fredag 30 juli 2010

The Flight of the Creative Class


I write a review of the book The Flight of the Creative Class: The New Global Competition for Talent by Richard Florida for Lewrockwell.com on 23 August 2005.
For the main part of the 20th century, the entrepreneur was regarded as a quaint leftover from a previous era that would soon be overtaken by the efficient rationality of large corporations, major organization and big government working in unison. One of the few schools that still put emphasis on understanding the role of the entrepreneur in the economy was the Austrian. Read more in the review of The Flight of the Creative Class.
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torsdag 29 juli 2010

Straffa syndare, eller hjälpa människor?

Expressen tar upp problemet med landstingens förbud av rökning. Tänk på att även snus håller på att förbjudas på arbetsplatserna. Ändå kommer inte förbudet att fungera, då samhället förändrats. Frågan är skall vi Straffa syndare eller hjälpa människor?

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Dal genio solitario alla scienza come mercato delle idee

Il mio articolo è stato pubblicato sotto la rubrica di pensieri e parole nel quotidiano L’Indipendente domenica 23 ottobre 2005.

Sono passati cinquant’anni dalla morte di Albert Einstein, il fisico teorico considerato spesso come lo scienziato più grande del Novecento, e un secolo dal 1905, il suo annus mirabilis, in cui fornì la base di tre campi fondamentali nella fisica: la teoria di relatività, la teoria quantistica e la teoria del moto browniano.

Il 2005 è stato dichiarato anno mondiale della fisica dall’Onu (e le attività previste nell’ambito di questa “celebrazione” sono descritte sul sito internet http://www.wyp2005.org) proprio alla memoria di Albert Einstein. Infatti, nel Regno Unito e nella Repubblica d’Irlanda l’iniziativa viene semplicemente denominata “l’anno di Einstein”.

Ciò spiega perché in questi mesi si vadano moltiplicando conferenze, seminari e altre iniziative che mirano ad accrescere nel pubblico la conoscenza delle scoperte compiute nel campo della fisica. In un certo senso, questa iniziativa crea confusione. Mai precedentemente si è verificato che la fisica, la scienza in genere e la tecnologia in particolare fossero state cosi importanti e di così ampio riscontro nella vita quotidiana. È inoltre evidente come il progresso scientifico stia velocemente arrecando benefici all’uomo comune attraverso il mercato libero. Ma, e questo deve far riflettere, oggi assistiamo a una diminuzione globale degli studenti nel campo della fisica. Non solo: gli allievi migliori non si stanno dirigendo verso gli studi fisici, perché trovano più attraenti altri campi. Gli insegnanti di scienze nelle scuole sono sempre meno. In effetti, si colgono già diverse avvisaglie del rischio della diffusione dell’analfabetismo scientifico: nelle società tecnologicamente avanzate molti difettano nella conoscenza del pensiero critico rispetto al loro ambiente quotidiano.

L’irresistibile successo della fisica

Albert Einstein è un simbolo, un’icona di saggezza, immaginazione, creatività, integrità scientifica e forza mentale concentrate. Nella sua persona egli esemplifica sia il successo della fisica (la disciplina chiave del Novecento) sia il suo declino ancora in corso. È il simbolo anche di uno sguardo rivolto al futuro?

La fisica all’inizio del Ventesimo secolo era effettivamente un’attività “radicale”: spazzò via le vecchie nozioni assolutiste e portò alla scienza idee nuove, che a loro volta hanno ispirato grandi cambiamenti nell’arte, nella cultura e nel pensiero politico. Il pensiero di Einstein sulla relatività seguì la tendenza del suo tempo, ma allo stesso modo la modificò in profondità. La scienza era potentemente connessa alla società attraverso un ambiente fatto di scienziati dilettanti, politici interessati e conferenzieri. Infatti la fisica del tempo potrebbe essere stata persino troppo “di successo”. Nei suoi grandi progetti e nella sua potente metodologia matematica, molti credettero di vedere le soluzioni per i problemi sociali. Attraverso la progettazione scientifica si sarebbero realizzati valori “obiettivamente migliori”.

L’immagine che Einstein proietta in questo periodo iniziale era piuttosto diversa da quella che conosciamo attraverso il mito creatosi intorno a lui (e che lui stesso ha contribuito a creare). Non soltanto perché era giovane, ma anche perché era ben vestito, progressista, zelante (tanto che lavorava all’ufficio brevetti svizzero, proprio durante il suo annus mirabilis, prima di riceverne riconoscimento), impegnato nel sociale.

Era sionista e fu tra i fondatori del Partito liberaldemocratico tedesco della Repubblica di Weimar, sebbene più tardi si sia orientato verso un socialismo e un pacifismo meno rigorosi. Proiettò l’immagine attiva di professore europeo molto comune a quei tempi. Ma l’immagine di Einstein si mutò con il ridefinirsi dell’immagine della fisica.

Il bohémien nella torre d’avorio

Nell’era successiva alla Seconda guerra mondiale sembrò svilupparsi una sintesi felice fra la visione della scienza esercitata in autonomia dal resto della società e quella che concepiva la scienza stessa come scopritrice delle forze naturali in funzione del bene comune. La scienza si sarebbe dovuta concentrare dunque su una produzione di conoscenza libera dai valori, mentre la politica avrebbe dovuto controllare il dibattito su quegli stessi valori, sulla direzione e sugli obiettivi della ricerca. Nella società i grandi valori cambiarono. La guerra moderna, la bomba atomica, i disastri ambientali e altri problemi collegati alla modernità non furono visti come negativi effetti secondari o come applicazioni sbagliate della scienza, ma vennero considerati come l’essenza stessa della scienza. La perdita di connessione fra la fisica e la società creò un clima di sospetto, che si tradusse in sentimenti contro il progresso e si orientò persino contro i benefici materiali raggiunti attraverso la scienza. Venne detto che la scienza può produrre più “roba”, peraltro inutile, ma non può rendere la gente felice. Perciò la scienza doveva essere tenuta sotto controllo e messa al guinzaglio.

Einstein si trasferì negli Usa e divenne un recluso. I problemi scientifici della fisica teorica certamente divennero più complessi durante la vita di Einstein, ma egli preferì continuare a essere l’ultimo fisico classico piuttosto che partecipare alla rivoluzione della relatività e della meccanica quantistica che lui stesso aveva innescato. Continuò a cercare di ampliare, attraverso la geometria differenziale, il formalismo della relatività generale, con l’obiettivo di giungere a una teoria unificata capace di descrivere in modo unitario sia il campo gravitazionale che quello elettromagnetico. E continuò a pensare ai problemi, che considerava irrisolti, relativi ai fondamenti della meccanica quantistica.

Durante i suoi anni a Princeton Einstein coltivò l’immagine del bohémien bizzarro, del professore nella torre d’avorio che finì per diventare l’essenza stessa dell’immagine pubblica dello scienziato. Nella sua ricerca sulla teoria unificata si fece anche più interessato al formalismo astratto, piuttosto che all’argomentazione e all’esperimento. Un formalismo che purtroppo ora domina in quelle aule in cui gli insegnanti spesso non riescono a spiegare perché la fisica dovrebbe essere importante per gli allievi.

I simboli della scienza potente comunicavano con vigore i valori che la scienza desiderava proiettare, e mentre l’immagine di Einstein (quale nonno della fisica) potrebbe essere un’immagine piacevole, dobbiamo considerare che presenta anche aspetti negativi.

Le rete della conoscenza

Questo dipende soprattutto dal fatto che la fisica è diventata sempre più vitale attraverso le sue applicazioni, si è liberata sempre più della muffa del formalismo rigido che tanti considerano negativo ed è venuta in contatto con il design e l’ingegneria: in tal modo si è cercato di creare un ponte fra la cultura scientifica e la cultura umanistica. Da questo nasce una nuova discussione intorno ai valori, e la creazione di nuove opportunità per l’esistenza umana e non solo per produrre più “roba”. Assistiamo a una ridefinizione della biotecnologia e della tecnologia informatica come le discipline del Ventunesimo secolo, capaci di “provocare” e di mettere in discussione la società e le altre discipline. Ma la fisica assicura ancora un contributo notevole quando si tratta di risolvere problemi relativi alla produzione di energia, alla protezione dell’ambiente o alla sanità pubblica.

Dovremmo ritornare, nella nostra immagine dello scienziato, all’Einstein giovane? Probabilmente no. L’Einstein del futuro è una rete di ricercatori sparsi in tutto il mondo, un vero “mercato delle idee”, come visualizzato dal filosofo della scienza Michael Polanyi (che fu molto influenzato da Friedrich Hayek). Se la scienza è vista come un processo aperto, distribuito nel tempo e nello spazio, ciò incoraggia il lavoro interdisciplinare e crea opportunità di partecipazione pubblica e culturale maggiori di quanto “il genio solitario” abbia mai potuto fare.


RFID in the euro notes?

I write the article RFID in the euro notes? in The Sprout of June 2004.

Will radio tags the size of a grain of sand be embed in the euro notes? At least it has been discussed as an option by the European Central Bank (ECB) for the €200 and €500 notes in the year 2005. But for it to work, argues Waldemar Ingdahl, we would all have to install tiny transceivers in our wallets…

The ECB is deeply concerned about counterfeiting and money laundering. Counterfeiting of euro notes has been a problem in Greece already and there have been cases in the new member countries too. Money laundering is also an issue of increasing concern, and that is probably one of the reasons that the higher denominations are considered for tagging. The €200 and €500 notes are the ones that are the most popular for more "informal" transactions.

Among the current security features in the current euro are threads visible under ultraviolet light. But businesses and stores often find it hard to judge a note's authenticity, as current equipment seldom can tell the difference between false currency and old notes with worn-out security marks.

Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags are small microchips that listen for a radio query and respond by transmitting their unique ID code. Besides acting as a sort of digital watermark, they could be used to speed up routine processes such as counting. A stack of notes could be passed through a reader and counted immediately.

Hitachi, a Japanese electronics firm, says it has successfully operated the world's smallest non-contact chip, only one-third of a millimetre across. In a euro note the number could contain a serial code as well as details such as place of origin and denomination. Data can only be written on the chip during production, and not after it is out in circulation. The ECB has reportedly started talks with Hitachi, and so has the The Bank of Japan, that is considering RFID tags for its 10,000-yen bank notes.

Will this be feasible? Probably. But not in the year 2005 already, and the actual implementation of the tagging might encounter serious problems.

First of all there is the matter of cost, it's not just about putting the tags in the currency but also installing the new systems for scanning them, and the tag chip technology is still a bit too undeveloped. Even Hitachi's present non-contact chip would be difficult to fit into a bill.

There is also the issue of trust. Putting RFID tags in currency would be seen as a breach of privacy, as there would be a temptation to use it to track purchases and transactions in order to trace banknotes for fiscal reasons. Would the users confide in the ECB not tracking their transactions?

Tracking euro notes could prove to be exceedingly difficult, simply because many transactions are informal in their nature, and the change of ownership of individual notes is not recorded between for instance friends, relatives, and spouses. Many transactions inside companies are also more informal in nature, and do not have to involve any foul play, and even if it was mandated by law that all companies put tag readers in their cash registers to track the bills, this would not be very hard to get around.

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, is looking to integrate RFID technology in its inventory system. Jim Crawford, an analyst at Retail Forward, calculated that if Wal-Mart stored every RFID read of every item on every shelf, it would generate nearly 8 terabytes of data per day. Now, Wal-Mart does not have to store every read since most reads will simply tell that the good is still on its shelf. But in order to track cash transactions for everyone using euro notes, it would be necessary to record every time a bill changed hands. The tracing would thus involve immense amounts of rather complex data to store and analyse.

In order to make the tracing of bills work we would all have to buy wireless RFID readers and put them in our wallets. That way, the database could be updated every time we take a bill out of our wallet or put in a new one. But if this was implemented it would be far easier to get rid of cash altogether and create an RFID payment card system. This change in our monetary system would be highly improbable in the near future, particularly because of the lag in society to changing to digital currency and the major security issues involved.

Adapting RFID tags in currency already in the year 2005 is in any case most probably a bit too premature, even if that adoption could make euro notes harder to counterfeit. When an emerging technology first enters the public consciousness its potential benefits and drawbacks are often exaggerated, and its final mature form is a matter of societal negotiations between producers and consumers. The ECB would do well to consider this when examining the options for introducing RFID tags in its currency.

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En växande befolkning kräver GMO

Jag skriver i livsstilsmagasinet Camino nummer 9/2009 om att En växande befolkning kräver GMO.

Hur skall vi se till att jordens växande befolkning på 6,7 miljarder människor får tillgång till billig och näringsrik mat, samtidigt som vi skyddar miljön? Vi kommer att behöva fördubbla livsmedelsproduktionen på 40 år för att kunna föda den ökande befolkningen. En lösning är öppna upp för nya lösningar och låta gentekniken och det ekologiska jordbruket hjälpas åt.

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Witnessing the birth of the European nano-effort?

I write the article Witnessing the birth of the European nano-effort? in The Sprout of January 2004.

Opponents to nanotechnology only care about policy. But if eurocrats and techies could engage in a policy discussion, guided by a vision which expands beyond funding for the next year or a better insulin pump, then the future has a chance- that is, of course if the EU Commissioner can even be bothered to turn up to such talks...

"La Bora", the strong wind of the Adriatic Sea swept through the city of Trieste in Italy. But there was no wind sweeping through the conference centre that hosted the EuroNanoForum 2003. Between December 9th and 12th more than a thousand delegates gathered at the conference organised by the European Commission's DG for Research/ Industrial Research, in order to assess both the state of the art and policy issues in the area of nanotechnology.

Nanotechnology, the manufacture of materials and machines with atomic precision and size, is widely regarded as the next revolution in technology. It is predicted to become a very broad emergent technology, with several different areas of application such as functional materials, medicine, electronics, and optics.

While the debate rages on its eventual capabilities or even how to define it, it is becoming popular for funding and investment. In the early and middle 1990's nanotechnology was just speculative ideas, something to interest open-minded researchers, engineering hobbyists and science fiction fans. But slowly the idea percolated through the scientific community. It went from a wild idea to the next big thing. Suddenly funding for nanotechnology research appeared and it was not just acceptable to study it, but a good buzzword to add to one's research proposal.

EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin spoke to the conference via a recorded message. Busquin's speech summed up what the conference was about: the EU formally acknowledged nanotechnology as an important part of European research. This was bolstered by the presence of several prominent guests, among them Nobel laureate Sir Harry Kroto.

Nanotechnology represents a great scientific challenge, since traditional scientific disciplines like biology, chemistry and microtechnology converge. New inter-disciplinary approaches need to be developed. But in becoming acceptable research the original meaning of nanotechnology has been diluted, which was visible in many scientific presentations at the conference. Whereas it was first considered as operations on the molecular scale using molecular tools, nanotechnology now appears to mean any technology involving extremely small structures. One reason is of course that as it became well funded it was advantageous for researchers to call their research nanotechnology if it involved tiny structures in some way.

New manufacturing tools require a novel entrepreneurial attitude. Thus a session was dedicated to how to raise venture capital for start-ups. Much is expected of the field to create new jobs. But the European problem of translating scientific innovation into concrete business opportunities was visible because of Europe's difficulties of raising sufficient venture capital and providing entrepreneurial structures.

In looking at the here-and-now issues, we may lose sight of the larger and more important issues facing us. Problems can likely be designed away with some forethought. But even fairly mild nanotechnological applications raise important questions of what we want to achieve with industry and our lives, where we want to take the economy and our species. These are the real issues, but they cannot be debated within the rather narrow discourse among regulators and engineers.

Unfortunately, those at the conference who started to take a deeper look at the social implications often did it from the perspective of the precautionary principle. The precautionary principle is often misused as a tool to stifle development or gain political control over it rather than the common sense approach of being careful with things that we have reason to suspect are dangerous. The real test of sincerity in applying it is whether the one proposing it is interested in examining benefits in addition to risks, and weighing them. Quite often potential benefits clearly outweigh even fairly clear risks, and precautions should not be applied to stifle beneficial development. But when the risks are automatically given primacy, then there is no room for constructive analysis- other issues than just risks are the real source of the controversy.

The irony is that much of the nanotechnology field, in its eagerness to distance itself from its roots in "science fiction" has also ignored these deeper issues. A shortsighted search for directly applicable practical results becomes pure science or technology, and easily misses the important policy dimensions.

European nanotechnology research would do well to develop technologies of foresight at the same time: social or digital tools to further knowledge exchange, constructive debate, cross-examination of evidence and views, institutions to engage the public and special interests in dialogue about potential about potential future applications and their risks and benefits.

Opponents to technology only care about policy. But if one can meet them in a policy discussion, guided by a vision more long-range than funding for the next year or a better insulin pump, then the future has a chance. Maybe a "Bora" wind of visions and audacity could do some good for European nanoresearch too.

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lördag 24 juli 2010

Straffa syndare, eller hjälpa människor?

Den norska studien om nikotinersättningsmedel kontra snus är inte en överraskning. Under lång tid har många forskningsresultat pekat på att läkemedelsindustrins ersättningar för nikotin inte är bättre än snuset.

Hans Gilljam har länge argumenterat mot skadereduktionsmodellen. Boken Straffa syndare eller hjälpa människor förklarar hur det går till att minska skadorna utan att kräva fullständig avhållsamhet.


torsdag 22 juli 2010

tisdag 20 juli 2010

The new pharmacology

The challenge for the pharmaceutical industry is to create medicines that provide profits despite the enormous development costs, which to a large extent have been created by the steep requirements of the consumers and the authorities on security and documentation.

At the same time opportunities rise for new kinds of drugs through the ongoing breakthroughs in the biosciences. The irony is that these new opportunities may pose serious problems for the industry, health care systems and regulators.

If we are not careful we might end up in a situation where significant improvements of health and well-being exist, but are consigned to remain in the R&D lab rather than on the shelves of the pharmacy.

The first kind of advance in pharmacology is rational pharmacology. Using our new and deeper knowledge of cellular processes medicines can be designed rationally through switching specific signals in the cells on and off. This is a significant improvement compared to the old guesswork helped by trial and error. Simulation technology enables rapid digital testing of drugs before they are tested with animals, lowering costs. New understanding of immunology enables vaccinations that can be used not just preventively but also as medication against for instance cancer, autoimmune diseases as diabetes, and narcotics like cocaine.

But the most significant advance, and the one likely to cause problems, is pharmacogenomics. It has been known for a long time that different patients react differently to the same drug. Side effects, risks of overdose or lack of efficacy is a serious problem in most treatments. Pharmacogenetics, the study of how different individuals react to a specific medicine depending on their genome started to be developed quite a long time ago. The methods were slow and expensive, and since the body’s reactions to a medicine are dependent on several genes the interactions were often difficult to decipher or detect.

New opportunities have risen today through the combination of genetics and informatics, genomics. Instead of studying individual genes, large chunks (or soon the entirety) of an individual’s genome are studied. This enables the study of how genes influence complex diseases, how medicines affect them and how they affect the entire human body. This perspective has the object to describe how different systems affect each other, which does not only give a deeper understanding but also applicable therapies.

The present developments in genetic testing are dramatic, with sharply declining prices on previously highly advanced tests. Chips covered with a DNA layer that detect the presence of various genes are soon expected to become standard for many diagnoses. They enable laboratory test processes that previously required entire rooms of equipment to be performed with accessories that connect to a single computer. The trend points toward a proliferation of cheap genetic tests, not only of a specific gene at a time but whole groups.

The goal is to develop therapies consisting of the right medicine at the right dose to a specific patient. At an early stage the vision of individualised medicine was spread: maybe we will be able one day soon to go to a doctor, make a gene test, and get the medicine that is tailored to our own metabolism. More at hand is the opportunity to test a patient prior to the prescription of a medication in order to reduce the risk for side effects. This would in itself be a great progress, instead of the often-frustrating trial and error process of finding just the right dose. Drugs are repealed from the market when serious side effects are discovered, but if these are prominent in just a genetically well-defined group an otherwise efficient medicine can still be used.

Pharmacogenomics can also aid the development of new drugs through digital tests or as a supplement to pilot studies. A great cost reduction that shows if they are unsuitable before initiating large-scale trials. It is also easier to protect the trial subjects through testing for the presence of genetic sensibilities to the drug. Research is made more efficient when more homogenous trial subjects can be collected and clinical variations minimized. As fewer participants are needed, costs are reduced and medical developments are accelerated.

Many potential drugs that are efficient with a part of the participants are not developed as they show lower efficiency or side effects with some test subjects. Pharmacogenomics would facilitate the identification of such patient groups on which the drug has the best effect.

The pharmaceutical industry has the last decades seen an enormous acceleration in development costs and pharmacogenomics reduces them, but the development of more specific drugs risks segmenting the market. Drugs against common illnesses (blockbuster drugs) are extremely profitable and have been main income sources for many corporations, but the product lines that are intended for just a minor group of patients have a harder time motivating their development costs. Government regulation regarding the subsidising of drugs for rare diseases (orphan drugs) are decided on the basis of how many patients share the disease, not on the genotype that makes the drug useful. This could create many more patient groups that could be treated but do not receive help.

Certain genotypes are more common in certain ethnic groups than in others, which has led to controversies when some drugs have had different effects and efficiency. Today this is circumvented by ignoring ethniticity to a certain degree in favour of genotype - that a certain set of genes is more common in certain groups does not provide as much information as the exact testing of an individual’s specific set of genes. The problem remains though that certain genotypes may be described by outsiders as typically caucasian or typically mongoloid, and may make the development and application of certain new drugs very controversial indeed.

Pharmacogenomics is particularly cost efficient when there are serious clinical and economical consequences to avoid, when reactions are difficult to measure with present methods, when there is a well-established connection between genotype and clinical phenotype, and that genetic variations are reasonably common. But the most important part of pharmacogenomics’ success is the prevalence of increasingly cheaper, faster and easier gene tests, like the ones consisting of DNA chips connected to hand held computers. When they become ubiquitous they will enable quick tests at the bedside to test the patient’s receptiveness of a proposed medication. This would be particularly significant for chronic diseases where patients require long time care and side effects and correct dosage have great importance.

But the development costs for treatments in the present climate of regulation are very steep indeed, which could block or restrict the use. Currently the regulatory climate is uncertain, which makes companies nervous about how much to pursue drug and gene test packages. If regulatory agencies demand as much data about the test as the drug, the cost and delays might be prohibitive.

An increased use of pharmacogenomics will put huge informational demands on the medical staff. They will not only be required to be knowledgeable about the general effects of medicines, but also of how these can be influenced by genetics, and also be required to be able to execute gene tests. Patients are also searching more actively for information on the Internet, soon possibly with pharmacogenetic tests at home. This will put health care before the serious problem that patients could become more knowledgeable about their own state of health than the physician but lacking the deeper medical competence to make a well-balanced evaluation, especially if organisations and regulations impede the integration of pharmacogenomics in primary health care.

Designer drugs are the exact opposite of the present’s generic medicines. How will governments react to patient demands to gain access to medicines that have not been proven efficient for other patients with the same affliction? How will they balance egalitarianism with cures?

In the presents risk adverse system there is always a problem of making even small risks predictable. If a new drug is shown to have a serious side effect with a small genetically identifiable patient group, the choice for the administration is between approving its use and also demand gene tests (two new costs to the health care system) or not to allow its use (no new cost and no new risk). If an old drug is a risk for a small group, either a new test will have to be introduced (a cost) or the drug removed (no costs, no risk). The present medical administrations with cost minimization as their main goal will encounter problems in the future when new technology and patient demands collide.

Another area of potentially great clinical importance is neuropharmacology. The detailed knowledge of the signal paths in cells and the brain is very relevant in order to understand and influence the brain’s function. The economic and personal costs of mental diseases are enormous, making any advance in managing mental health a significant one. Medical treatment can also enhance therapy, and therapy-potentiating medications can certainly be a future synthesis. An example is professor Michael Davis’ research at Emory university on how the substance DCS can enhance the de-learning of phobias, stress syndromes, and panic anxiety. In experiments with person’s with fear of heights, a simultaneous treatment with DCS could give the same effect on two therapy sessions, instead of eight without DCS, and reduce the risk for relapses after treatment. It is possible that similar combinations of medications and therapy can be used more extensively in the future, making treatment shorter and more efficient.

The barrier between curing, preventing and enhancing medicine is being erased. A reason is the increased medicalisation of various states, for instance age related memory lapses. Such memory lapses are probably a natural part of ageing, caused by decreased neuromodulators, but it decreases life quality. Memory enhancing drugs are under development but can also be used with healthy, younger persons. Here the border between curing and enhancing is starting to blur.

In the same way "life style medications" such as Viagra and Xenical have crossed the barrier between curing/preventive medicine and enhancing. Often the term life style medications is used in a very negative way, insinuating that it is an unnecessary medication and thus really not needed. But an older group of these drugs are already well spread in society: birth control pills. The same argument could be used against these, but it is unlikely that any politician would like to ban or reduce access to birth control pills on the basis that they are unnecessary, costly for public health care, and do not cure or ameliorate a formal disease.

The market for enhancing drugs is probably huge (as indicated by the health food business, alternative medicine, and functional food), and at the present mainly undeveloped. Pharmaceutical corporations search for new blockbuster drugs with large patient groups and would probably like to exploit this market. But to make that possible changes must be enacted on the regulations regarding medicines, especially regarding the influence patients have on their treatment and its goals.

Here, the physicians’ and the patients’ attitudes play a huge role on what pressure will be applied on regulations. If working enhancing drugs are developed, but are made unavailable in Europe because of a restrictive stance it is probable that the black market for drugs will increase further.

Patients become more dissimilar, and medicine more individualized, with pharmacogenomics. This brings rising costs and administrative problems to the present’s health care systems, despite offering huge gains in health and future cost savings. The debate should hence be directed towards what health care systems should be adopted given the influence of rapid medical developments. The new pharmacology will be old news before long.

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måndag 19 juli 2010

IT i sjukvården effektiviserar?

Johan Folin skriver i Svenska Dagbladet om bättre journalsystem och effektivare sjukvård. Frågan om patientjournalerna tas upp i Tekniken befriar kroppen. Där finns fortfarande problemet att journalen ses som en specifik handling på papper, och att det inte är patienten som kontrollera informationen om sig själv.

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Spara energi smart med VoltAir?

Jag intervjuar Calle Rosenqvist på VoltAir om energi, energibesparingar och systemet som VoltAir levererar. Rosenqvist är, inte oväntat, positiv till företagets produkt. Vad tror du? Pekar VoltAir på något viktigt när det gäller energiinbesparingar eller finns det än bättre sätt?


Trött på tråkigheten?

Jag skriver artikeln Bonjour tristesse i tidningen Modern Psykologi nummer 4, 2010.

Få lockas av att ha tråkigt, men i rätt dos kan tristessen vara välgörande för sinnet. Följ med i undersökningen av ett dolt samhällsproblem, att fler både är uttråkade och stressade. Hur går det till och vad kan göras mot tristessen. Jag intervjuar forskarna Sandi Mann, Martin Shipley och Annie Britton om tråkighet och tristess, samt ger några tips om hur den kan undvikas.

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Ger förbud ett öppet internet?

Debatten om internets framtid går mot att diskutera infrastruktur. Som jag konstaterade i min artikel om Jonathan Zittrain och hans bok The future of the internet and how to stop it, så är det intressant är att de som förepråkat tanken om att svaren på att lösningarna finns inbäddade i tekniken nu har vänt. Tidigare argumenterade man med att motståndarna inte förstod internet.

Nu verkar de förstå internet alltför väl, och teknikens välsignelse på sin sida. Därför skriver nu representanter för Juliagruppen efter bojkotter av Apple och regleringar av hur internet skall levereras. Det är en amerikansk utveckling, där det känns konstigt att internets vänner främst förespråkar stora ingripanden i hur nätet skall fungera. Eller snarare fungera efter en viss idé (i USA tas inte bara nätneutralitet upp men även sökneutralitet), och att dela upp aktörer efter internets vänner och fiender är inte rätt väg att gå. Det finns olika sätt att se på nätet, där inte nödvändigtvis öppenhet alltid är bäst, särskilt inte om den tvingas fram.

Ett viktigt skäl till vändningen, både i USA och i Sverige, är tanken om att internet redan är så trasigt från sin tänkta modell av öppenhet att det måste repareras. Sådana kodmisslyckanden (att jämföra med marknadsmisslyckanden) sköts i de allra flesta fall bäst av användarna själva.

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söndag 4 juli 2010

Afghanistan: trettio år till?

Afghanistan, skall vi planera för reträtten? Varför är vi kvar? Dick Erixon vill lyfta fram att det går bra. Wiseman's Wisdoms påpekar att det inte finns några slutmål, ingen mission accomplished. Utan det finns ingen väg ut. Skall vi fortsätta biståndet?

Australiensiska Crikey kommer nog anledningen på spåret, även de svenska styrkorna markerar svensk goodwill mot USA. Vi är beroende av USA för att försvara Sverige i händelse av krig. Sverige är inte alliansfritt och neutralt, vi är med i USA:s intressesfär. Då är Afghanistan ett billigt sätt få amerikansk hjälp, istället för att hålla sig med ett svenskt försvar. Det kan finnas poänger och goda skäl för det, fast den debatten borde föras öppet.

Ted Galen Carpenter på Cato Institute har skrivit om hur USA:s bristfälliga säkerhetspolitik har skapat upp problem för USA.

USA:s politik har haft framgångar de senaste åren, just när man varit tydlig med vad man vill uppnå. Insatsen i Afghanistan avlöpte väl när man fokuserade på att oskadliggöra talibanerna och Al Qaida. När man lade till målet att även bekämpa opiumhandeln slog man bort en tredjedel av landets ekonomi, och gav islamisterna en ny chans. Den ursprungliga mellanösternpolitiken Condoleeza Rice tog fram, att pragmatiskt vika av från linjen med de stora fredsfördragen och satsa på begränsade insatser, gav bättre resultat. Fördragen hölls ju ändå inte. Den pragmatiska linjen gav också bättre resultat än att försöka etablera ett demokratins brohuvud i Irak, då man blev tvungen att ägna sig åt nationsbyggande. I dag blir världens polisman också världens socialassistent.

Tyvärr har Carpenter poänger om att USA:s konstitution inte är skriven för att hålla landet i krig i årtionden. Hoten finns mot både landets demokrati och ekonomi. Frågan är vilka framsteg som hade kunnat ske med en satsning på att puffa ut svagare diktataturer?

Vilka är villkoren för seger i Afghanistan? När behövs inte instatser längre? När säkerhetsläget är något lugnare? När sista talibanen har rakat skägget? När Afghanistan har blivit ett modernt välfärdsland med en etablerad och stabil demokrati? Med avancerad modern infrastruktur? Som Francis Fukuyama påpekat är det anmärkningsvärt vad som konservativa ser som okej i Afghanistan- man skojar om könsmaktsordningar och genusväldet i Sverige, men när det gäller Genderforce we support our troops. Bistånd, mångkulturalism, social ingenjörskonst och genusteori är även problematiska i Afghanistan.

Afghanistan är ett splittrat och mycket fattigt land. Även om det skulle ske betydande utveckling de närmaste åren, så skulle landet fortfarande vara exceptionellt fattigt och instabilt. Sätts ribban på den höjden kommer ISAF att behöva hålla trupper i Afghanistan i årtionden.

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Come risolvere la crisi alimentare globale?

Il mio articolo Come risolvere la crisi alimentare globale? è stato pubblicato in RagionPolitica del 24 luglio 2008.

La crisi alimentare globale probabilmente comporterà un rischio: almeno 100 milioni di persone potrebbero morire di fame. La Fao, l’Organizzatione delle Nazioni Unite per l’alimentazione e l’agricoltura, ha sottolineato che il rialzo senza precedenti dei prezzi dei prodotti alimentari, balzati del 52% tra il 2007 e il 2008, ha avuto nei paesi poveri gravi conseguenze di natura economica, sociale e politica. Non vi sono segnali che indicano che questi aumenti possano diminuire in breve tempo.

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Intressant

lördag 3 juli 2010

La sorveglianza in Europa

Il mio articolo La sorveglianza e i suoi sviluppi in Europa è stato pubblicato in RagionPolitica del 19 agosto 2006.

Dopo gli attacchi terroristici a New York, Madrid e Londra molti governi hanno cominciato a dare alla propria forza di polizia e alle loro agenzie di sicurezza più poteri per seguire e sorvegliare le locazioni dei cittadini, le loro abitudini di movimento e le loro communicazioni ed interazioni. Negli Stati Uniti si creò il Patriot Act ed il Dipartimento della Sicurezza Nazionale (Department of Homeland Security) venne provvisto di una vasta gamma di poteri molto controversi, iniziando tuttavia un dibattito pubblico riguardo all’integrità ed al diritto dei cittadini all’anonimità nelle loro comunicazioni elettroniche.

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Intressant

Il pericolo dei rischi nella vita quotidiana

Il mio articolo Il pericolo dei rischi nella vita quotidiana è stato pubblicato in RagionPolitica del 16 dicembre 2005.

C’è una parola che è quasi sparita dai nostri dizionari: insalubre. Oggigiorno il cibo, i telefoni cellulari e l’energia sono sempre detti pericolosi. Ma è il mondo che è diventato più pericoloso o sono cambiati i parametri di come giudichiamo i rischi? Giudicare i rischi è un campo in cui noi esseri umani siamo, paradossalmente, sia bravi sia incapaci. La nostra evoluzione ci ha portati ad evantare i rischi che giudichiamo in modo intuitivo, veloce e sensitivo (questo è un modo efficace quando non si hanno a disposizione dati statistici). Ma i nostri giudizi spesso non corrispondono alla realtà.

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Intressant

Bando alle minacce!

L’articolo Bando alle minacce, signor commissario! scritto da me e Christofer Fjellner è stato pubblicato in RagionPolitica del 2 aprile 2005.

Il commissionario dell’Unione Europea per la salute e la tutela del consumatore, il cipriota Markos Kyprianou, ha recentemente dichiarato in un’intervista al Financial Times che l’Ue, entro un anno, vieterà di pubblicizzare gli alimenti "non sani" rivolgendosi ai bambini, se l’industria alimentare non smetterà "volontariamente" di fare tale pubblicità. La minaccia del commissionario è stata causata dall’attuale panico scaturito a sua volta dal dibattito sull’obesità infantile.

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Intressant

Bonobo ett föredöme?

Det finns en vurm för “det naturliga” i samtiden. Det har jag tagit upp tidigare om den lyckliga stenåldern , apan som människans spegel...