14 September 2011

Innovation's Unintended Consequences

Edward Tenner delivers his TED talk on unintended consequences. This could get really with wonky discussions about externalities and spillover, but I will avoid such a post. Rather I will stick with the simple point that innovations and intervention will lead to unexpected outcomes.

Some can be good and some can be bad. It is not a good reason to do nothing, but it is something that should be recognized. "Doing something" can be harmful. That has to be accepted as a possibility. I gave the example of the color pink being used in breast cancer awareness and the decline in resistance due to long term exposure to insecticide treated bed nets.

What can be done is monitor programs as they roll out as closely as possible to understand and track their impact (this then goes down the rabbit hole of what tools are best).  This information can then be shared internally to make necessary changes and externally in order to explain why changes are taking place and show that finding solutions is not easy.