“A Great Change is Coming” (part 1 of 2)

In an earlier post, I wrote “A great change is coming” — meaning a great improvement in health. It will be due to better ideas. Let’s call the new ideas evolutionary thinking. They will replace gatekeeper thinking. With gatekeeper thinking, which began with shamans,  you need to extract payment from sick people. Remedies and associated ideas that don’t allow this are ignored. Gatekeeper thinking pervades not only mainstream medicine but also clinical psychology, alternative medicine, and a zillion advertisements. Everyone in those fields, like the rest of us, needs to make a living. The possibility that they are doing so at the expense of the rest of us — by suppressing innovation — is impolite to bring up. Perhaps the person you are speaking to has a brother who’s a doctor. And for an enormously long time there was no alternative. A sick person doesn’t have time to do research, even if that were possible. They are forced to rely on gatekeepers, who are interested only in certain types of remedies.

Now there is an alternative — now just a glimmer, but surely growing. It has several dimensions. One is the sort of research involved. At one extreme of that dimension is original research — for example, my discovery that breakfast caused my early awakening. Gatekeeper thinking had no interest in such ideas. You could not charge for something that simple.  I wrote about my discovery, with plenty of data. Anyone with web access can read it. At the other extreme of that dimension is “library research” — usually web search. An example is Dennis Mangan searching for possible cures for his mom’s Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) and discovering persuasive stories about niacin. Again, there was no mainstream research about niacin for RLS. Anyone with web access can read what Dennis found. So for these two disorders — early awakening and restless leg syndrome — there is now a practical alternative to consulting (and paying) an expert. This isn’t repackaged folk wisdom or home remedies or someone opining. There is clear-cut data and theory involved. In the case of breakfast and sleep, it makes evolutionary sense that food would cause anticipatory activity. Likewise, the case for megadose vitamins makes biochemical sense, as Bruce Ames and his colleagues explained. You can judge for yourself.

Another dimension of this emerging space is the simplicity of the treatment. In my breakfast example, I established cause and effect with just one change: stopping breakfast. Dennis’s example also involved a simple change: megadose niacin. In contrast, Aaron Blaisdell found his sun sensitivity went away after he made many dietary changes. If you have sun sensitivity you will find it harder to duplicate what Aaron did than what Dennis or I did, but you can still come close and in any case it is a big improvement over the previous best treatment, which was to avoid the sun.

In all three cases — early awakening, RLS, and sun sensitivity — there was no gatekeeper approval. (My article with my breakfast discovery was peer-reviewed but appeared in a psychology journal rather than a medical one). In all three cases, the solution was excellent — cheap, fast, highly effective, no side effects — compared to prescription drugs (e.g., for depression). The sort of solutions that gatekeeper thinking doesn’t find. In all three cases, you don’t need to go through a gatekeeper to learn about them.

In a later post I’ll describe why I think this emerging solution space will soon become far more important.

4 Responses to ““A Great Change is Coming” (part 1 of 2)”

  1. epistemocrat Says:

    One reason why this space may emerge is that the workforce shortages in the healthcare sector make access to primary care increasingly difficult and discontinuous.

  2. Mike Says:

    Immediately thought of Seth Roberts when I read this. I have zero idea if it’s accurate, but if so, not good:

    http://reason.com/blog/2010/06/04/one-step-closer-toward-an-all?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+reason%2FHitandRun+%28Reason+Online+-+Hit+%26+Run+Blog%29&utm_content=Google+Feedfetcher

  3. David Says:

    Seth — Here is a guy who started a blog as a plea for help with his deteriorating health:

    http://savemylyfe.blogspot.com/

    On an unrelated note, here is a fascinating story on how the cure for scurvy (fresh lemon juice) was “lost” by the British:

    http://idlewords.com/2010/03/scott_and_scurvy.htm

  4. Barbarians at the Epistemic Gates | Anthony Burgoyne Says:

    [...] Seth Roberts, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at U.C. Berkeley, now teaching at Tsinghua University in Beijing, talks about a change in medical science away from “gatekeeper thinking” here: “A Great Change is Coming.” [...]