Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Why We Won the War

Welcome to this, my inaugural post, on the new Fastercures blog. I hope you'll check in with us early and often and bring your friends. Comments are welcome and ideas even more so.

So maybe you heard the news that FasterCures received a $35 million (It feels really good when you put your little finger in your cheek and turn it when you say $35 million dollars) grant from Sumner Redstone. I sat with him the day of the announcement and asked a question that had been on my mind for a long time -- or ever since I finished reading "Cryptonomicon" by Neal Stephenson a month ago.

"So, Mr. Redstone, " I asked, "When you were breaking codes in the Pacific in WWII, (Gentle Reader, you probably didn't know that Redstone was a code breaker in the War, stick with us for more surprises) how did you act on what you learned without giving away to the Japanese that you had broken their codes?"

"Not a problem," said he. "They didn't believe it was possible to break their codes so nothing we did looked suspicious to them. The Chicago Tribune even published that we had broken their codes and the government was going to indict them for treason until we learned the Japanese didn't believe it."

Glad I asked.

You see, people get confused with this "seeing is believing" business. I have always felt it was the other way around. You can't see what you don't believe in. People who believe in something the rest of us can't see and then make it visible to us, we call magicians, or inventors, or visionaries. People who can't believe in something until they see it, we call "objective, " or "realists," or "practical." (Some historians argue that the Native Americans couldn't see, much less grok (look it up, Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein) the pilgrims approaching their shores because they had no mental concept of ships and people crossing the water.)

You see (sorry), here at FasterCures we believe in something we can't see -- that we can cure many of the diseases that cripple and kill us in this generation. Say that at a science convention and see what happens. A group of very objective practical people will guffaw and turn away. Ignore them. Find the one or two people who come up to you and say "yes, I know." They are the ones who believe it and will make it happen.

We won WWII because our enemies could not believe that we could break their codes and they couldn't see what we were doing as a result. The war on disease is one we can win, but you have to believe it first in order to see it later....or sooner.

That's it for now.
This is Greg Simon at FasterBlogs for FasterCures

2 comments:

Michael D. Miller, MD said...

Great post Greg, and congratulations on the $35 million. Looking forward to seeing more of your thoughts on practical ideas for improving healthcare and creating better treatments. As you know, as a former surgeon I strongly share this pragmatic philosophy - fix the practical problems first.

Anonymous said...

I fully support the idea of getting more effective cancer drugs on the market 'in this generation', which I take it to mean in 20 years.

We need a mix of basic science and translational research to bring new drugs to patients as soon as possible.

Many of us aren't going to last 20 years. Many of us aren't going to survive another five years with our cancer.

Too bad for us, I guess.