The Pebble and the Avalanche

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Current Revolutions in Business and Technology

by Dr. Moshe Yudkowsky,

author of The Pebble and The Avalanche: How Taking Things Apart Creates Revolutions


Tue, 2009-Nov-17, 09:25

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Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines

The latest breast-cancer screening guidelines from the US's "Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality" may or may not be scientifically sound; I'm not qualified to judge. Many independent societies have gone ballistic over the new guidelines; but there's a deep fallacy that's gone unnoticed.

I disagree with the entire exercise of publically-defined health care benefits, which reverses disaggregation of care and service. This study takes a collectivist approach: so many women will live, so many will die, assign cost/benefit analysis to the results and decide if breast-cancer screening makes economic sense to "society as a whole." This is, of course, how state-run medicine/national health care works in Europe; but here in the US we are not quite yet cattle that can be culled from the herd when we become too expensive to heal. As Mark Steyn noted in this same context, when the government health care system meets its budget and the people who receive no treatment don't whimper too loudly, that's defined as success; but in a society of free individuals, Mark Steyn runs his own "health care system," and in the Mark Steyn health care system going without treatment — as per President Obama's suggestion to the elderly to forgo corrective surgery, take a pill instead and live with the pain — is the very definition of failure. We've applied disaggergation to our ordinary lives, and we can customize just about anything we wish from cars to shoes to ordinary house paint; if we standardize and federalize health care we will take a giant leap backwards.

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