Medical breakthrough and Market Failure

New material kills E. coli bacteria in 30 seconds

This post perfectly illustrates the insanity of the incentives within our monetary system.

Here they develop a new and effective technique to kill bacteria, and the first thing they suggest is using it as a general bacteriocide – sprayed into the environment at large on a regular basis, rather than restricting it to use cases involving imminent threat to human life. Obviously, the reason is that they want to make money by selling more.

If it kills 99.7%, that means 3 in every thousand survive. That only requires 9 generations to get back to the original population (if dealing with bacteria with a 20 minute doubling time, that buys a 3 hour window for the immune system to respond).

The medical system at large still denies the fact (established beyond reasonable doubt) that in the vast majority of people, vitamin C is the rate limiting factor in immune system response. Give people 10g a day of vit C, and remove refined sugars from diet, and most doctors would be out of work.

It just boggles my mind, how the incentives of the market have so many destructive tendencies, that to me are just so glaringly obvious, but seem to be invisible to the population at large.

That anyone can accept the idea that anyone needs to be hungry when we have at our disposal the technologies we do, just escapes me.
The only reason anyone on this planet needs be short of any of the essentials of life (air, water, food, housing, sanitation, healthcare, communications, education, transportation) is the needs of markets. Markets require poverty to work. Without poverty, no markets.

I get that within the paradigm of accepting market values, that is almost impossible to see.
Yet once seen, it is just so blindingly obvious.


[followed by]

Hi Gordon,
1g is a lot more than you need to prevent scurvy, but a lot less than you need to put up an effective defense against bacterial or viral infection, or active cancer.

I’ve been on 9g twice daily as a minimum for 5.5 years. No colds, flus or anything else in that time.
When I was trying to get rid of melanoma tumors 6 years ago I was taking up to 80g a day.
I’m now 5 years and 4 months since the last tumour. Haven’t missed a twice daily dose in that time.

[followed by]

Hi Erik,

There is certainly some truth in what you say.
Markets are very complex things, with many attributes and they perform many functions.

When most things were genuinely scarce, then markets had several powerful incentive sets that promoted prosperity and well being at both individual and community levels. And they always required the presence of secondary strategies to be stable (as per Axelrod et al).

Some of those mechanisms and strategies are well understood, some we are only just beginning to understand.

The basic incentives of markets are well taught in basic economics.

What is not taught in basic economics is the fact that as automation allows production to a level that meets all demand, that exchange values (money being the market measure of exchange value) actually work directly against the interests of the majority of humanity.

The other major aspect that is only recently starting to be explored is the aspect of markets as facilitating a dynamic networks of trust relationships within human societies.
It seems very likely to me that it was these network relationships, rather than the exchange values of the markets as such, that were the major contributor to the expansion of freedom and knowledge and technology.

And certainly, without doubt, there was an association between markets and freedom.

And certainly, to the degree that goods and services were genuinely scarce, then the exchange aspect of markets was of genuine benefit.

And now that we have advanced automation that delivers the ability to automate the manufacture and delivery of an exponentially expanding set of goods and services, then for all goods and services in that exponentially expanding set, the incentives of the market place actively work against the interests of humanity generally.

And it is complex.

We are now aware of concepts like complexity theory, chaos theory, maximal computational complexity, and general stochastic systems.

We know of a large class of systems that are not predictable, and it seems that there may be an infinite set of infinite sets of such things possible.

It seems that this universe contains a very large (and potentially infinite) set of possible halting problems.

It seems that all knowledge is fundamentally heuristic.

It seems that all values are some set of derivative survival functions (some of which apply to levels other than individual survival).

We are in our infancy of understanding the complexity of what it is to be a human being in a social and cultural context.

There is much more to life than GDP.

We are starting to explore what freedom might mean.

It seems clear to me that freedom must result in diversity – expanding exponentially.

Nothing in our cultural history prepares us for such diversity.

Markets are now (in our context of fully automated production) much more of a threat to real freedom than they are an enhancer of it.

And I get that it can be difficult to see that, when the historical association is so clear.

The context has changed, is changing, exponentially.

Either we update our ideas to match our technology, or the results are not going to be pretty.


[followed by]

Hi Steve
The article you refer to is interesting when you read it in detail:

Point 5 notes that even though they detected signaling change at the level of mitochondrial production which would normally indicate a reduction in the number of mitochondria present, that did not show up as a drop in performance of the athletes “Even though the cellular events are not clearly reflected in physiological and performance measurements”.

So yes, there are many levels of changes due to vitamin C, and these are not manifested in any drop in physical performance. In my case, quite the reverse – physical performance has been greatly enhanced. And I am not an endurance athlete by any measure – more of a chair occupier who occasionally takes a few minutes to get a bit of exercise, on the golf course, or my mountain bike, or walking the beach, etc.

Be careful of drawing general conclusions from a very limited subset of the data available. (And yes – I have been very cautious on exactly that. I have read thousands of papers, and done a lot of experimentation on myself, published what I have done on my blog, for anyone to see, and helped anyone who has asked for it. All of those who have substantially stuck to the regime are alive, those who cheated substantially are all dead. Still a small sample – a few dozen, and it is a growing sample set – 6 years now. Not many people are like me, willing to have all their personal information made fully public – most like a degree of anonymity.)

[followed by]

Hi DevilDoc,

If I was actually saying “If markets are more of a threat to real freedom than an enhancer of freedom, then being free to associate and make deals makes one less free. Uh, no, that’s wrong.” then I would indeed be wrong, but that is not what I am saying.

What I am saying is much more complex than a single level exploration of that simple example indicates.

To use the context of your example as a base upon which to expand – we need to look at the wider context.
Consider a piece of information, like an mp3 file for example.
Today these can be duplicated and transmitted for a cost that is some very small fraction of a cent – a very close approximation to being free – close enough to cause a big problem to the music industry.

The response has been an expansion of intellectual property laws, and the penalties and powers associated with them – the effect of which is to artificially create scarcity (through the use of state backed terror and power) of something that would otherwise be free.
It is only because of such laws that any sort of music recording industry remains (or any sort of information industry at all).

It is these secondary, tertiary, and higher level incentive structures that work in practice to destroy any emergent universal abundance, in order to keep some sort of marketable scarcity, that is the issue I am talking about.

Right now, there exists sufficient productive capacity to house and feed everyone on the planet and deliver to all the resources to live what any of us would consider a high standard of living.

The only reason that does not happen is that it would break the existing economic system and various levels of “power structures” encoded within that.

So such thinking is strongly resisted by the production and distribution and reinforcement of many levels of meme like the one you brought to this conversation, which seem, in a very limited context, to be sound and sensible, but when applied to the wider and deeper context of the many levels of very complex systems actually present are actually counterfactual.
We really are dealing with complex systems.

Systems with many levels, and each level has complex strategic ecosystems present.

I am making a very broad claim that applies to every one of those levels, and within every ecosystem present.

That claim is: that provided effective secondary strategies to remove all benefit from cheating are present, and provided that the context does genuinely allow for universal abundance (within reasonable limits), then fundamentally cooperative strategies (at the universal level) will always deliver greater long term benefits to all levels of systems present, than will any variant of competitive strategic systems.
Two major limiting factors to allowing such systems to evolve had been present in the past:
1/ the relatively short term interest of most people – being their own productive lifespan – something less than 70 years of intellectual activity; and
2/ the discount rate applied to future benefits.

Both of those limiting factors are now arguably removed.

It now seems very probable that indefinite life extension will be a physical reality in quite a short time. It is a very safe bet that the last person to unwillingly experience age related loss of function has already been born.
That fact extends the personal interest horizon of anyone who is a serious strategic thinker.

The second factor is the effect of exponential expansion of capacity on future benefits. When future benefits are doubling in under a year. When one can reliably expect future benefits a billion times greater than current benefits in a mere 30 years, then one can be prepared to forgo significant present benefit for future returns.

In both cases, I am leading by example.

Just ask Ray or Sergey or Larry what they think of the idea of decentralised distributed search engines?

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see
This entry was posted in economics, Ideas, Our Future, Philosophy, Technology, understanding and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Medical breakthrough and Market Failure

  1. Pingback: Updates to a June Post | Ted Howard NZ's Blog

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