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Does the Rising Cost of Health Care Benefit Society?
Dean Kamen is an American scientist and inventor whose products include the Segway human transporter (HT) and the iBOT battery-powered wheelchair. His inventions include medical devices and futuristic gizmos that Kamen hopes will revolutionize the way we live and travel.
In 1989, Kamen founded FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a robotics competition for high school students. In 2007, it held 37 competitions in countries such as Israel, Brazil, Canada, and the United States.
Kamen is the President of DEKA Research and Development.
Kamen was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1997 for his biomedical devices and for making engineering more popular among high school students. He was awarded the National Medal of Technology in 2000 by then President Clinton for inventions that have advanced medical care worldwide. In 2002, Kamen was awarded the Lemelson-MIT Prize for inventors, for his invention of the Segway and of an infusion pump for diabetics. In 2005 he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for his invention of the AutoSyringe. In 2006 Kamen was awarded the Global Humanitarian Action Award by the United Nations.
Question: What is the fundamental problem with US health care?\r\n
Dean Kamen: I think there a lot of issues with the US health care system. One of the issues is that people think in many ways that we have a massive health care crisis, and if you really dissect what people think of as a crisis, I think it’s a misguided assertion. All you have to do is look at the quality of health even in your lifetime, as you were a kid, certainly go back 50 years, go back 100 years. When you look at how far we’ve come, how fast we’ve gotten here, what people take for granted in terms of health care today, it’s pretty hard to be disappointed by the achievements of the medical community.\r\n
I think, part of the reason that we all say that we have a health care crisis is because there was a time that the cost of health care really in fact wasn’t very much, but people forget neither was the quality, neither was the capability.\r\n
As the quality got better, still with very little capability a doctor could be very concerned and give you a very high quality statement like, “It looks to us like you have this disease or that disease or cancer and you’re going to die because there’s not much this high quality doctor can do about that.”\r\n
We now live in a world where virtually everybody expects there’s going to be some reasonable therapy for virtually any situation. Well, this explosion of capability, this explosion of alternatives, of course has a cost to it. We certainly all love the idea that we will get more and more of the upside and the value and the quality but we’d like to see the cost continue to go down and down as we come to expect it would in computer technology or communications technology. But for lots of reasons, they are all very different.\r\n
So again, one of the assertions that I think needs to be questioned about the whole discussion is that we have a health care crisis. Really, I think we have now a society which is spending more and more of its money on health care as a percent of GDP as a percent of a lot of things. I think that’s a measure of success. Where else would you like to spend money? Now that we created a society where we got a couple of percent of the whole country, 2% to do all the farming and make all the food. Now that we have a society that’s rich enough that we all have access to electricity and clean water and basic needs. What’s wrong with a society that can afford to spend more and more of its resources, giving people a better quality of life, curing diseases, advancing science, advancing medical technology?\r\n
But if our measure of whether we are in a health care crisis or not is the fact that it cost more, I think we’ll never get out of this problem because it’s not a problem.\r\n
I think we have to finally deal with the fact that health care is offering us greater and greater value and it will cost more and more money. That is a good thing, that opportunity is a good situation.\r\n
The fact that it cost money to get things we want is a reality. We are no longer in a world where you can afford to simply say well, everybody can get all the health care that’s available because it’s unrealistic.\r\n
And as we move forward, no matter what political side of any issue you are on, no matter what economic side of this problem you want to work at, I think we need, and I hope it’s true, to understand that the value created by the health care, achievements that are hopefully in the near term and going on for a long time would be greater and greater happening at an accelerating rate, we’re understanding genomics, proteomics. I think, we will see more and more unbelievable technology developed.\r\n
We should become at ease with the fact that it will continue to be of larger piece of our economy and I think that’s a good thing. And once we recognize something as valuable as health care isn’t free, and it won’t be free, once we recognize that, the jobs created around it when we pay the health care also stimulates the economy, creates clean technologies, technologies that in fact we are the leader in the world, that could create export opportunities.\r\n
What’s wrong with creating whole new industries in which you can create exciting jobs for scientists, engineers? What’s wrong with economy that is based more and more on our ability to focus on improving the quality of life and the health care, the length of life and the quality of health of all people everywhere?\r\n
If we want to focus on doing that, we should be happy that we are such a rich society, rich financially, rich intellectually, rich culturally that we can afford to put more and more of our resources into something like health care. If we continue to have the simple shallow debate about, we spend more money today than we did the past year on health care, well you know what, 50 years ago you didn’t spend any money on Google, on the Internet, you had no cell phone bill. We don’t sit here and say, we have a crisis in digital communication, we have a crisis in computing, we have a crisis in video games because we spend more today than we did 10 years ago.\r\n\r\n
Recorded on June 9, 2009\r\n
Increasing medical bills are a fact of life, says the scientist. In fact, "we should be happy that we are such a rich society ... that we can afford to put more and more of our resources into something like health care."
Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?
- From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
- "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
- Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.
A growing body of research suggests COVID-19 can cause serious neurological problems.
- The new study seeks to track the health of 50,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
- The study aims to explore whether the disease causes cognitive impairment and other conditions.
- Recent research suggests that COVID-19 can, directly or indirectly, cause brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage and other neurological problems.
Brain images of a patient with acute demyelinating encephalomyelitis.
COVID-19 and the brain<p>A growing body of research reveals alarming neurological complications among COVID-19 patients. On Wednesday, for example, researchers from University College London published a <a href="https://academic.oup.com/brain/article/doi/10.1093/brain/awaa240/5868408" target="_blank">study</a> in the journal Brain that describes how some patients have suffered temporary brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage, and other neurological problems concurrent with COVID-19.</p><p>Some patients suffered brain inflammation as a result of a rare disease called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, which can cause numbness, seizures, and confusion. One patient in the study even hallucinated monkeys and lions in her home.</p>
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images<p>A separate study published in the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7198407/" target="_blank">Journal of Clinical Neuroscience</a> notes that some COVID-19 patients have also suffered neurological complications like impaired consciousness and acute cerebrovascular disease. The study notes that past viruses like MERS and SARS also seemed to cause neurological problems.</p><p>A troubling finding among this growing body of research is that some patients seem to suffer neurological damage even when respiratory symptoms aren't obvious. Additionally, scientists aren't sure whether damage from the disease will be permanent.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Given that the disease has only been around for a matter of months, we might not yet know what long-term damage COVID-19 can cause," Dr. Ross Paterson, joint first author of the University College London study, said in a <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-07/ucl-iid070620.php" target="_blank">press release</a>. "Doctors needs to be aware of possible neurological effects, as early diagnosis can improve patient outcomes."</p><p>If you've been diagnosed with COVID-19 and want to enroll in the study, visit <a href="https://www.cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study" target="_blank">cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study</a>.</p>
Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
Saudi Arabia Plans Futuristic City, "Neom" (Full Promotional Video)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c646d528d230c1bf66c75422bc4ccf6f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N53DzL3_BHA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Coronavirus layoffs are a glimpse into our automated future. We need to build better education opportunities now so Americans can find work in the economy of tomorrow.
- Outplacement is an underperforming $5 billion dollar industry. A new non-profit coalition by SkillUp intends to disrupt it.
- More and more Americans will be laid off in years to come due to automation. Those people need to reorient their career paths and reskill in a way that protects their long-term livelihood.
- SkillUp brings together technology and service providers, education and training providers, hiring employers, worker outreach, and philanthropies to help people land in-demand jobs in high-growth industries.
Source: McKinsey Global Institute analysis [PDF]<p>Work in understanding the skills at the heart of the new digital economy is leading to novel assessments that allow individuals to prove mastery to faithfully represent their abilities—but also to give weight and stackability to the emerging ecosystem of micro-credentials that make education more seamless across time and education providers. And we are seeing the beginnings of a renewal in the liberal arts, focused on building human skills in affordable ways that are accessible to many more individuals and far more effective.</p><p>Amidst these dark times, there is much opportunity to refresh the nation's education and training solutions to support the success of individuals and society writ large.</p>