I always remember Crichton’s discussion of chaos theory in Jurassic Park. In essence he says that nature is simply too complex to be controlled by humans. Any such attempts simply set of a long chain of unintended consequences. Quite frequently, the unintended consequences dwarf the risk that was the target of the intervention.

Market regulation has some of this aspect. Regulations very clearly set the rules on what can and cannot be done and how much risk is to be associated with what activity. That’s all well and good if the regulators are acting with perfect clarity. If they aren’t, they are channeling a whole lot of activity into a space that isn’t as it is understood to be. I don’t think we need any examples of what this might look like.

The medical field as you describe it seems to have a similar issue. No doubt HIPPA is a valuable and important protection. Our own information is deemed by our society to be private and personally owned. Yet we interact with a network of independent doctors, all working on slightly (or very) different problems independently. There is no transparency on what other doctors observe, let alone anything as life and death as drug interactions. How much better and safer medical care would be if there was a national database of patients records containing prescription records as well as all other diagnostic records. But nevermind the complexity of the endeavor to create that system, HIPPA stands obliquely but solidly in the path.

And this reminds me of 9/11 and the whole ‘Chinese Wall’ wall discussion. Efforts to protect our privacy (directly or indirectly through perceived Constitutional constraints) effectively prevented the free flow of information through the hands of those charged with keeping us safe.

My final example is nature preservation. Our efforts to prevent wildfires lead to dangerous cascades when the tipping point is reached. Likewise, ‘preserving’ on species independently throws nature out of balance and harms many species.

I do not mean to suggest that we do nothing but there is no simple answer. In a way, that is part of the answer. If we remember that there is no simple answer for any major conversation, perhaps we will tread more lightly and humbly when we go to design interventions to ‘protect’ ourselves.

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