I have the impression that some ways must be left behind, some mental habits must be abandoned, if we are not to clip the wings of progress. Even to science we must sometimes repeat Charon’s cry: By another way, by other ports, not here, you will find passage across the shore. In my role as teacher I hope to be able to show you other ways, if not other ports. — Giuseppe Vitali
“Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they’ve got a second.” — William James
Bill Thomas has been described as a Cultural Jammer: trying to change the American attitudes towards aging.
In 1991, Bill Thomas, having been an emergency room doctor, became the medical director of a nursing home in upstate New York. He found the place, as the Washington Post put it, “depressing, a repository for old people whose minds and bodies seemed dull and dispirited.”
And he will have written and published 12 other books, including his autobiography, when he will die later this year. For he has realized he has terminal cancer.
“I want and hope in the time that remains to deepen my friendships, to say farewell to those I love, to write more, to travel if I have the strength, to achieve new levels of understanding and insight.“
There are no dangerous thoughts; thinking itself is dangerous. — Hannah Arendt
“And one of the things they showed us was how to really focus on making it swift and usable. We made a two-minute surgery checklist; it had just 19 items. Some of them were just make sure you don’t forget dumb stuff: make sure you gave antibiotics, make sure you have blood ready for a high-blood-loss case. And then there were other interesting parts: make sure everybody in the room has been introduced by name and role; make sure the surgeon actually explained to the team what their goals for the operation are; make sure the anesthesiologist and nurses had a chance to explain their plans for the operation. We put that checklist in eight hospitals around the world, ranging from rural Tanzania to Toronto and Seattle, and every single hospital we put it in had a double-digit reduction in complications. The average reduction in death was 46 percent. That made me realize there was something much deeper and more important going on here about this set of problems we’re grappling with in the modern world.”
You see, his main ideas are Slow Ideas. Complex ideas: hard to take hold in the general public zeitgeist.
“… Thus it is the lever, above all other tools, that fascinates and preoccupies the Rational to the seemingly infinite possibilities of harnessing energy that can be used to impart thrust to levers.” [Personology]
“… there are complex mechanisms, such as automobiles, airplanes, and ships, towers and buildings, stairways and bridges, derricks and lifters, drill presses and band saws, milling machines and lathes, as well as cameras, monitors, printers, and even computers, all strategic aligning tools. … the strategic aligning tools, that are used more efficiently by Rationals than by any of the other characters, this because they are frequently intent upon getting remote pragmatic results by strategic building.” [Personology]
He was fascinated by the leverage of the computer. As he put it, “the computer is the bicycle for the mind.”
There were some of us that saw it coming. Note this was 1990, three years before the Web (with Mosaic) actually started to explode.
Scientists are supposed to be objective, open minded, fair minded, and logical. Paleoanthropology is supposed to be a science. Think again.
Most of science is good, and mostly right, if not trivial and mundane. It’s the best we can do at the moment. But, there is this particular case — the question of origin of mankind — it’s unbelievable — these so-called “scientists” are acting like priests. Not objective, not open minded, not fair minded, not logical, and not scientific. What’s up?
And she was a Character — a very interesting, and complex character.
Having entered the science community as a woman, when men still dominated science, and being charmed by a huge scientific ego, Carl, she luckily had to explore the backwaters of evolutionary biology at the time, bacteria, not getting much support from him or her male contemporaries. Of course, like all good science, that estuary of knowledge contained biological riches totally ignored by well established conventional scientific community. Like Darwin before, she was sui generis: a driven, feisty, no holds barred, idea brawler — an intellectual maverick — by necessity and choice. Initially ignored, she generated a fair amount of hostility from the conventional scientific community when they were challenged.
And intellectual mavericks, with persistence, are the only type to challenge the major ideas of conventional science, and win — somewhat.
It seems so in this story. This story is about discovery. This story is about life and death.
She had worked hard all her life. She had overcome her circumstance. Latin: Circum– to encircle, stance to take a position, to contend. Yes, it had been a man’s world, she was surrounded by her society and her family who discouraged her from her passion: science. Of course, other women had suffered discrimination before her: Marie Curie and Emmy Noether to name two, but they had their families to teach them, encourage and help them. Nobody had encouraged her, certainly not her family, and still was a man’s world in science in 1952. She had to rely on herself, so she thought and acted.