What I'm Reading (Aug. 26)

Why are hospitals not reporting their prices? The real value of humor. Adopting technologies. Who is a doctor? And the tragedy of the commons.

It is a straightforward requirement. Hospitals must provide a list of their prices for care. Yet, hospitals have dragged their collective feet in giving this information to the public. It is way past time for those of us paying for care, through our insurance or taxes, to see the wide, wide variation in costs that drive profitability, not increased access or better care. From the NY Times, Hospitals and Insurers Didn’t Want You to See These Prices. Here’s Why.

“There is one more excellent reason to work on your appreciation for humor right now: It can ease the terrible burden we have collectively carried for the past year and a half. As the research outlined above shows, humor has an almost anesthetic quality to it, lowering the focus on pain and allowing us to remember the joys in life.”

From The Atlantic, The Link Between Happiness and a Sense of Humor

“The fact of the matter is, McLuhan was right: “We shape our tools, and then our tools shape us.”

Technology is not just about things and devices; it is about processes and verbs. So you have to be a little careful about what technologies you adopt, because each technology is, broadly speaking, a way of doing things.”

From Austin Kleon, Questions for Technology

That may be the real value of the ‘doctor’ title: It is a very useful thing, provided you can make other people believe it is important. It frightens the multitude in the direction in which the doctor wishes to go. In the operating room, when events go south, saving a patient’s life often depends on this corralling of people to work under command. Whenever people are required to act together, there must be a chief; otherwise, confusion and disorder result. The ‘doctor’ title makes this possible during an emergency.

The problem arises when the ‘doctor’ title is used more broadly—for example, in public policy. Here, average people with good sense are wrongly cowed by the title. They defer to the doctor when they should defer to someone else.” 

This one hit home from The Hedgehog Review, Too Many Doctors in the House

The tragedy of the commons may well be upon us. 

“The trend makes selfish sense. Almonds ring up far more profits than the wine and raisin grapes they’re replacing. But it makes almost no communal sense. Almonds consume far more of everyone’s water. …

The continent’s edge that the settlers bit off and called one state was 1,000 miles long with a dozen different states of nature inside it. The rain fell 140 inches on one end. It fell 12 inches on the other end. The other end happened to be where most of the people wanted to live. Our conceit was to believe that if we built the grandest water system ever, we could make that difference disappear. California proceeded with the federal Central Valley Project in the 1930s and the State Water Project in the 1960s and erected dams, canals, and a concrete river 444 miles long—we called it The Aqueduct—to move the rain to farms and faucets. We had engineered our way past drought and flood, if not earthquake and wildfire, or so we believed.”

From The Atlantic, The Well Fixer’s Warning