Thursday, May 08, 2008

"Why Entrepreneurs will Save the World" (Part 2: Three American Illusions)

When you look at the major problems facing America (and the World for that Matter), you can't help but feel helpless in what seems to be an impossible task for government to solve. Much like seeing a magician entangled in chains - wondering how he will get out? But never once thinking that it may be an "illusion", and in fact the magician is simply tricking us to believe its impossible....
Perhaps the biggest problems we face as a country are not steel chains around our hands and feet... but simply illusions created by special interests and the media - as a way to get us on the edge of our seats???

Lets start by looking at the 3 Major "American Illusions".

1. Energy
Our dependance on Oil is hurting our country on multiple levels - both on political and economic bases. To quote our President when asked what can governement do about the rising Oil costs and our dependance on oil - "If I had a Magic Wand, I would wave it... but there is not Magic Wand Solution" - George Bush, at his finest. Perhaps he can atleast show us how the "Illusion" works?

Ultimately, you hear politicians and experts talk about finding "New Energy", and reducing our dependance on oil. At the end of the day, what is shocking to me, is that we have had the technology for 60 years to reduce our dependance on Oil, but the American People weren't ready to accept it as a safe and clean energy - NUCLEAR.

Once again, the technology is available - and offers a very clear path to solving our problem with Energy - but the average American when they hear the word "Nuclear" think of a mushroom cloud in their backyard. What they don't understand (e.g. Quantum Physics) is that there is more energy available at the sub-atomic level of our world, then there is in all the oil fields of the Middle East.

So in summary, maybe we need to re-consider why we aren't building Nuclear Energy Plants throughout the USA to move rapidly toward energy independance??? Is the complexity of Energy independance an illusion??

2. Health Care
Health Care is one of the grandest illusions. I won't lie to you... its a complex illusion, but I will do my best to break it down.

People get Sick > See Doctor > Doctor gets Paid via Insurance > Insurance gets Paid by People. And the cycle continues. (of course, there are a lot of people that don't have insurance - so the cycle looks more like this >>> People Get Sick > No Insurance > Hospital gets Stuck with bill)

The problem behind health care is not the process or the quality of care - it is the overhead. Like any business, you can't make money if your overhead is too high. Why is Health Care overhead high - because the industry refuses to "upgrade" to the 21st Century.

If you took two Doctor's offices, one which is completely digital (from patient records to billing) and compared it to an office which runs everything through paper-based system, you have a difference of up to 25% in profit. This is a big difference. Not only does the Digital office make more money, but it is more efficient in providing care, and ultimately is able to reduce the overhead in all its partners as well (Insurance Companies, etc). So not only does the Digital office make itself more efficient, but also the entire Supply Chain as well.
Once again, the illusion has been presented to us as something that requires heavy policy changes and government intervention. Wrong again. The technology is widely available. In fact companies like Google have been looking at solutions for building digital medical records. The talent and technology is readily available. We just need to give medical companies, insurance companies more incentive to build a Digital Supply Chain to lower their overhead and thus be able to maintain competitive rates for Insurance and Health Care.
And much like our fear of "Nuclear" Energy, we need to get beyond our fear of "Privacy", and accept that we live in a connected world - and Digital Medical Records and Electronic Billing will save us all money.

3. Education

The 3rd grand illusion is education. We hear buzz words like "Leave no Child Behind", but do we really understand the basis of this Policy? Is the problem that we are not giving every kid a good education? Is this a problem of our education system? or is this just the nature of our society - that each person has their own capacity for learning? It just seems like this policy is focusing on the kids that are falling behind, instead of perhaps looking at the entire system of Education.

Think about this - do you see Video Game companies complaining about their inability to market their games to any kid or do you see Television struggling to entertain every kid? For some reason kids from all different backgrounds have the ability to play a very complex multi-player interactive video game by just picking up a controller, but they can't learn their multiplication tables at School???

The illusion is that 80% of our kids are doing great, and we need to make sure we get the other 20% on board. The are just falling behind....

Wrong. All kids are falling behind. Our education system is out-dated, and for the most part the things we teach our kids are not applicable in our current economy or society.

School has become boring, irrelevant... and the problem is that the illusion has worn off. Kids are aware that school is behind the times, because they go home login to the Web or watch TV and see the world as it really is. The level of entertainment and education they receive through other outlets overshadow the average classroom 100 times over.

Once again, the solution presents itself in our every day lives, but for some reason we ignore the obvious. The Internet is one of the most powerful mediums our society has ever seen. It has advanced our society, economy and lives in the past ten years more than any other technology has done in 100 years. Yet, we don't leverage the power of this medium nearly enough in schools or at home.
The capacity of a child's ability to learn is a direct consequence of their interest in the process. Why is it our society is so close minded? Why can't we teach our children using video games? We teach our soldiers how to fight and our pilots how to fly using virtual video games? Why can't we have children do homework on the Internet? Leverage multimedia and interactive studies to peak their excitement? What about Social Networks to enhance their ability to meet new friends? Why are we teaching the same way that we did 1,000 years ago?
Our fear of that our kids will have "fun" learning is ridiculous....

The Illusions of Energy, Health Care and Education. Are they really Problems with no Solution? or are they Problems with Solutions that we are not able to accept because of our ignorance?

Much like a good magic show... even though it happens right before our eyes... we still can't believe it......



Rich said...

Outstanding analysis of the three key issues facing America.

Energy - Nuclear is the solution. I would add to that increase supply of fossil fuels.

Heathcare - Market driven solution that relies heavily on technology. Getting insurance to those who need it requires transportability and giving power back to the individual and family.

Education - outmoded system that require privatization. We have the greatest higher education system in the world because we have an open market system of public and private colleges and universities. We must do the same for our K-12 system. Give parents the ability to choose. Vouchers rule.

Michael Walsh said...

You have hit the nail on the head with your article. All three points are very good points. I can remember someone coming into my middle school classroom some 30 years ago telling us how we need to get away from oil, but they have the politicans in their pockets, etc. That was 30 years ago and I still haven't seen any changes.