Why has modern medicine failed to stop the chronic illness epidemic? My quick answer is this. Modern Medicine has been captured by a simple linear idea of how the world works. It can only deal with local and simple problems. It cannot comprehend complex problems. It keeps trying to use simple tools, a pill based on one pathway that are based in the simple idea of cause and effect.
This all came from early success.
Joseph Lister created a breakthrough in medicine in the 1860's when he discovered that you could prevent infection in major operations by washing your hands and spraying the site with carbolic acid. Of course it took more than 10 years to be accepted but by the 1890's surgery did not mean a high chance of dying from infection.
Lister solved a problem that was simple and local. Keep the wound clean. Keep all that touch the wound clean. Keep the room where you treat the wound clean. Jenner did the same with small pox. Vaccinate with a close relative and you create immunity.
That is progress. But it is also the problem. Ever since then medicine wants the simple answer. It's early success in treating the simple has trained it to see only local cause and effect.
This is why it has failed and can only fail in treating chronic illness. For Chronic Illness is a complex problem brought on by interactions between your ancestry, the food you eat, what you do with your body, how much time you spend outdoors, your social status and how much sleep you have. There is no local cause. There is no one cause. There is only many variables interacting over long periods of time that result in emergence of disease that in turn result in the emergence of more disease.
You become obese, then you might develop Type 2 Diabetes, then heart disease, then eye problems and so on. Or you might get depressed and then get an auto immune disease such as IBS or worse.
Modern medicine treats each new disease as a stand alone. Much of the treatment drives further disease.
Our failure to see the difference between what can be seen as simple and local and what is complex is what is at the root of our failure. Now chronic illness is an epidemic. Every decade in the 20th century it has got worse. Since 1980, the epidemic has accelerated exponentially. Billions of dollars has been spent in "research". The entire medical world has been looking for answers. And they have failed. Why?
I had a flash this weekend as I was doing a final edit for the first book of my series You Don't need a ..." Modern Medicine, like all of our industrial institutions, has a machine design. All are based in a core process that ends in the sale of a product or a procedure.
Modern medicine is a linear world where the pay off is in the sale of a drug, a test, or a procedure such as an operation or a Botox shot. No one gets paid to work with complexity. So no one does.
All of Modern Medicine is focused on finding direct cause and effect pathways that end in a transaction that is based also on a mass market model. So in this world, depression can be "cured" by one pill.
If I am correct - what do you think pile in please - then we cannot expect any results from medicine. Medicine is captured by the fallacy that all linear institutions share of the world being linear and so reducing all interaction to a single payoff - a classroom with a teacher - a newspaper with a journalist - a pill with a doctor.
All the money you raise to go to this research is wasted. All the money we spend in this model is wasted. Investing more in the study of epicycles is not going to make the Ptolemaic system work any better.
So what to do?
Dave Snowden's Cynefin model says it all for me. Modern Medicine lives in the right hand quadrant but our chronic illness lives in the left hand side.
I don't think that the profession of medicine will welcome this insight. After all they all make their money and gain their status by their investment in the fallacy.
But we can help ourselves. For the systemic causes of chronic illness are all rooted in our lifestyle and in our ancestry. While complex they have only 4 quadrants.
- Diet - Eat real food - give up all processed food - give up all grains and sugars - don't eat any food that has a chemical in it that you cannot read aloud
- Be Active - Don't sit for more than 3 hours a day - Do physical work - be outside for at least an hour a day - get a dog - garden - get a standing desk
- Get a Tribe - You will thrive when you have a real place and status in a social group - we are primates - we have to groom and be groomed
- Sleep More - Sleep is not just a mechanical time out - it is a vital part of keeping us renewed and well - we need 8 hours a day - have a dark room - light is the enemy - don't watch TV in bed - don't read in bed - don't get stimulated before bed
There is then one variable about how all of this interacts and that is our ancestry. The closer you are to beig a Hunter Gatherer, the worse the outcomes of breaching the evolutionary norms for these quadrants. That is why First Nations People, Polynesians and Scots and Irish do do badly in the chronic illness spectrum.
There are no doctors in this picture are there? There will be a new research world though. A Big Data Crowd Sourced world. Where millions of us will share data about who we are - the ancestry variable and what we are doing and then we will start to see the emergent truth of what works best for you and for me.
Emergence is the new research frontier. But the powers that be will hate that because there is no transactional payoff. There will be no pill. There will be no procedure. There will be only the knowledge that what you and I are eating or doing is working or not for us as individuals.
We will have to find a new way of setting up this kind of research.
Trillions of dollars of cost will go away. There will be a true revolution in health and in human society.
Much more later this fall when I will release "You Don't Need a Doctor" I am still on track to release "You Don't Need a Job" and "You Don't need a Banker" at the end of June.