I wrote an op-ed piece about Human Biology is a digital frontier. If you are skeptical read this and watch this post about how CRISPR makes biology the new digital. This is just a start. I want to dig a little deeper as op-ed pieces need to be in a condensed form, I don’t have that restriction in this blog so here goes. I have been reading, thinking and obsessing over biology of late. I think our understanding of our bodies, our food and our environment is glazed by what is called a epistemological arrogance or put different the expert problem. We outsource the thinking to “experts”, I believe this is wrong. We, I mean every individual need to do research and experimentation on themselves. We learn about ourselves this way. When we outsource our thinking to experts we believe the results to be the truth that is universally applicable. The recommendations that come from the experts may or may not be applicable to you. I found that out for myself and maybe I lost my father and 2 of my aunts because they believed in medication prescribed by experts. Experts, doctors and medical professionals mean well but they work with the same mental models that they were handed out from their Medical School or from the hospitals that they practised in.
Even more fascinating is the whole pharmaceuticals and drug development industry. I can see some parallels to the Fossil fuel industry. Pharmaceuticals and drug development companies have the right mission but again work with the mental model that is incremental. I am not sure that works as well when there are dramatical shifts in technology, as we are seeing now. The classic innovators dilemma comes to mind. I think there is a better approach. Startup thinking in all of these established industries is a good thing, because it forces us to ask some fundamental questions and think from first principles. The question to ask is would we do what are currently doing given what we know now.
All processes are historical i.e. they were built in the past with the body of knowledge that was available then, of course some of the traditional industries were built when technology had not permeated into every facet of our lives. So lets rephrase the question, will we do drug discovery the same as what was done 20 years back? I am not so sure. I think drugs that saves lives is great and I am thankful that we have them, however we have built a culture that is doing marginal improvements and the drug discovery cycle is too long to have the impact that it could have if done differently.
We have technologies, data and processing that are a significant factor improvement of what we had in the last decade, but unfortunately our health systems and health care is probably the last place you see advancements in technology. Whether it is health records data or how we track our vitals etc One just has to visit the doctors office to see how outdated our methods are. Again, I am not talking about devices, health care is not about inventing new devices but actually involving the patient in the care. Doctors still have some semblance of the God syndrome, they feel that they can withhold some information from their patients again all with good intentions. I think we need to change this. I believe the best way to solve the health crisis that is happening in the western world is actually opening up all the data and allowing the individual to play an active role in their own health. No one cares about my health than me. I think that statement is true for most of us. How do we get people engaged? I think we need to show what data is available about them we need to let them see this data and let them make decisions based on this data. Not all data is created equal so we need to bring some healthy cynicism and Popperian empirical falsification rather than inductive reasoning. This can be done by everyone.
I am learning more and more about Mental Models and about how we humans are predictably irrational. Given these biases and our flaws how do we move humanity forward? this is a big question. I am doing some deep thinking on this. I would encourage you the reader to do the same. We have fantastic resources that are available to us if only we will use it. We are embarking on some unprecedented advances in technology that can fundamentally transform what we know to be true. My deeper question is how many of us are working on ourselves to be self aware to recognise this change? I believe human biology is fascinating, you need to be endowed with some ailment to get interested in it because we go through life oblivious to how our bodies work. I have never been more fascinated with health, wellness and biology as I am now. I hope you do the same, you will thank me for it.