S3T July 10 - Blockchain and healthcare, Who owns your data? Wayfinders, Udon, Wild Edibles...

S3T July 10 - Blockchain and healthcare, Who owns your data? Wayfinders, Udon, Wild Edibles...
Byways - Digital Mixed Media Ralph Perrine 2022

In this post pandemic economic landscape with its mixed signals (recession? recovery?) we need wayfinders who can build and educate: helping all of us understand the new capabilities being built and the benefits they bring.


BTC kissed 22k this week, and Friday's jobs report showed the economy adding 372k jobs, significantly more than the expected 250k.

Some point to falling commodity prices as welcome sign that inflation has peaked. Others worry this is just another recession red flag.

Recession Fears

Layoffs are continuing mid year 2022, for the most part contained to tech, real estate, and some not all players in crypto. While this may seem like a limited set of sectors in the broader economy, there could be impacts outside these sectors, for industries (advertising, lending?) whose fortunes are tied to these sectors, or industries dependent on manufacturing or energy:

Another key piece of the global energy landscape: countries in the Middle East known for oil production are rapidly growing their wind and solar energy capacity. This on the heels of a strong year in 2021 for green energy job creation.

Photo by Piron Guillaume / Unsplash

Healthcare and Blockchain

In this highly recommended ARK podcast interview Dr. Alex Cahana unpacks what leaders need to know about the use cases for blockchain in healthcare. In addition to describing key use cases, Dr Cahana covers several key takeaways about the changes needed in healthcare and how a decentralized approach offers better solutions, as described in the next few paragraphs.

Growing into Decentralization

Blockchain enables "decentralized" architectures which stand in contrast to centralized architectures.  

Centralized architectures are endemic to our thinking. A product comes from a company. That company has a CEO, a board, a central headquarters. These centralized entities are lightning rods for certain kinds of top down failures that have large impacts:

  • Failure to protect or serve the people they are supposed to serve,
  • Failure to ensure stability or continuity,
  • Failure to stop or prevent misbehaviors of those who occupy positions of power in the centralized organization.
  • Failure to cooperate for the efficiency and common good of an industry: centralized organizations can become entangled in polarized adversarial relationships (payer vs provider for example) that are not in the best interests of the people they are supposed to serve.

Beyond these failures points there is an additional glaring flaw: centralized organizations hoard data and hoard money. Decentralized organizations can't.

Decentralized organizations or architectures are much better at accommodating personal ownership and personal responsibility. This decentralized approach enables in turn entirely new kinds of incentives and economic arrangements that centralized architectures are unable to offer.

The challenge: Decentralization scares regulators and incumbents. It sounds like anarchy, or "flying under the radar" and hiding illicit activities. Cahana argues that regulators should see the transition from Centralized to Decentralized architectures as analogous to parenting:

  • When children are very young, parents are controllers/caretakers/micromanagers
  • As children mature parents transition to being educators and facilitators.

Just as parents adapt to match the stage of their children's growth, so regulators and governance stakeholders must adapt as the crypto industry matures. Decentralization has benefits that outweigh the risks.

Rethinking data ownership

Its time to get clear on this key principle: You are the owner of the data that you generate, whether it’s:  

  • Data generated from your own health metrics and physical activities
  • Data that you generate by capturing information about the world (ie  photographs or identification of birds, plants, bugs, water quality measurements etc)
  • Data you generate by your consumer or online activities

All these forms of data have value that should be shared with you in some way. Right now that data (and its value) is being hoarded by Web 2.0 companies (Healthcare and non-Healthcare related) with little or no meaningful compensation to the rightful owners of that data.

These companies use this data to power derivative lines of business that are extremely lucrative. Yet no compensation to the rightful owners (compared to say royalties in the music business) is provided - unless you try to argue that services like free email or free social media should count as fair compensation. Its a weak self serving argument: the cloud based hyperautomated economies of scale mean these services cost the providers pennies, compared to the dollars they make off the user's data.

Bringing Aligned Incentives to Risk Management

Dr Cahana also notes the importance of aligned incentives to better  management of risk in healthcare, saying we must transform people from being healthcare consumers to being owners who benefit monetarily from their data and their behavior.  

This enables a new kind of insurance company, one focused on personalized Prevention as a Service, that would "support behavior change far more effectively than today's population health best practices." As elaborated in this longer read, this new kind of insurance company is currently evolving. The first generation is focused on providing insurance for crypto assets. But once the working details are figured out and sustainable - insurance for other kinds of risks will rapidly follow.  

Nexus Mutual is a notable pioneer in this space, focused on advancing a new blockchain based model that "enables the core insurance entity to be replaced." (See Nexus Mutual White Paper A Peer to Peer Discretionary Mutual on the Ethereum Blockchain (PDF).

Dr. Cahana says his focus will be on education: working to help change leaders understand these new ways of thinking and the benefits they bring.


Who's the wayfinder?

My work helping teams navigate change gradually taught me to pay attention to "Wayfinders" ...that is, figure out who is the right "Wayfinder" for the given situation. Who is best equipped to help this team find the way to success in this specific situation, or in this specific industry or competitive landscape they have to navigate?   Its a simple concept: Different change journeys - or any journeys for that matter, require different Wayfinders. The Wayfinder you want to help you get to the top of Mt Everest is probably not the same one you'd want to help you get to the bottom of the Mariana Trench.  

In business, we often assumed the Wayfinders were the Senior Leaders. Its a logical assumption. But upon closer examination we see Senior Leaders reaching out to others for help finding the way. Traditionally Wayfinding has meant getting some Management consultants to come in with business school frameworks and Powerpoints. Today however that doesn't get you as far. Today's most successful companies rely on technology engineers to help them find the way forward. Not cosultants with frameworks.

There is a reason for this, and this analogy can help explain.  

An Analogy

Imagine an industry that requires specific expertise - let's take the water supply industry as a very simple analogy.

This industry requires people who have expertise in water:

  • How water flows, what makes it go one direction vs another
  • How water behaves under pressure
  • Under what conditions can water leak or seep out and how to prevent that
  • How water gets contaminated, and how to decontaminate it

In short, this industry and whatever it builds needs to be guided by people who really understand water.

What happens if a water supply company decides to build and innovate without water expertise? What if the water people (hydrologist?) were left out of the process as pipelines, storage tanks, treatment centers were designed and built, and as acquistions were made - all at great expense.  

...If you aren't bringing engineers into the board room, its a safe bet you're probably struggling to keep up with your competitors and your customers expectations." 

Only to find out - too late - that these designs failed, the projects ran way over budget. Why? Because they didn't manage water the way water has to be managed. They left the water people out of the process. They designed processes, platforms and partnerships without the benefit of the water expertise that is vital to success.

Let's apply that analogy - substitute water for tech. That's a pretty good picture of what often happens in companies who try to plan and execute without the technology engineering lens. Designing processes, platforms and organizational partnerships without tech expertise at the table is like designing a water district without water expertise. When we do this, we leave ourselves vulnerable to failures, cost overruns and under-performance that could have been avoided.

The challenges faced by today's companies will not yield to frameworks, or best practices. They yield to iterative technology engineering. So yes, if you aren't bringing engineers into the board room, its a safe bet you're probably struggling to keep up with your competitors and your customers expectations. For navigating today's challenging environments, your top engineers are your best wayfinders.

To be clear: This is not an argument for a technocracy.  You need cross disciplinary mix of talent to be successful. When assembling that mix, its helpful to understand that your technology engineers have a key role to play. They understand the working parts and how data, event notifications, transactions and insights need to flow thru those working parts.

Sensible Ideas

I'm blessed to be in a family with kitchen skills and the good sense to stay ready to celebrate life. So each week I share one or more "sensible ideas" for good food and good times!

My new favorite soup

Comfort Food after a long day of Wayfinding (actually had for dinner one night this past week): Udon noodles, shrimp, mushroom, egg, kombu (edible kelp), bonito flakes, with Japanese 7 Spices.

Photo by Viridi Green / Unsplash

Wild Edibles

Tim MacWelch shares a short list of common edible wild plants that can often be found growing around urban / suburban areas: broadleaf plantain, garlic mustard, dandelion (above) and a couple others.

Personally, I've had dandelion tea and dandelion greens as part of prepared dishes. I've not tried the others, and would suggest being careful about eating something if you're not sure what it is :)

Nature Notes

New Ivory Billed Woodpecker Illustration by David Sibley.

David Sibley, noted bird guide author and illustrator has released a beautiful single sheet ID guide with his illustrations and notes of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker.  The downloadable single page is intended to supplement the Sibley Bird guide books (the Ivory Billed Woodpecker was left out of Sibley guides presumably because the bird is widely believed to be extinct).  

You can download and print (and insert it to your bird guide if you like) the single sheet here: https://www.sibleyguides.com/wp-content/uploads/ivorybilled_IDguide1.pdf

This move was greeted with mixed reviews - because of the high emotions surrounding the question of whether the Ivory Billed Woodpecker still exists or not.

If you follow this topic in social media or nature journals, you'll notice bird lovers who are annoyed by those who are skeptical of the bird's continued existence.

I think have a reason for their skepticism that is worth understanding:
If you want to protect species from extinction, you must set priorities.

  • There are many, many  endangered species with strong evidence of their existence (photographs, videos, known breeding areas, beyond question)
  • We also know what these species need in order to survive.
  • Sadly we don't have the same level of evidence for the Ivory Bill.

David Sibley said it well: "it is irresponsible to place the hypothetical needs of this species ahead of the known needs of so many others."

For many endangered species, someone can give you coordinates, and if you go there you'll be able to see that species. You can take photos, video etc. and post it. That's the ability to have repeatable evidence. When *these* species are in trouble, we need to be focused on doing what we can to save them.

So, for Ivory Billed Woodpeckers I say, let's keep looking. But when it comes to funding and work, we need to be focused on the species that we know are still here, doing what we can to save them. My 2cents.

Ivory-billed Woodpecker Overview, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology
The largest of the woodpeckers north of Mexico and the third largest in the world, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker was a bird of old-growth forests in the southeastern U.S. and Cuba. Destruction of its forest habitat caused severe population declines in the 1800s, and only very small numbers survived in…

And I'd be remiss if I didn't give a shout out to Ivory Bill Brewing in Siloam Springs Arkansas.

Final Note

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Opinions mine. Not financial advice. I may hold assets discussed.