Consideration 32 - The Shirky Principle

The water vapor is grain being dried.

“Institutions Will Seek To Preserve The Problem For Which They Are The Solution

from the the-shirky-principle dept

We already wrote a detailed analysis of Clay Shirky’s recent writeup on complex business models. However, a few of you have sent over Kevin Kelly’s recent post about Shirky’s piece that also compares it to Clayton Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma, but thankfully highlights the one key line in Shirky’s piece that may have gotten lost in the original:

“Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.”

Kelly calls this the “Shirky Principle.” To me, it calls to mind Upton Sinclair’s famous line:

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”

They are not the same point, but they are related. In both cases, these are situations where people will often seek to preserve a problem or a falsehood, rather than recognize that it doesn’t need to be that way. There are lots of industries where this is a major issue.”

Pretty black view. It provides an explanation of Health Canada’s behavior. I have explained this behavior using group behavior theory, like an ant colony. Health Canada’s basic nature is to survive, and keep their dominion alive. Gwynne Dyer states his views about the Shirky Principle thusly.

“In other words, armed forces, intelligence services, and those parts of the foreign policy establishment that have prospered from “fighting terror” will instinctively preserve that threat. They hunt down and kill individual terrorists, of course, but they keep coming up with new terrorist threats.29”

Gwynne Dyer – April 10 3013 column in the County Market.

The Pre-Market Evaluation that is required by Health Canada for infant formulas is an example of the Shirky Principle. The feeding trials are suposed to be the science that determines if a  infant formula is suitable to qualify as an infant formulas. An additional hurdle [Pre-Market Evaluation] has been added to the process. This limits options to the creation of infant formulas, to the building an  infant formulas ingredient by ingredient. This is an hopeless endeavor. Health Canada’s nutrient levels for  infant formulas do not resemble breastmilk standards. To try to build an  infant formula of 1000 ingredients is not realistic on a number of levels.

This reveals the biggest problem with government. [my opinion] Our elected officials are terrified of the civil service. When was the last time a civil servant was fired? If suffering and dying infants do not get civil servants fired then gridlock and stagnation will prevail. Politicians get control of the civil service.

If a politician isn’t firing civil servants, he isn’t doing his job.

How many of my considerations are reason enough to allow the feeding trials?

The Shirky Principle sheds light on the Doctor – Patient relationship. Doctors need disease. It puts money in their pockets. They get points with their patients when they cure disease, not when they see healthy patients.