Guess What Bill Gates Is Talking About

22 01 2010

Can you guess what complex challenge vital to our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, he’s referring to here?

There just isn’t enough work going on today to get us to where we need to go.

The world is distracted from what counts on this issue in a big way.

Education? Equality and human rights?
War and terrorism, jobs and the economy, hunger, health care, helping Haitians?

I might answer “all of the above” except this sweaty-palm panic we’re feeling isn’t multiple choice anymore, if it ever really was. Time is expiring on our high-stakes academic exercise, and maybe the only answer that matters now is knowing these two things whatever the question, that no choice left is right, and no choice left just isn’t right!

The way he’s going about all this btw, sounds like a great model for true public education, the kind that just might save the world if anything can:

I spend a lot of my time learning about issues I’m passionate about.

I’m fortunate because the people I’m working with and learning from are true experts in their fields. I take a lot of notes, and often share them and my own thoughts on the subject with others through email, so I can learn from them and expand the conversation.

I thought it would be interesting to share these conversations more widely with a website, in the hope of getting more people thinking and learning about the issues I think are interesting and important.

p.s. If you still want a literal right answer to the original question about which issue he’s referring to in the quote above, check the answer sheet here.




4 responses

22 01 2010

Can simple checklists help manage complexity, yes or no?
Um, it’s complicated. 🙂

Checklists may work for managing individual disorders, but it isn’t at all clear what to do when several disorders coexist in the same patient, as is often the case with the elderly. And checklists lack flexibility. They might be useful for simple procedures like central line insertion, but they are hardly a panacea for the myriad ills of modern medicine. Patients are too varied, their physiologies too diverse and our knowledge still too limited.

Gawande passingly notes that checklists could be used to improve weather prediction. But he doesn’t mention that weather is an inherently chaotic phenomenon: small perturbations in initial conditions can result in big, unpredictable effects.

When Gawande writes that an investment manager he knows believes a checklist can help him reliably beat the stock market, the case seems to have been pushed too far.

Yet despite its evangelical tone, “The Checklist Manifesto” is an essential primer on complexity in medicine. Doctors resist checklists because we want to believe our profession is as much an art as a science.

When Gawande surveyed members of the staff at eight hospitals about a checklist developed by his research team that nearly halved the number of surgical deaths, 20 percent said they thought it wasn’t easy to use and did not improve safety.

But when asked whether they would want the checklist used if they were having an operation, 93 percent said yes.

Sandeep Jauhar is a cardiologist and the author of “Intern: A Doctor’s Initiation.”

Remind me to use this next time school accountability, standardized testing, canned curriculum and accreditation checklists come up. . .

25 01 2010

The Great Unalignment could be a whole separate series for snooking around!

The most prevalent ideology of the era seems to be not liberalism nor conservatism so much as anti-incumbency, a reflexive distrust of whoever has power and a constant rallying cry for systemic reform.

. . . In an accelerated culture, our loyalties toward just about everything — laundry detergents, celebrities, even churches and spouses — transfer more readily than our grandparents could have imagined. . .

It isn’t only majority parties that will have to recalibrate their ideas of longevity in this new environment. It’s the individual politicians, too . . . Americans who rotate through a series of jobs or even careers every decade are far less likely to want to pull the lever for the same graying senator — or the same graying party — for the duration of their natural lives, which means the politician-as-local-institution is probably headed for the history books.

It doesn’t seem likely that Scott Brown, the newest Massachusetts senator, or any of the energetic and unwrinkled senators who have recently arrived in Washington will ever be memorialized the way Ted Kennedy was, or have the chance to treat the Senate as a kind of surrogate nursing home, in the manner of a Strom Thurmond or a Robert Byrd.

Politics refreshes itself more frenetically now. If politicians and their parties are going to realign anything in a society that’s always shopping for the next thing, it will probably have to be their expectations.

Matt Bai writes about national politics for the magazine.

25 01 2010

And when you have time for another case study of how we’ve created complex problems beyond any possible solution without first reforming/ transforming our own thinking, read and/or listen to this:

. . .[Although] he agrees there should be options for people . . . He knows the risk for any politician to suggest such an alternative — even if it means taxpayers save money, even if it means victims will get restitution, even if it means the only reason he can fill this new jail is because the people filling it are poor.

“I don’t want you to think I’m soft on crime. I’m not soft on crime,” Gutierrez says.

And the result of that for defendants can be devastating.

25 01 2010

From Killing the Buddha by Nathan Schneider

Re: the world’s newfound “Internet-edness” impacting our intimacy:

[T]he idea that has gotten Wright so worked up in books like The Moral Animal, Nonzero, and The Evolution of God is that our moral ideas become altered by the degree of our interconnectedness. When two parties are economically intertwined, for example, they’ll usually end up crafting some religious or philosophical system that enshrines respect for one another’s rights.

JJ’s note: is that what’s wrong now in third-millennium America, that our economic interconnectedness has somehow crafted the exact opposite as our new “religion”?? We the people seem to have been bullied and/ or seduced into the most monstrously selfish bad behavior by the religious right as “moral”, bereft of respect for any other individual’s rights but our own and no shared concepts or common language to even describe the problem, much less craft systemic solutions.

And from the Chronicle of Higher Education by history professor Peniel E. Joseph:

The burden . . . falls on ordinary citizens, as well as educators and civic leaders, to use this extraordinary opportunity to finally jump-start a national discussion that, while offering no easy solutions or fantasies of postracial enlightenment, might help to foster an environment whose robust and serious engagement with issues of race and democracy will stand in marked contrast to the unfortunate politics of race-baiting and reaction that we have been witness to over the past year.”

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