Category blindness

We all have our preferred way of framing up problems and their solutions.  If your a math guy you build a mathy model.  If your an Engineer you throw some tech at it.  If your a political actor your try to shift the Overton Window.  If your a capitalist manager your likely to lean toward financial incentives.

And we all have our preferred frameworks.  Capitalism, religion, community, science, what ever.  Recently I overheard a somebody opining that private enterprise has been far more innovative than government.  A statement to which I had which I had multiple strong negative reactions.  Such as “you would think that!” or “Of course, that by design.”  But no matter.

Here is an interesting list from the CDC of what they consider the 10 greatest successes of public health in the 20th century.

  • Vaccination
  • Motor-vehicle safety
  • Safer workplaces
  • Control of infectious diseases
  • Decline in deaths from coronary heart disease and stroke
  • Safer and healthier foods
  • Healthier mothers and babies
  • Family planning
  • Fluoridation of drinking water
  • Recognition of tobacco use as a health hazard

It seems to me, that when we talk of major acts of innovation those deserve to be at the table, as benchmarks.

1 thought on “Category blindness

  1. Douglas Knight

    My initial reaction to that list was that it is very vague. I didn’t know what half of it meant. Clicking through to see the details, I think all the items are reasonable, but I think it bad that they are inconsistently named. I would name them after the interventions. For your purpose of measuring innovation, you certainly want interventions! Lack of uniform naming leads to double-counting, such as smoking as an item itself and as part of the heart disease item.

    Also, many of these items are not solitary innovations. It is one thing to invent the seatbelt, but, as the list mentions, behavior modification was also necessary, a decades long project.

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