Doctors need to know how to drive the car, not build it.

by reestheskin on 19/05/2014

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We understand the world through metaphor, and the ones we choose have a deep impact on how we manipulate our thoughts and the world. In medicine, many parallels have been drawn between aviation and health care. I am thinking of checklists, protocols and the like. On the other hand regulators talk about doctors as ‘scholars’ and ‘teachers’ and so on.
An article by Ha-Joon Chang and Jonathan Aldred, caught my eye. The topic is what to do about economics teaching, post 2008. As far as I can see, despite students being aware the academy is behind the times, little has changed.

There is no doubt that these models, and related research in “econophysics”, represent a promising new research direction in macroeconomics. But that does not make them, even in simplified form, candidates for a new undergraduate curriculum. Most graduate economists will have no contact with these models in their careers; a few of them may need, at most, to understand their broad insights. A civil servant in the Government Economic Service expressed the requirements for the latter group pithily: government economists need to know how to drive the car, not build it.

I think this goes for medicine too. “Government economists need to know how to drive the car, not build it.” Doctors are not the people who design or build planes: we fly them. Less physics, not even too much applied engineering. More like bus drivers in the sky, or taxi drivers of the ward.

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