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Quacks At Work

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

"The Lords of Finance" includes a story about famous economist John Maynard Keynes, who was diagnosed with a chronic cardiac condition and needed medical help*.

In 1939, he fell into the hands of a Dr. Janos Plesch, a Hungarian Jewish émigré, who, according to Keynes, was a cross between a “genius” and a “quack.” In addition to some highly unorthodox protocols—three-hour sessions of ice packs placed on the chest or Dr. Plesch jumping up and down on his patient as he lay in bed...

Quack! by mikemolJumping up and down on the patient? At least Keynes suspected his doctor was a quack, but once you realize this was only 80 years ago you also begin to realize that medicine spent dozens of centuries treating patients using blood letting and other techniques based on beliefs, faiths, and superstitions.

Overall I think software has done far more good than harm, but I do wonder how long it will take us to figure out programming once and for all, or if we ever will. A lot of our practices today are based on hard won experiences, but we all carry our own beliefs, faiths, and superstitions (and thus the opportunity for technology evangelism). 

* Fascinating book, particularly if you are interested in a human story involving macro economics, gold bullion, and fiat money.