The Bell Curve

[via Atanu] The New Yorker has a fascinating essay by Atul Gawande which asks: “What happens when patients find out how good their doctors really are?”

In medicine, we are used to confronting failure; all doctors have unforeseen deaths and complications. What were not used to is comparing our records of success and failure with those of our peers. I am a surgeon in a department that is, our members like to believe, one of the best in the country. But the truth is that we have had no reliable evidence about whether were as good as we think we are. Baseball teams have win-loss records. Businesses have quarterly earnings reports. What about doctors?

Somehow, what troubles people isnt so much being average as settling for it. Everyone knows that averageness is, for most of us, our fate. And in certain matterslooks, money, tenniswe would do well to accept this. But in your surgeon, your childs pediatrician, your police department, your local high school? When the stakes are our lives and the lives of our children, we expect averageness to be resisted. And so I push to make myself the best. If Im not the best already, I believe wholeheartedly that I will be. And you expect that of me, too.

Revenge of the Right Brain

[via Atanu] Wired writes: “Logical and precise, left-brain thinking gave us the Information Age. Now comes the Conceptual Age – ruled by artistry, empathy, and emotion.”

The Information Age we all prepared for is ending. Rising in its place is what I call the Conceptual Age, an era in which mastery of abilities that we’ve often overlooked and undervalued marks the fault line between who gets ahead and who falls behind.

To some of you, this shift – from an economy built on the logical, sequential abilities of the Information Age to an economy built on the inventive, empathic abilities of the Conceptual Age – sounds delightful. “You had me at hello!” I can hear the painters and nurses exulting. But to others, this sounds like a crock. “Prove it!” I hear the programmers and lawyers demanding.

OK. To convince you, I’ll explain the reasons for this shift, using the mechanistic language of cause and effect.

The effect: the scales tilting in favor of right brain-style thinking. The causes: Asia, automation, and abundance.

WiMax

The Economist writes:

Despite claims by several firms that they are offering WiMax technology today, the actual number of WiMax devices on the market is precisely zero. That is because the WiMax Forum, a standards body that oversees the technology and ensures that gear from different vendors works together, has yet to certify any devices with the WiMax label.

The hype is now giving way to much scepticism about the technology’s prospects. I don’t think it’s completely hot air, but it won’t live up to its early promise, says Jagdish Rebello of iSuppli, a market-research firm. WiMax, he says, will chiefly be used by telecoms firms in rural areas, to plug holes in their broadband coverage.

Wifi Networking News points to a WSJ article:

One of the technologies drawing the most attention is WiMAX, which is similar to the popular Wi-Fi standard that millions of people have used to set up wireless networks in their homes but is slated to have a range of several miles. Since WiMAX has yet to be certified, companies are using precursors to the technology.

If the technology takes off, millions of phone and cable customers could cut the wires that tether them to the regulated telecom world. That means being able to surf the Internet and send e-mail at high speeds — maybe eventually make calls over the Internet — with a wireless-enabled computer in any room in a house or any outside space covered by the technology. The advantages of portability should be obvious to anyone who remembers when there were no cellphones.

Besides lopping off some wires, wireless broadband could open the door to more competitors. It is expected to become relatively cheap to deploy over time, which could mean lower prices and more options for consumers and businesses.