Funding models, leadership, and coronavirus
Two new articles on timeless topics related to human progress, but with applications to the coronavirus pandemic.
(I'm now doing these emails in digest format, batching up my articles and aiming for at most one email a week. Most people prefer not to get too much email, but if you have a decided preference to get each post in a separate email as soon as it comes out, let me know; I may add that option.)
F. R. E. A. M.
How ossified funding models in medicine are throttling our response to COVID-19
Funding Rules Everything Around Me
I keep seeing, again and again, the crucial importance of funding models as a driver of innovation and production.
Right now, for instance, we are facing a once-in-a-century pandemic, COVID-19 (colloquially, “corona”). With everyone in the US now aware of the threat, a major focus is on ramping up hospital capacity to deal with the rising tide of cases that threatens to overwhelm intensive care units. In particular, there is a critical shortage of ventilators, machines that can help a patient breathe by moving air in and out of the lungs. Roughly 5% of corona patients require ventilation, and without it, most of that subset will die. The US has around 200,000 ventilators available at most, including obsolete ones that could be brought back into service, and a small emergency stockpile held by the federal government. Around a million patients might need ventilators in a widespread epidemic, and even though they won’t all be in the ICU at the same time, we could easily run out of capacity. (See this report for more.)
But as far as I can tell, we’re not manufacturing more ventilators. Why? Hospitals aren’t ordering them. Why? There may be multiple reasons—for one, ventilators aren’t the only critical resources; they require trained staff to operate and are useless without them—but one key factor seems to be funding.
Read the full article: https://rootsofprogress.org/funding-models-and-covid-19
Leadership and progress
In some stories of progress, a key factor is a leader who serves as a driving and integrating force towards a techno-economic goal. Individual inventors may solve particular technical challenges, but sometimes what is needed is a mind that can grasp both the technology and its business potential, and pull them together and make them meet.
Arkwright seems to have played this role for textile mechanization: systematically seeking out inventions relevant to the process, completing half-finished innovations or adding improvements, and generally putting the whole thing together into a business enterprise. Westinghouse played a similar role for electric power. But these days I am thinking particularly about the field of diseases and how they are conquered.
Read the full article: https://rootsofprogress.org/leadership-and-progress