How About Some Friday Leftovers?

Let’s Chat for a Minute NOT about any Viruses or Politics

How does that sound for a change of pace? Neither topic will be gone for long, but let’s take a short break.

As usual, I have a ton of interesting points, articles, etc. that I enjoy sharing with you, but of late could not justify the use of space. Too much of importance going on. But that will be the case probably every day from now until – oh, let’s say November 3 (just to pick a random date, you know).

So much has been put into the leftover bin, to share later. It’s later, today. So, a little break from the virus and politics seems a healthy thing to do. Let’s see what we have to chew on.

Some random thoughts and observation for your amusement and curiosity.

CRISPER Continues to Advance

Scarcely a week goes by that I don’t read about another new medical advance happening or in sight, using CRISPER gene technology. We have talked about this before, but the news just keeps piling up, and it is uniformly good news for CRISPER specifically and for genomics more broadly.

It would be difficult to overstate how important this is. Other forms of treatment that do so much collateral damage – radiation, chemotherapy, looking for the right drug combinations, inexact surgery – will seem barbaric and unimaginable sooner than one might expect.

Government – Private Sector Cooperation 

What is done by government and what is done by the private sector is getting to be a blurred line on so many fronts.  Just a few years ago, the idea of private companies leading the way in space travel would have seem ridiculous. But here we are.

Government still sets the rules and provides much of the resourcing, as it should. What is important here is learning that the power of partnership is much more powerful than an “either/or” approach.

If only government had been up to the task and ready to harness the private sector, we would be so much better off today with Covid-19 (that is the only time I will mention the virus today).

There are some smart people (not enough of them) rethinking these relationships. That is a good thing. We need more creativity in this realm.

Prospective Pain Management Breakthroughs

Pain management is a complicated business. For a long time, we (society) beat up on medicine for not alleviating pain as a priority. So, they gave us opioids. How is that working out for everyone? Now we are trying to deal with massive addiction and still trying to figure out chronic pain.

Two new paths, recently discussed in National Geographic, offer real, near-term hope. Both paths are anchored on a growing understanding that the mind, including emotions and perceptions, play a great role in controlling pain.

One path is the placebo effect. We have long known that if people think they are getting better, they are getting better. Similarly, some people believe that if others pray for them, they will get better, and sometimes they do – a placebo effect by group input. What we are coming to understand is that if the brain perceives help is on hand, some sort of communication goes to the rest of the body telling it “we feel better.”

In a striking example, a large group of people with bone spurs in the shoulder are were treated. Half had surgery. The other half were put under anesthesia and told they had been operated on (they had not). Reports of improvement in pain were the same in both groups.

The other path involves the use of artificial intelligence and sound therapy. People with chronic pain or people subjected to pain for experiments consistently report much less pain if they use a virtual reality headset with soothing scenes and calming background music. The differences in pain registration are significant and measurable in brain activity. We can, in part, will ourselves to feel better.

Economics Are In Major Turmoil

That sounds like an alarmist statement. It may not be. Some fascinating trends are running strongly around the world, often crossing and clashing. Classic economic models have run their course. Socialism in its fullest sense is a reliable failure. Worse, it tends to hide failure beyond the point of useful corrections. Capitalism pretty well works as an economic tool but can be a disaster socially and morally when left unchecked. There are some serious players out there defining a new, morally anchored, socially responsible capitalism, but they do not run the show, at least not yet.

Add to this situation how current events can change perspectives everywhere. People who think the government should help in times of disaster today are not very happy about the idea of government helping big companies from the coming deep recession. People who consider Ann Rand a softie all of a sudden want government help with everything. Sort of another version of pain management, isn’t it?

And just to make it all really interesting, automation and other aspects of technology are redefining and eliminating jobs at a blistering pace.

Bottom line: Nothing really works anymore as economic systems, but there are good pieces laying all around. How to fix all this?

The Bretton Woods Agreement, brought into operation in 1944, set the stage for modern, post war economics. The monetary policies it set out in particular made possible much of the progress and stability we took for granted for so long. Time for a new Bretton Woods.

Time to ask the following question: Given the resources available, the populations to be served, and the knowledge we have, if we were to design an economic system from the ground up (a clean slate approach), what would it look like? Once defined, how do we usher in a global transition to get there?

Sound impossible? It might be. But if we fail at this, we will find the old models increasingly inept. And all those peasants with pitch forks will march. Let’s avoid all that, shall we? I have not a clue where this will all end up.

Darn It, Time to Stop.

This thing is too long already, and I have about six more really good topics to share with you. Next time, friends. In the meantime, we have to deal with the dual disasters of a pandemic such as only a few have ever seen and a president whose cluelessness and stubbornness will end up costing thousands of lives (OK, I mentioned virus twice, but in this case, inept government is the virus).

Now, go wash your hands and avoid each other, please. I want you all back reading this stuff for a long time.

            Bill Clontz

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