Founder, The Roots of Progress (rootsofprogress.org)
Thanks Kent, can you say something about this book?
Amazing story, and fantastic post, thanks!
Thanks for the detailed thoughts!
Yes, we did start fighting infectious disease long before the germ theory. Most notably, the first immunization techniques, against smallpox, long predated the theory. Also there were sanitation reforms that helped significantly. But these methods were limited: e.g., no vaccines for any disease other than smallpox were created, and water sanitation did not include chlorination. Indeed, sometimes sanitation efforts backfired, as when Edwin Chadwick tried to clean up the stench of London by building sewers to drain all cesspools into the Thames, and ended up polluting the supply of drinking water. Progress was much more rapid and consistent after the germ theory.
Thanks Sam! Your comment about biologists thinking the cure for cancer doesn't exist spurred these thoughts: Can we “cure” cancer?
Welcome, Heike! Very excited to be working with you.
I meant more on the question of financial incentives for metrics. Basically, charging healthy people less / charging more for risk factors. Are you allowed to do this? I think some amount of this is allowed in some jurisdictions, but are there crucial limitations on it?
Are there any restrictions on what insurance companies are allowed to do with this kind of info? Health insurance is highly regulated too.
Policy barriers aside, speaking strictly from considerations of technology and economics, what is the ideal near-term future for energy? Nuclear, geothermal, solar? Maybe even solar-powered fuel synthesis like Terraform Industries is doing? Or what combination of the above?
So many of the regulatory/policy barriers to progress seem so daunting. Using the “Important, Tractable, Neglected” heuristic, what are the top opportunities to unblock progress? Put another way perhaps, if you were writing a priority list for an organization like the Institute for Progress or Balsa Research, what would you go after?
There are two magic buttons, as follows, but you can only press one. Which would be better for progress and why?