Purposeful Summary 1: Vancouver Fights Heroin with Heroin
It seems counterintuitive that a state or local government would willing, deliberately provide drugs as dangerous as heroin to addicts in their communities, but such is the case under a treatment program in Vancouver.
As the Pacific Northwest city continues its efforts to fight its local drug problems, officials have tried a variety of approaches, and as many of these failed to completely resolve the matter, the city has resorted to enabling the addictions of those it deems too difficult to cure. This took the form of an established safe zone, allowing addicts to acquire and ingest the drug with clean syringes under the care and supervision of nurses. Now the city has even gone as far as to induct 26 of these addicts as patients in a program that provides them with doctor prescribed doses of heroin on a daily basis.
This seemingly radical plan, as explained by Al Jazeera Correspondent Allen Schauffler, grew from research studies in which many addicts showed little positive reaction to alternatives used to treat the addiction. Therefore, he and advocates for the program assert that providing these doses in a safe and supervised manner to those addicts who seem beyond treatment dramatically reduces the chances that they will inflict major harm upon themselves and others.
Many critics remain appalled at the process, but while a program sustaining these addictions is certainly a morally grey one, it may very well be the best way forward to prevent these addicts from gravely harming themselves or others in pursuit of the drug. However, as stated by Schauffler, others from rehab centers in the city oppose the program on the notion that these people are not beyond treatment as the city claims, raising an important concern that although the approach could be the best last resort Vancouver has, officials may be deeming some addicts beyond help far too readily.
Purposeful Summary 2: Killing More Good Ideas
It seems counterintuitive that a business, team or agency could benefit from actually shutting down good ideas from its members deliberately, but the notion as suggested by Stanford Professor Robert Sutton certainly bears some merit.
Sutton, known for his books and blog on Harvard Business Review, suggested in a post about what makes good and bad bosses that good bosses are defined by the regular killing of ideas, often including good ones. In fact, he argues that this ability is even more crucial than the approval of good ideas.
This does resemble at first a seeming resistance to change, but the reasoning runs deeper in actuality. As Sutton acknowledges, part of the purpose of being a leader is to enable and encourage innovation and creativity, but he argues that what is often more critical in the pursuit of success is to be willing and able to look not only at an idea’s potential value but also at its feasibility. As he argues, many ideas that are the greatest on paper also require the most time and resources to properly execute. It is a deeply pragmatic attitude, albeit one that could discourage that ultimately necessary innovation and creativity in the wrong hands.
Apple founder Steve Jobs also was a proponent of the same idea, suggesting that it separated the good and the bad companies. Sutton even goes one step farther to suggest that success should actually be measured by this metric before anything else. After all, if not enough good ideas are being killed, does that in turn mean not enough are being made? If your actions didn’t upset people, would that be an indication of a weak culture and a lack of passion for what they do? Many have made arguments about the necessity of making hard choices as a leader, but the manner in which Sutton portrays the negative side effects as instead good signs is still a perspective shift, and one that anyone in a position of power, however small or large its scope, ought to keep in consideration. Not everything that works in theory can work in practice, and even if it can, we can only do one thing at a time. Finite resources mean finite room, room that may not be able to fit every great idea we would like it to.
Purposeful Summary 3: How to Armor Planes
It seems counterintuitive that the military would want to armor returning planes in the locations which attracted the most fire, and it is not obvious why this would be incorrect, but a time when this dilemma occurred in history shows why this is the case, and reveals many of the flaws and biases in human thought processes.
During World War II, the Royal Airforce faced this exact dilemma. In an effort to solve it, they examined returning planes, counted up the bullet holes on their frames, and decided to most heavily armor the locations which had the most. Until Hungarian mathematician Abraham Wald proved this reasoning to be the exact opposite of what should be done, that is. Instead, he suggested that the places with the least damage should be given the most armor, and that the locations with the most damage ought to be practically ignored.
As Wald explained, if a plane returns with many bullet holes on any given location, this means the damage was not very dangerous. It then stands to reason that you would actually armor the locations which suffered the least damage of all because you are only dealing with the sample of the planes that returned. The reason there were so few planes with damage to their cockpits or engines, for instance, is because if a plane suffered hits there it almost never would actually have been able to complete the return trip and get examined in the first place.
This is a very well known example of what in psychology is called survivorship bias. In making a decision with the goal of reducing the number of pilots and aircraft the Royal Air Force lost, they only paid attention to those planes that had returned and not those that had been shot down. To phrase it from a statistical analysis perspective, they failed to recognize the selection process that is in play-enemy fire on aircraft-and have overlooked the items that did not pass this process, a misunderstanding which can lead to very incorrect conclusions. It is an interesting moment in history on its own, no doubt, but the example bears repeating today. It is too easy for us to assume the obvious when we also assume our own rationality and reasoning can always be trusted. The world does not revolve around us, and what is intuitive is not always what is right. It is important to look outside of what is immediately in front of us, and when we do, we may sometimes find that the best way to armor a plane is to leave its bullet hole covered wings exposed.
I wasn’t positive on whether or not I followed the directions for the assignment well or what was expected. Are these properly done purposeful summaries? Is there anything I’m missing that’s important?
Gorgeous writing, Caravan. You spend far more words than you would actually need to do a serviceable Purposeful Summary of the Armored Plane story, but I didn’t object at all to your slow approach; it was entertaining throughout, reasonable and thoughtful.
I read it first because I rarely get a chance to read one; it’s not often chosen. I may read the others now, too, but I don’t really need to. You’ve shown me enough with this one.
Here’s a sentence that needs a little attention:
It’s not true that “so few planes” had damaged engines. But it is true that “so few returning planes” came back with damage there. Identifying them as planes that returned earlier in the sentence makes the claim much clearer.
Thank you so much for the compliments. Yes, I should have used more specific wording in that excerpt you posted, I agree. Glad to know this isn’t too far off from what’s expected.
I don’t know how you personally feel about Schauffler’s objection, but your summary of how Vancouver approaches addiction isn’t entirely true. (But I’m not sure whether the article you summarized explains it.)
Nobody “gives up” on the addicts in this program. They continue to be offered rehabilitation and encouraged to get into and stick with a withdrawal/rehabilitation strategy. The free heroin is an “in the meantime” maintenance program not that different from a methadone program.
No need to revise your work here; it’s excellent as it is. Just thought you might like to know.
This is half poor word choice on my part and half just paraphrasing what the opponents believed. While these measures do also count as “treatment” in a factual sense, which may make my phrasing faulty, it is also reflective of the way the opponents feel. After all, they don’t really consider the program “treatment” because they believe it is too damaging and immoral to agree with the positive connotation of referring to the program that way.
Furthermore, the last mention at the end that the free heroin is an “in the meantime” program is actually not entirely true to the article as I understood it. This excerpt from Schauffler,
“What it says to these people is, ‘Yep, you are heroin addicts. A certain number of you, the most severely addicted are heroin addicts, you’ll always be heroin addicts, there is no hope of you getting off heroin, therefore let’s provide you with heroin so you are the least dangerous drug addict you can possibly be.”
as well as,
“For people who are in that position, where methadone doesn’t work for them, and have tried various times to kick the heroin habit and failed, it’s been determined by a set of medical practitioners to practice what they call ‘harm reduction,'”
suggest that this is even the point of view of people who do not oppose the program also. They don’t give up on treating the patient in an objective sense but they do typically induct people into the program because they’ve largely given up on any treatment which involves curing the addiction, something which to the opponents really is giving up on the patient altogether.
I don’t disagree though that I either should have a) been more specific and chosen a different word or b) made what I just said in this comment clearer in the original post.