Failing Forward, Predicting Realistically, and the Overlooked Miracle in Healthcare

First up, learn about failure from Nobel Prize winner Paul Nurse. Then, enter the realm of prediction - and don’t let rosy optimism blind you to the importance of pragmatic solutions. Plus: healthcare is hesitant to integrate one of the simplest remedies for chronic illness. Why?


Welcome to the September 3, 2023 edition of the Digest.

What do you do when you fail? Do you give up, or do you evaluate the cause of your failure and move on accordingly?

Take it from leading geneticist, Director of the Francis Crick Institute and winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Medicine: being on the cutting edge of something means failing often. And that’s okay.Check out this interview with Paul Nurse, leading geneticist and Nobel Prize winner, on his scientific discovery, the importance of failure, and his family history: "Well, at the time I did think, Maybe I’m no good at this. Maybe it’s not for me. And at one point, I thought I should do philosophy or history of science. In fact, I contacted the London School of Economics. Karl Popper was there, a very important philosopher of science. So, I read a couple of Popper’s books, and these helped me plan my experiments better. Popper said to take observations, make a clear hypothesis, and then test the hypothesis to try and destroy it. In other words, by destroying an idea, you actually make progress." Link.

Have you read a little story about the future called "The Long Boom"?

The story, published in WIRED magazine in 1997 and written by futurists Peter Leyden and Peter Schwartz, predicted a future that would be “bright and prosperous for everyone, everywhere”. Their predictions were a little off--to say the least--when compared to the world we inhabit today. But the authors insisted optimistism was needed to produce such a future. Peter Leyden’s more recent piece “The Great Progression” continues where "the Long Boom" left off.David Karpf takes issue with such optimism and Leyden’s recent piece: “It turns out that thinking happy thoughts is a great way to distract ourselves.…What we need right now isn’t optimism or pessimism. It’s new institutions and regulatory frameworks…The whole point of making predictions is to know what you ought to be surprised by.” Link.

There’s a miracle treatment being overlooked in Healthcare: our daily behaviors.

We may be in a golden age of innovation, especially in healthcare, but chronic diseases continue to claim countless lives worldwide. The surprisingly simple key to prevention lies in our daily habits like sleep, nutrition, exercise, stress management, and social connections. Despite the hard evidence, high-tech, innovative therapies are prioritized over behavioral change. 

Why? For one, it’s a lot harder to change someone’s behaviors than to prescribe a pill or treatment. A person’s health is shaped by numerous factors, including  access to nutrition education and safe living conditions. So, how do we bridge this gap to ensure a healthier future for all? Link.