Articles of Interest This Week – Feb 16

My articles of interest this week, fewer than usual given my hernia operation.


An update on the training of IBM’s Watson at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Institute to become an effective diagnostic assistant in IBM’s Game Show Winning Watson Computer Goes to Work Treating Cancer. The complexity – and risks – associated with the algorithms used to narrow options down are staggering; however, if used wisely to supplement oncologists and hematologist, may provide a check on some of the phychological biases that we all have (e.g., anchoring, confirmation etc).

While I am open to complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) in helping manage side effects, not very much evidence exists about their effectiveness. As the larger cancer centres develop integrated cancer care approaches, important to be aware of the limited evidence.Bad Medicine Infiltrates MD Anderson Cancer Center highlights acupuncture and some of the conflicts of interest underlying such claims. And a further take on when and where CAM can help, see James Salwitz’ Choosing Alternative Medicine, who notes some examples where evidence suggests CAM can help (e.g., acupuncture to help manage nausea) and the need for more research to integrate what works into medicine.

And on a different note, Suleika Jaouad on Crazy, Unsexy Cancer Tips, a frank discussion about some of the additional challenges facing young women with cancer.

Health and Wellness

A good piece by Carolyn Thomas in When does mindfulness become mind-numbing?, noting the obsessiveness of the quantified selfers to document each and every activity, and who become so obsessed by the data that they become less mindful, not more. While I enjoy my Fitbit, I enjoy my time walking more than the little graph.

A reminder that doctors and radiologists are subject to some of the same psychological limitations as all of in in Why Even Radiologists Can Miss A Gorilla Hiding In Plain Sight. Not encouraging, fortunately in most cases, there are not ‘guerillas’ to be missed, but with any serious diagnosis, a second review may be helpful.


Robert Fulford shares some recent evidence on ‘priming,’ (A primer on priming) by which we can be induced to perform better or behave differently based upon visual or other cues. Advertisers consciously or unconsciously use some of these techniques and associations all the time, and there is an element of big brother in this should some of these techniques spread more widely.

A nice piece, Relax! You’ll Be More Productive on the importance of renewal and relaxation to work, by Tony Schwartz, the CEO of The Energy Project (a workplace consultancy firm, not surprisingly pushing his consultancy services), and how building in periods of renewal, we are more effective when working. Hard to achieve in many of today’s workplaces, but even ‘sneaking in’ mini-breaks by walking around the office can help:

Our basic idea is that the energy employees bring to their jobs is far more important in terms of the value of their work than is the number of hours they work. By managing energy more skillfully, it’s possible to get more done, in less time, more sustainably. In a decade, no one has ever chosen to leave the company. Our secret is simple — and generally applicable. When we’re renewing, we’re truly renewing, so when we’re working, we can really work.


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