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"It's the 401K"

Check out RD on her last day at work. I wish I'd been able to post a rant like that on my last day in the cube! Check out this example systems thinking:

Here’s my theory about how it all went south since the 90?s: It’s the 401K. ... But how could something that appears to be so innocuous bring the country’s scientific and industrial framework to a screeching halt, you ask? Think about it. MBAs and executives are hired by corporations to “increase shareholder value”. Before the rise of the 401K, that meant building a better mousetrap and finding a better aspirin. Now, the only thing that matters is pleasing the finance guys who rate your stock from buy to hold to sell. And those same finance guys have a stake in the outcome. They set their own terms of compensation as well as service large institutional investors and mutual funds that we get to choose from in our 401K plans. Corporations are now driven to serve the finance industry and the shareholders, which are us. They’re not in it for the new products anymore. And once you start hiring executives whose goal it is to optimize the ROI, well, it doesn’t matter where the money comes from anymore. It’s just money, numbers on a spreadsheet. It doesn’t matter if those numbers represent people with families and caloric intake requirements and 10,000 hours of expertise. It doesn’t matter if there are fewer products to sell. Once the patent is dead and the money is gone, the investors will follow the money to the next hot thing. There’s nothing mysterious about this. It’s not personal. It’s just the reward system we have set in place since pensions became too old-fashioned for those up and coming 30 somethings in the 90?s (um, that would be us). We’re like rats pushing a pellet bar for another shot of cocaine. We can’t help ourselves and will keep doing it until we die from the pure pleasure of getting that next teeny bump to our retirement accounts.

Readers? I haven't seen this connection made so explicitly before. Do you agree?

NOTE Of course, privatizing SS will make this worse. No doubt, then, Versailles will try to do it.

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goldberry's picture
Submitted by goldberry on

I tried to go out on a high note at work. I worked right up to the very last hours, depositing my final thoughts on a structure I had been working on. The hardest thing for me was realizing what my passion was in the last year of my employment and having it gone in the blink of an eye by some penny pinching bureaucrat. I think they lost a significant asset yesterday. You never know what the right kind of nurturing and opportunities will bring out in people. This is the lesson that is being lost.
Some of the lessons I have found in the past two months is that there is nothing more valuable than having a job you truly love, no matter how much it pays. Also, layoffs and job competition bring out the worst in people. It's frequently the people who want to do the right thing who get burned even when they know they're being stabbed in the back by people they admire and trust.
But I have made it my practice to never look back. When I leave, I leave. I did all I could for my projects. My goal was to cure cancer and having lost my father to the very type of cancer I was working to overcome, I tried very hard to never lose sight of that goal and work diligently right up to the very end. I have no regrets.
I love my colleagues, my work and the corporation I worked for. The company I worked for is not being well managed right now. But very few companies, in pharma or elsewhere are. It will all straighten itself out one of these days, probably painfully.
The system is self-regulating.
It's time to move on. And I can always cure cancer from the privacy of my own home. There are plenty of free resources out there.
And now I know how to do it.

Submitted by lambert on

... it seems that delivering real value is a by-product, not a product. And it is, obviously, far more profitable to keep people chronically ill than it is to enable them to be healthy and happy (see the intersections between Big Food, Big Media, and Big Money that are all mediated through the health effects of TV).

So in some ways a "home-brew" cure of cancer doesn't seem so completely implausible since the corporate structure is demonstrably unable to achieve it (as shown by your layoff or as the Brits say "redundancy," )

goldberry's picture
Submitted by goldberry on

Pharma *is* able to cure cancers. In the next decade, you'll see what we've been working on come to the market. The problem is, and has always been, the human organism is just so damn complex and nature is unfolding rapidly before our eyes. It is a very exciting time to be in the life sciences. But the more we know, the more we come to understand all that we *don't* know.
Breakthrough discoveries take time and patience. The project I was working on started with one approach to designing drugs, one that had been the standard design process that had all sorts of problems, and then evolved rapidly into a very different approach. We got smarter from seeing the mistakes that we and other companies were making and we tuned our research accordingly. That's what good science is all about. Trial and error and making corrections and trying again. It is sometimes slow and painstaking and methodical. People lose patience, Wall Street loses patience, cancer patients run out of time. It can't be helped. We do our best.
As for home-brew drug design, I can buy myself a notebook, read the literature, download the protein structures from the Brookhaven database, use the online bioinformatics tools from the NIH, design the drugs on my home computer, maybe even find a way to dock them, redesign them and publish the results. But unless I have someone who is willing to make the suckers for me, they'll just be some twinkles in my eyes.
So, I have to find other people to want to pitch in and have the means to do it. That is not so easy. Or cheap.
One last thing: NO ONE in pharma is hoping to keep you chronically ill or is withholding a cure from you or anyone else in the world. They want to bring as many medicines to market as they can. But knowing how little tolerance the consumer has for a less than perfect drug with absolutely no side effects, which is a technical impossibility, every company has to carefully weigh the amount of money they are willing to risk on a product that may never be able to recoup its research investment. Since every human body is different and we can show that no two persons are going to process a drug the same way, at what point can pharma expect that the consumer is willing to accept some risk? You can either have antibiotics that clear up your infection with a small number of people having allergic reactions and accept that or you can have cures for toenail fungus that doesn't have many side effects at all. Your choice.
Really. It's YOUR choice. The consumer can insist on unattainable perfection and get nothing or weigh the benefits vs risks rationally and let us give you cures that will be a fraction of the cost of a hospital stay.
So much harder to complain when you have the power to decide, isn't it?

goldberry's picture
Submitted by goldberry on

They'll do what they can get away with. When there are no consequences to modify their behavior, they can get away with an awful lot. But there are certain things you can't do without the support and departmentalization of a large corporation. Research is one of them that used to function well in a corporate setting. Sorry, there's no getting around it.
Corporations can be made to be good public entities but the rulemakers have to be willing to crack the whip to make them do it.
If you don't like the way corporations throw their weight around, change the rulemakers. It's the only thing that will work.
Blaming everything on corporations takes our eyes off the ball and counterintuitively gives them everything they want- the perception of limitless power and untouchability. Meanwhile, the rulemaking politicians who do their bidding fly under the radar.
I think the cries of "corporatism!" are missing the point and are about as effective as tilting at windmills. Lefties still don't get it.

goldberry's picture
Submitted by goldberry on

Check out this video to see what is up and coming in molecular biology. Stick with it to the end and you will get a sense of the jaw dropping awesomeness of what is going on. Sometimes, it's just overwhelming. So much to study and learn; so little time in a lifetime.