I normally hate Twitter “threads”, which often seem all too pompous, tendentious, and flat out wrong. But here’s a good one, via Via Pedro de Bruyckere’s From Experience to Meaning blog. And it is also a thread that makes me think a little better of Jeff Bezos. Here’s the beginning :
When I read the first tweet of this thread by Benjamin Riley I had the feeling we were up to something good. And Benjamin didn’t disappoint. I won’t make it into a habit of posting something like this on this blog, but I do wanted to share this here as I know that many of my readers would otherwise miss this:
On my other blog I posted a quote from James Jeremiah Sullivan’s essay on the polymath Constantine Samuel Rafinesque:
That’s what’s so terrifying but also heroic in Rafinesque, to know he could see that far, function at that outer-orbital a level intellectually, yet still wind up viciously hobbled by the safe-seeming assumptions of his day. We do well to draw a lesson of humility from this. It’s the human condition to be confused. No other animal ever had an erroneous thought about nature. Who knows what our version of the six-thousand year old earth is. It’s hiding somewhere in plain sight. In five hundred years there’ll be two or three things we believed and went on about at great length, with perfect assurance that will seen hilarious to them.
One could cite many many examples of “safe seeming assumptions” in every sphere – moral, scientific, social, cultural – which as time went by became unsafe and then positively harmful, laughable or just plain weird.
There is a self-congratulatory tendency to exaggerate and outright distort how wrong people were in the past. This is a form of epochalism, the belief that we live in a time unique in human history True in a trivial sense, but blind to the patterns of human life and what could be called the human condition. One of the recurrent themes on Stephen Pentz’s poetry blog First Known When Lost is that the modern belief that We Are Somehow Unique is an illusion. Other people, at other times, have struggled with mortality, the passing time, what is a good life, and in times in their own way as complex and baffling as our own.
Anyhow, the point of this post is really to post a question, and a question that is in principle unanswerable. What will the practices in medicine in healthcare that, in fifty years, will seem either weird or unethical or simply bad, that we take for granted today? The nature of this question that these are not things that, by and large, are objected to today, but seem a normal part of practice. One could put forward many obvious answers about eHealth or about health insurance, but of course values change over time and assuming our values now will be the normative values of fifty years is a fool’s game.