I just got back from Australia. Fifteen and a half hours from Melbourne to LAX. Five and a half from LAX to JFK. I spent at least 15 hours of that time on my iPad watching Mad Men, Donnie Darko, and catching up on feeds and such. And the battery still has 37% left in it. I honestly think that thing uses magic for energy.
(a photo I took with my iPhone at Melbourne’s National Gallery of Victoria…I left my Canon 5D Mark II at home…the iPhone 4 camera is just so good for the pics I want to snap when traveling).
Scientists Map Entire Brain Network: “The most complex mass of protoplasm on earth—perhaps even in our galaxy.”
Our ability to understand and diagnose far outpaces our ability to do anything about that understanding…we’ll know more and more about what’s wrong with you, but we won’t be able to do anything about it. Doctors have pills and scalpels…that’s it. The FDA approved less than 10 new drugs in 2009. About seven in 2008. Our ability and technology to treat hugely complex problems is dwindling. There aren’t any magic bullets in the making in any of the big pharma companies. Our bodies are far more complex than anything we’ve ever known in our universe and reductionist thinking is no match for the multitude of complexities that can be found in our bodies with 30,000 genes and billions of different ways each of those genes react as a system within every individual’s body. Pills aren’t going to save us. Genetic engineering may save us, although I highly doubt it.
Stephen J. Gould described a concept called punctuated equilibrium that describes a theory on how species evolve. It basically says that most species experience little evolutionary change over time (an alligator has been the same for hundreds of millions of years), and new species branch off in these very rare, rapid events due to a special sauce of random events in the environment and in mutations in a few individual members of the species that creates a new branch of plant or animal.
I bring this up because I think medical treatments are sort of in this evolutionary stasis. There simply hasn’t been that many magic bullets developed in the past century beyond clean water, vaccines, and antibiotics. I’m still waiting, and watching for, this special sauce in the tech and biology world that creates whole new opportunities for rapid, massive advances in our ability to do anything about our ever-improving ability to diagnose.
But at this point in the history of medicine, we’re turning into expert diagnosticians with very little ability to do anything about what we diagnose.
Software is an integral component of a range of devices that perform critical, lifesaving functions and basic daily tasks. As patients grow more reliant on computerized devices, the dependability of software is a life-or-death issue.
There is a general principle involved: that software with the ability to harm as well as help us in the physical world needs to be open to scrutiny to minimise safety issues. Medical devices may be the most extreme manifestation of this, but with the move of embedded software into planes, cars and other large and not-so-large devices with potentially lethal side-effects, the need to inspect software there too becomes increasingly urgent.
As the worlds of digital and analogue become intertwined, so the fundamental idea behind free software – that people have a right to see what this stuff is doing – becomes not a theoretical matter of ethics, but a practical, quotidian necessity if we are to avoid the situation where bad code leads to the ultimate Blue Screen of Death – ours.
Should software that powers implantable medical devices be open source?
Antarctica is on the other side of that mountain!
I’m over here in Australia speaking with various government officials and business and healthcare leaders to help this continent think differently about delivering healthcare in a more effective way. Who would have thought that less than three years after starting my humble little practice in Williamsburg I’d be traveling the world helping other countries streamline how they deliver healthcare. I’m a lucky man…I guess it just goes to show that if you just do something unique and interesting you can create your own career.
I’m in Tasmania!
According to this handy tool that lets me create a tunnel through the earth, I am about as far away as I can possibly get from NYC.
Intentionally inefficient cigarette packaging concept
Erik Askin recently published “Designed to Annoy: A theoretical look at designing inefficient packaging”, a thoughtful twist on the ubiquitous cigarette package. The idea of making something harder to use to encourage a user to rethink their consumption is poignant.