mediterranean Diet, that are high in fat (olive oil is highly popular) and to keep protein low (unless you are older and need protein to keep from losing muscle mass). The research keeps evolving and my knowledge needs to evolve accordingly.

The third trait is creative problem solving. This goes back to the point that if solutions were easy, we’d have no problems. Big challenges call for out-of-the-box thinking. Often, this comes in the form of integrating different people’s ideas. When I was in graduate school, I was shocked to see the scientific community divided in camps based on different theories. The camps seemed more determined to defend their approaches than to find the truth. I remember getting criticized for trying to combine what I was learning in the program I was in with what others in the field were discovering. However, I believe that no one is 100% right and no one is 100% wrong. It’s more useful to me to try to find the value in different points of view and combine them. For example, Google created a game-playing engine that teaches itself to play games by simulating millions of scenarios and using machine learning to optimize the outcomes. At MyEdMaster, we are adapting that concept to produce a machine learning-driven health simulator that lets people predict what affects different lifestyle changes will have on their overall health and longevity.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about the tech tools that you are helping to create that can make a positive impact on our wellness. To begin, which particular problems are you aiming to solve?

We’ve always assumed that people inevitably get older, get sicker and, eventually, die. However, a lot of recent research is challenging this notion. Scientists are coming to believe that aging isn’t a requirement of life but a by-product of wear and tear on the body that occurs over time. A lot of research is being done on interventions that can be done to slow down the aging process and even reverse it. Some of these interventions are lifestyle changes that people can make, some are drugs, and some, eventually, will involve gene therapy. The immediate challenge is that this research is still evolving and even, occasionally, conflicting. It is tough for laypeople to understand the nuances or even keep up with all the advances. This impedes their ability to apply the latest scientific findings to help them live longer, healthier lives.

How do you think your technology can address this?

At MyEdMaster, we’re working on a number of technologies that are designed to take the complex, evolving research on health and longevity and translate it into tools that can support individuals in their day-to-day lives. One product we are working on is an app that reads the latest scientific research and then uses AI and machine learning to help people determine what interventions they can take in terms of diet, eating patterns, exercise, nutritional supplements, sleep and stress management to live longer and healthier lives. The interventions are targeted to each individual and his or her current lifestyle and the app adapts the recommendations as new research comes in or it receives inputs about people’s progress. We think this app, when completed, will help millions of people around the world live longer and healthier lives. We have a wonderful team of people, including Dr. Taruna Agarwal, Nihal Boina, Jai Agarwal, Pavani Nimmagadda and several professionals with expertise in AI, machine learning, and data science working on this.

The next product we are working on is a smart mirror that people can use in their homes. The mirror contains a camera, AI/machine learning technology, and Internet connectivity. It’s based on our published work in using machine learning to create software that teaches itself how to diagnose and treat medical conditions by reading websites. The idea is that when people get ready in the morning, the smart mirror is diagnosing visible medical conditions like skin cancer, acne, jaundice, etc. and informing people about what they can do about it. Future enhancements will incorporate other sensors to broaden what the smart mirror can diagnose. The goal is to catch potential problems early on and allow people to do something about them before the problems get serious and more costly to solve. Justin Jose is the lead person working on this technology, which will ultimately integrate the medical machine self-learning technology that some 50 people on our team worked on.

The third technology we are working on is more theoretical at this stage. There are standard medical protocols that doctors follow for how to treat diseases like Covid-19. However, patients differ from each other, and doctors often adapt the general protocols using their own judgments regarding the individual patient’s specifics. Right now, machine learning technology focuses on processing large quantities of data. The missing piece seems to be expert judgment about a particular case. We’re working with a team of machine learning experts and data scientists to create technology that can combine both types of input. We want to test whether the general protocols can be enhanced by adding expert judgment on particular cases. We think that this has widespread applicability to other fields as well.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

I’ve always cared about my health and have wanted to live a long life. As a result, I tried to do things to take care of myself like eat right, exercise, manage stress, etc. In recent years, I discovered that longevity and anti-aging is actually an active area of research. I was surprised to learn that researchers were actually finding ways to make animals and even people biologically younger. This kindled my desire to learn more about wellness and longevity and to learn more about how to live longer and healthier. I began adopting the practices I was learning about. Just as I long ago realized that AI can help scale high quality education globally, I began to explore how to use AI to help everyone live longer and healthier. That is the foundation of the work we are doing at MyEdMaster today.

How do you think this might change the world?

Imagine a world in which everyone lives much longer and healthier. There are lots of positives but also a major negative that we have to plan for. On the plus side, we all get to enjoy life much longer and have good health while we are doing that. We get more time with our loved ones, more time to develop our talents and do things we’d love to do but often feel we don’t have time for. We’d be able to make greater contributions to the world. Health care costs would drop dramatically, and we could use the saved money for other purposes like enhancing education. This is all wonderful. However, the planet would also see a giant spike in population, which means that we’d consume much more resources and create a lot more pollution, global warming and environmental damage. Therefore, as a society, we need to plan for this eventuality. We need to figure out how we will feed these extra people, provide them with fresh water, take care of any waste that gets produced, provide adequate energy, all without destroying the environment. This will require lots of complementary technologies like renewable energy, water purification, etc.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

There are a few important caveats that people need to be aware of. Most importantly, we are dealing with people’s health, and, as I already noted, the whole field of wellness and longevity is an evolving science. There’s always the possibility that a scientific finding that looks positive may wind up being harmful. People need to consult their doctors and be careful. I recommend making sure that people wait until the science is more settled on an issue before following any advice given by technology or any other source. Related to this, there’s a lot of misinformation and disinformation out there. From the original snake oil salesmen to modern day, there are a lot of people out there looking to made money or a name for themselves, promoting their brand of health or longevity. This can be in the form of technologies (and there are lots of technologies on the market that purport to boost health and longevity) or any number of other products. There are few things as precious to people as their health and lifespans, so this creates an opportunity for trusting people to jump into solutions that may not be helpful or even harmful. People need to think carefully about this, and those of us making the products have to take extra care to make sure that what we are providing is thoroughly vetted.

Here is the main question for our discussion. Based on your experience and success, can you please share “Five things you need to know to successfully create technology that can make a positive social impact”? (Please share a story or an example, for each.)

Obviously, you need a lot of technical knowledge to create technology. Since technology evolves rapidly, the technical knowledge you need is also changing rapidly. You need to keep up. When I first started out, we had AI and also natural language processing. This was a great starting point for the educational and medical AI I was developing in the 1990’s. However, machine learning launched a whole new ballgame for the self-learning AI work we’re doing now.

Since the question being asked here includes the idea of making a positive social impact, we need to think about that aspect as well. It’s not enough to create great technology if it doesn’t do anything useful for people. One has to understand the nature of the problem or challenge one wants to address. For example, in our health and longevity app work, we are not doing any health and longevity research ourselves. Instead, we recognized that the problem in making a positive social impact is that the research is too complex and dynamic to be useful to most people. Given that we recognized that, we made the focus of our app be to read and keep up with the changing research and to distill down what the app is learning into personalized recommendations for each user. Therefore, all the user has to do is enter his or her particulars, and the app will take care of the rest.

The third thing you need to know is how to come up with creative solutions. There are many problems out there where we know what the challenges are, but we still haven’t figured out how to solve them. In our case, we knew that the research on health and longevity is updating rapidly and that the process of keeping up with everything would be labor intensive and require a great deal of sophistication. So we focused on creating the ability to search for and understand published papers on wellness and longevity. In this way, the technology itself is dealing with the issues of rapidly updating information.

The fourth thing is scalability. If the goal is to help society, then the solution has to reach society in a cost-effective way. In my quest to help people get great educations, I realized early on that tutoring was the most effective solution, since teaching people 1–1 produces the greatest learning. However, approach isn’t scalable, since 1–1 tutoring is too expensive for most people, and there aren’t enough tutors for all the students who need them. Therefore, our scalability solution is to use AI to do the teaching and the Internet to reach everyone. This addresses both the cost and the access issues. The same applies to our medical technologies that we are creating.

The final thing is adoption. You can have the perfect solution to a problem, but if no one adopts it, then the solution is for naught. One of the most valuable life lessons I learned happened years ago during a conversation with the chief of staff of an influential US senator. I asked him how political solutions get adopted given all the tensions and opposition in Washington, DC. He said that to get a solution adopted, you should find the people who are most invested in the outcome and target them. For this reason, my educational work targets parents, since they are more invested in their kids’ educations than education administrators are. Similarly, in health care, people care much more about their own health than medical professionals do. For this reason, most of what we do in the medical field is targeted toward people and not medical professionals.

If you could tell young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

Well, the obvious answer to why young people should consider making a positive impact in the world and for the future is that they live in that world and will live in that future. There are both problems, like global warming, and opportunities, like living longer and healthier lives, that will affect people greatly. There is a more important and subtle reason why young people should personally get involved in a cause that’s bigger than themselves. As much as they will contribute to others, they will receive even more benefit for themselves. When a person takes on a cause that’s greater than himself or herself, that person grows as a person in ways s/he cannot understand until s/he walks that path. We can talk about the contributions that people like Dr. Martin Luther King made to society, but think of the people they had to become in order to make such contributions. They not only did great things, but their personal missions made them great people. I tell the young people at MyEdMaster that, if they want to be great, they need to take on causes that are bigger than themselves.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

There are several people who come to mind: Dr. David Sinclair, Elon Musk, Bill Gates. I admire genius visionaries who see how the future should be and then make major contributions that make that future happen. If I had to pick one, I’d pick Dr. David Sinclair of Harvard Medical School. He is perhaps the leading figure in the field of aging and longevity and his work may very well enable us all to live very long and healthy lives while retaining our youth. He has been a big influence on me personally and in my health-related technology development. I’ve exchanged a few emails with him and he’s a wonderful and gracious person. I would love to brainstorm with him at a dinner (he practices intermittent fasting, as do I, and usually doesn’t eat breakfast or lunch). My dream is to have him collaborate with us on our medical technology and even market it with us. So if Authority Magazine can tag him and he sees this article, I hope he’s inspired to have that dinner!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

A lot of information, including publications and videos, is on our website, We also post our published papers on the research clearinghouse, We have a Facebook page, MyEdMaster Tutoring.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success in your important work.

Health Tech: Dr John Leddo On How MyEdMaster’s Technology Can Make An Important Impact On Our… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.