“There are none so blind as those who will not see.” -John Heywood (1546)
We humans spend approximately two-trillion dollars annually to defend ourselves militarily against others of our own kind. We spend a relative pittance to defend ourselves medically against microbes potentially more deadly than many of our supposed enemies. Such behavioral deficits can have consequences rather ugly.
“The woman Folly is riotous; She is thoughtlessness and knoweth nothing.” -Proverbs 9:13
Congratulations, humanity! Our folly knows no bounds; for example, the consequence of our wanton misuse of antibiotics. A recent report told of the first case of totally-resistant, bacterial infection here in these United States of America. It will not be the last.
Some observers have looked away from their electronic devices and “apps” of the moment to ask, “Why aren’t there more new, novel antibiotics?”
Why, indeed? Well, Biobehavioral Science has the answer — schedules of reïnforcement. They control our behavior every day in every way.
“Schedules of reïnforcement? What are those?” someone with a modicum of curiosity might ask.
B = f(x) under c. Behavior is a function of its consequence in a given context. Want more of a behavior? Reward it. Want less? Don’t reward it or, unappealingly, punish it.
Consequences, such as pay following work, usually occur pursuant to a schedule. The schedule that generates the highest rate of behavior is the Fixed Ratio (FR); e.g., piecework, which is the reason unions hate it. The lowest rate? Fixed Interval (FI); e.g., midterm then final exams generating studying only just before the events, which is the reason that it is less effective than a Variable Ratio (VR) schedule .
For those interested in a detailed, yet entertaining, discussion of schedules of reïnforcement, read the semi-fictional novel, Inescapable Consequences. Worth the price and effort? You bet!
With regard to invention of new, novel antibiotics, consider the following, two examples:
1) Acute, pharyngeal infection by Streptococcus; i.e., “Strep throat”. A brief course lasting only ten-days of inexpensive penicillin cures the illness. Not a lot of profit there for the pharmaceutical company — unfavorable response:reïnforcer ratio.
2) Chronic, severe psoriasis. Lifelong treatment with very expensive medication. A lot of profit there — favorable response:reïnforcer ratio.
For which illness does a pharmaceutical company prefer to pursue new and novel treatments? You guessed it! Why? Schedules of reïnforcement.
Vaccines? Pharmaceutical companies find the schedule of reïnforcement really unfavorable.
Even when successfully developed and tested — given massive, oppressive, governmental regulations — the response:reïnforcer ratio remains unfavorable. Consider the following, two reasons:
1) Lawsuits from parasitic, avaricious lawyers who are crippling American industries if not killing them outright. Next time that a loved one is dying from a non-treatable infection, take a moment to thank the lawyers before suing the attending physician.
2) So-called humanitarian demands to surrender — essentially without charge — to the “vulnerable” of the world the fruits born of American capital, labor, creativity, and productivity.
So, should you bother considering the potential fate awaiting humanity from the next, virulent plague, blame not the alleged greed and malevolence of those in the pharmaceutical industry. Instead, think not only of the avaricious lawyers but of the self-styled, “humanitarian” ideologues; power-hungry politicians; and self-serving bureaucrats who paved your Path to Perdition. Also, do not forget to include your own response, or lack thereof, to the malicious, myopic behavior of those who paved your way to a destination that you are bound to find most disagreeable.
What’s it all about? No, not pharmaceutical profiteers — greedy or not; either here or abroad.
What’s it really all about? Context. Consequences. Schedules of reïnforcement.
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