Fisheries, forests, & emergency care

In my last essay, I made the case that emergency care in the United States is better classified as a common rather than a public good. Due to the passage of the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act (EMTALA), emergency care became non-excludable and because it is resource constrained, it is rival. Patients are streaming… Continue reading Fisheries, forests, & emergency care

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Tragedy of the ED Commons

In his landmark article, Tragedy of Commons (1968), Garrett Hardin asks, “Is ours a finite world? [If so], a finite world can only support a finite population.” In Hardin’s parable, a single group of herders shares a common pasture. The pasture is large enough to support many animals, but not infinitely many. Rationally, each herdsman… Continue reading Tragedy of the ED Commons

Super Ants

The biologist, Nigel Franks, wrote, “the solitary ant is behaviorally one of the least sophisticated animals imaginable...if 100 army ants are placed on a flat surface, they will walk around in ever decreasing circles until they die of exhaustion...yet put half a million of them together, and the group as a whole becomes what some… Continue reading Super Ants

Imperfectly Precise

In the Fractal Nature of Geometry, Benoit Mandelbrot stated, "clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones, coastlines are not circles, and bark is not smooth, nor does lightning travel in a straight line.” In other words, nature is not simple and regular but complex and filled with irregularities and roughness. The human brain reductively categorizes this… Continue reading Imperfectly Precise

Quality Detector

“Data is the new gold” is the mantra of our age. The data scientist has been termed the “sexiest job of the 21st century.” Every industry is driven by the impetus to acquire, curate, and analyze all aspects of their business. We measure and quantify everything with the promise of utilizing this data to drive… Continue reading Quality Detector

The Map is not the Territory

It is hard to even fathom let alone comprehend the size, scale, and complexity of the universe. It takes light 91 billion years to traverse the diameter of the observable universe. That is approximately six times longer than the age of the universe itself. Similarly, the amount of information in the world vastly overwhelms the… Continue reading The Map is not the Territory

The Suitcase of Empathy

Marvin Minsky called words that carry a variety of meanings "suitcase words." Empathy is such a word. Over the last ten years, research into empathy has exploded. The number of research papers in psychological journals, on the topic, has increased dramatically and popular interest in the concept matches what is found in these journals. A… Continue reading The Suitcase of Empathy

Stereotypes

Humans are natural pattern recognition machines. We have an evolved instinct not only to recognize different patterns but also to categorize and store these patterns in order to make future predictions. In fact, this ability to recognize and represent patterns to draw a variety of intuitive inferences could be the defining and most original characteristic… Continue reading Stereotypes

Truth Springs from Arguments

Nature is saturated with feedback mechanisms ranging in scale from the molecular to the macroscopic. Feedback is defined as the process of mutual causal interaction: where A affects B and B affects A. This interaction creates a circuit of effects, so any change in A, causes a change in B, which in turn causes a… Continue reading Truth Springs from Arguments

Tail Events

The human brain (like any other organ) has evolved for specific environments and is constrained by its chemistry and historical contingencies. In my last post, I discussed the cognitive blind spots that play a role in the epidemic of over-testing and over-treating in medicine. Human decision making is notoriously ill equipped to distinguish between low… Continue reading Tail Events

Medicine, the science of uncertainty

In a recent article, it was estimated that at least $200 billion is wasted annually on excessive testing and treatment. The impact of the overly aggressive, extraneous care is not only financial in nature but also generates mistakes and injuries believed to cause 30,000 deaths each year. In 1979 the founders of the field of behavioral… Continue reading Medicine, the science of uncertainty

It from Bit

The universe is composed of energy, matter, and information. However, it is not energy nor matter that makes the Earth unique, but information. No known place in the known universe holds more information than Earth.  It is said, our planet is to information what a black hole is to matter and what a star is… Continue reading It from Bit

Poppy Powered

Humans have a long and complex history with plants. Long before civilization and even prior to the Agricultural Revolution, humans had realized that plants have a multitude effects on human physiology including appetite suppression, pain relief, energy supply, and immune system stimulation. It has been hypothesized that the adoption of an omnivorous diet was a… Continue reading Poppy Powered

History of the Joy Plant 

In an evolutionary blink of the eye, the Agricultural Revolution changed the course of world history. It not only catapulted the homo sapien population, but also propelled a few plants into becoming the most successful species in the history of the earth. Wheat, maize, rice, and potatoes went from being wild, uncultivated crops to accounting… Continue reading History of the Joy Plant 

Sugar Daddy

Sugar has played a key role in the history of humanity since it was domesticated on the island of New Guinea approximately 10,000 years ago. The New Guineans picked the cane and ate it raw. They, like billions of people afterwards, were hooked and the sugar cane was featured prominently in their myths. Thereafter, sugar… Continue reading Sugar Daddy