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The Doggy Treat Model of Why It Is So

Blog entry posted by alex3619, Aug 20, 2011.

For those of you who have been following anciendaze's blogs on Moral Hazards, or who have an interest in systems theory, most of the issues on biopsychosocial models can be explained by local rewarding of activity, but not rewarding based on global outcomes. There is risk of this problem in any very distributed research or delivery system, but most individuals involved are not culpable in the real sense, they are only doing what they are taught to do and rewarded for.

There is a way to present this, based on very simplistic argument, not at all dealing with the complexity of the real issue, but retaining the basic lesson.

For this argument, people are basically analogous to puppies. (By the way this argument can be applied to ME activism in a very unflattering way, but that is another story.)

When a research puppy (biopsychosocial or otherwise) presents a paper that shows a potential cheap solution to the problem, in this case the biopsychosocial approach to ME, they are thrown a doggy treat. Lets call the puppies who treat them this way their masters. When the researcher produces another paper, they are thrown a bunch of doggy treats. This continues as long as they perform good tricks. The researchers are so happy to get doggy treats (grants, awards, accolades) that they keep going. They reason that if they were doing anything wrong they would not get so many doggy treats.

Their masters on the other paw, have their own packs (insurance companies, government) they answer to. These masters reduce costs or risk based on how they have been handing out doggy treats. So in turn their packs give them their own doggy treats. This reinforces the worth of what they are doing, and ensures they keep passing out doggy treats to researchers who produce research they agree with. (I think this was once called zombie science, science by funding favourable outcomes rather than by funding rigorous results.) These masters are very happy with themselves because they have made sure their packs get more doggy treats.

The packs on the third paw (insurance shareholders, government et cetera) get doggy treats from their own members for being so cool that they don't have to waste resources on doggy treats. See, they say, we have more doggy treats because we are so cool.

Sick MEmbers of the pack who can't make their own doggy treats are being denied doggy treats in the interest of the good of the pack. The pack says they want to look after these MEmbers, but the pack is rewarded by looking after the pile of doggy treats, so they are reluctant to help. They bark a good bark, but they don't go walkies the way they should.

Meanwhile more and more pack MEmbers are getting sick, and chewing up more and more doggy treats. The pack tries to compensate by denying even more doggy treats. It is exceptionally rare that they use any doggy treats to reward those looking to cure the pack MEmbers, and so make them productive. Instead, they say they will give more doggy treats to those pack MEmbers who somehow get better. This appeals to the pack, but is very unpopular with the sick MEmbers. The numbers of sick MEmbers continues to grow.

So the number of doggy treats used up by all this grows and grows, but at each step the accounting methods say that doggy treats have been saved, and puppies who do this are rewarded with more doggy treats accordingly.

Doggy treats are of course cash, status, and praise, particularly cash.


Each step in the system is rewarded based on simplistic local measures. At no point is there an overall assessment of effectiveness across the system. I assert again that trying to treat growing disability issues by cost cutting is equivalent to borrowing more money to pay for things that don't work. It allows the books to be balanced but increases the long term debt. Only research into cures, and not just palliative treatments, has a long term benefit.

I hope George reads this blog. ;)

Bye, Alex
alex3619

About the Author

I am a long term ME patient with many complications. While I have pushed research advocacy since 1993, I become political around 2009. My current project is a book called "Embracing Uncertainty". Uncertainty in medical science seems anathema to too many doctors. "I do not know" is something more doctors should be honest about.
  1. Marg
    The doggie treat analogy was just great. I too wonder if George is reading it. I have not seen George for a long time.
  2. SilverbladeTE
    Alex,
    *nods*
    It's mad, the entire system's running away from itself!
    From the original idea of stocks: company gets much needed cash injection to boost it's business
    and investors get return from profits
    the stockmarket was born and spiralled into black hole! :rolleyes:

    The stockmarket takes vast amounts of wealth out, giving the traders/houses incredible fortune, but what do they put in, what do they contribute, really, when their trading is computerized/automatic, lighting fast to split tiny percentages of profit off each transaction...but all that money has to come from SOMEWHERE in the end?
    Then when you get to "futures" and the money markets...OMG, quantum mechanics makes perfect sense compared to that lunacy ;)

    Steve
    "I will not be filled, stamped, briefed, debriefed, indexed or NUMBERED!" :thumbsup:
  3. markmc20001
    Funny article.

    The pack of doggies is particularly relevant in our situation. In pack behavior one doggie is unlikely to deny treats, and be against the pack behavior at the same time! Two subtle forces management use for keeping doggies doing tricks.
  4. alex3619
    HI SilverbladeTE, I am aware of the issues of automated trading. Actually I don't think it has ever stopped, it was just paused. Rapid automated responses can push the limits of a system, caution and reason is not built into them except in the form of rules. So their actions are determined by the rules and circumstances. Those rules are designed by people to fit specific parameters - once the system goes outside those parameters the results of the trading rules are unpredictable. Some of those parameters include assumptions about how the world works that are probably little more than dogma.

    Anyone who thinks the free market is rational only has to look at the yo-yo stock prices recently. Every little thing produces a major shift in prices. This is all about greed, fear and immediate profit or loss, very little to do with long term profitability of businesses or investing in the future. That doesn't mean there is not a lot of rational analysis - mostly aimed as specific limited choices involved in daily trading decisions. Where is the strategic planning for most of it?

    Bye
    Alex
  5. SilverbladeTE
    Alex
    there's interesting studies showing how, despite what the "free market" groupie imbeciles thought, lol, the "market" is largely tied to fear and hormones not logic, seriously.
    Another even more scary thing is the use of computer programs to do much of the trading, as the programs do not grasp the true value, or logical limits of a thing

    for example:
    how much is a pint of water worth to a man in a desert? It's priceless, but a computer doesn't understand that

    hence, the damn system of super fast, super connected programs, designed to shave the best amount of profit off a trade in lightning speed, damn near drove our entire economy into the ground, kamikaze style. More or less had to pull the plug on it all, something most folk don't know about the financial meltdown (a very apt phrase indeed).
  6. alex3619
    Hi Kurt, I agree with everything you said. I simplified the model to make my main point clear. It would take an institute, with many experts in many fields, and more than a few large-system modellers, with lots of funding, and lots of time, to develop a good model.

    My main point remains though, which is why I used doggy treats and not cash, is that whatever the reward, it is based on immediate local performance - it is the public in a democracy who are supposed to vote as the sole correcting mechanism, albeit they are supposed to be informed by accurate and investigative journalism, and they are very limited by the party system in government. The public is rarely engaged enough to make a difference. The press that informs them rarely is sufficiently in-depth to be really effective, and when they are most people wont read it as it is too complex or too confronting.

    I suspect this goes right back to cultural dogmas and that includes national constitutions. We are seeing the biases built into our culture and institutions playing out with real life consequences. It is not only ME that has ineffectual management, its the health and financial sectors as well. If finance regulation is poor, this also has a follow-on effect on every other endeavour in society.

    Bye
    Alex
  7. kurt
    Alex,
    Interesting analogy. There is no question this situation you describe exists. Here is an added perspective. While thinking of 'systems theory', you have to consider all the different reward-incentive feedback loops in ALL the subsystems. Any complex system has multiple co-existing subsystems, all of which work together to produce the proverbial 'outcome greater than the sum of their parts'. There are multiple incentive sub-systems at work that co-regulate the flow of funding.

    For example, consider the scientific ego, the desire to achieve the highest aim of one's chosen field or profession. This ego is particularly strong in the US and UK, but also elsewhere. And here is how I would describe how that ego hurts us... if you give a child (scientist in this case) a hammer, everything looks like a nail. In other words,if the problem is ill-defined and the cause elusive and the symptoms are multi-systemic, then the 'experts' will most likely track down those aspects of the problem that lie within their domains. Then, due to the big ego, they will over-sell their own discoveries, perhaps genuinely believing that their single factor can cause this complicated disease pathology. Perhaps this is rational sub-systems behavior when there is a lack of a strong central hypothesis. And that is certainly the case with ME/CFS. Thus, back to the hammer analogy, if you fund psychologists to study ME, they will discover psychological problems. If you fund a virologist, they will find a virus. If you fund an internist or endocrinologist they will point out the HPA problems. Microbiologists will find problems involving microbes, environmental experts will find environmental triggers, neurologists will find neurological problems, etc.

    Then there are other subsystems, such as the political subsystem, which revolves around reputation, political risks and power. As long as ME/CFS has such a poor public reputation, the politicians involved are most likely to minimize their own political risks by keeping activity levels low and finding ways to discredit any negative publicity to them. This gives them the most power over the situation. There are probably several other important subsystems in this analysis, but I think the point is clear. This is one wicked problem.

    I think the most important 'strange attractor' of this complex social-system behavior is the poor public reputation of ME/CFS, that is the tail wagging the doggy in all the subsystems. As long as the public does not think ME/CFS is a serious issue, we will probably continue to be ignored by the more competent, less ego-driven, fair-minded researchers who are most likely to figure this out.
  8. SilverbladeTE
    The Human Race, or rather and more importantly, our organizations, suck ass :p
    I have seen for myself, painfully and infuriatingly, even before getting sick, that solving problems is NOT what is wanted...it's what looks good and keeps problems quiet, that is wanted, even if these problems lead to maiming and death.

    The "Group", whatever the Group is: religious, political, economic etc, will always, ALWAYS have as it's number one priority, the preservation and enrichment of the group, even if this is is literally suicidal in the long term and against the ethos the group is supposed to represent
    Such as,

    Catholic Church covering up massive child abuse;
    UK and Spain exporting/selling stolen chidlren to improve dreams of Empire or to destroy political opponents (respectively);
    Soviets following Stalin blindly and praising him even as he betrayed them by allying with Hitler and killed millions of his own people by deliberate starvation,
    and Germans fighting "for their country" and in doing os getting it bombed flat where as a surrender would have spared them, never mind overlooking the horrors of the camps.


    The "Weasels" are the "enablers" of today's mini-Holocaust, the mentality ends up going down the same "rabbit hole" of horror.

    It doesn't matter whether it's religious fanatics seeing their enemies as soulless or killing them to save their souls
    or robbing one nation of it's mineral/oil riches by calling them all "terrorists"
    or by making them "enemies of the state" they can be totured, brutalized and slaughtered en masse'
    or because someone is inconvenient, draining resources and therefor "it's in everyone's interest to let them die"

    "OBEYING ORDERS" IS NOT AN EXCUSE!!!
    It's always the damn same in the end: one group is made "not Human" but a cypher, a problem a "thing" and therefor, you do not have ot look them in the eye when you brutalize, murder or rob them of posessions, respect or compassion.

    By making ME patients "victims of their own mental weakness", you convert them to "being other", not the same as you, "you are not weak, you are strong! these ME patients must therefor be kept apart, they are nor like you! Denounce them! get rid of them...burn them..."

    It's classic trick and I am very very sure some psychologists etc know it. For people's elucidation, Hitler was *taught* public oration and psychological pressure points by hired professionals, and that's why his speeches suddenly became so powerful and dangerous.
    From a rabble rousing lunatic who appealled to the vicious, the bully boy and the xenophobe, he started worming his way into the weaknesses of many peoples' pysche.

    Unfortunately, most people lack the mental faculties to see these subtle webs of appalingly stupid, venal, wicked crap that rot our civilization, grasp the manipulation of themselves by media owned by oligarchs, and see the horrible eventual consequences play out. I do, and it's like being bloody "Cassandra" of Homer's legend :/

    Brilliant folk like Alex can break these down into logical sequences and patterns :) My damaged brain's not up to it any more.

    But until we have, ironically, a "Glasnost" of honesty and "Perestroika" of leaders reaching to their people instead of manipulating them...things will always FUBAR. And as our tech and population etc size grow, these screw ups become more and more damaging.

    And so, we will have "Chernobyls" that for years the "apparatchik" sons of bitches refuse to accept and bury, be it M.E., Gulf War Syndrome, vaccine problems...and others they whined bitched and lied about while taking big fat bribes and executive posts:

    lead in petrol
    Tobacco (enocuraged as fooD was rationed during WW2 and smoking kept appetite down and who cared if folk died early as the victim had to pay for it! but then the health costs started to spiral, especially to the state, sothings have changed about tobacco)
    dumping uranium in the sea and fresh water (see Sellafield, or Mayak in Russia, OMG)
    using asbestos in public buildings (most schools had asbestos cladding, KIDS played in the dust, and those Up Top *had* been warned of such)


    etc etc

    The Human Race sucks, f' it, I'm a Vulcan! Live Long, And Poop On Weasels! :p