This makes me reevaluate my rule of thumb on conspiracy theories. I have to move the bar in terms of what is too ridiculous to be potentially true.
If you tell me the government has been covering up alien visits for decades, I still consider that too ridiculous to be true, but mostly for the reason that alien visitation seems unlikely. I have no problem believing that the government would cover it up for some dumbass reason. That is well within the realm of believable.
I have no problem believing that during the 9/11 attacks our government ordered the Air Force to destroy the passenger jet that was heading for the Whitehouse, and found it convenient that the passengers rushed the hijackers at about the same time. It makes a good hero story. I'm not saying that's what happened. I'm just saying that it doesn't qualify as too ridiculous to be true. To me it even sounds more likely than the official version.
The most evil conspiracy theory I have ever heard involves the idea that the 9/11 attacks themselves were planned by the U.S. government as a pretext for military action and subsequent profit by some industrialists. I don't believe that's true, but again, thanks to Governor Asshat, I can no longer rule it out simply for being too ridiculous to consider. The bar has been moved.
I don't know if the Mafia fixed the election for President Kennedy, then had him whacked because he didn't return the favor, but it is well within the realm of non-ridiculous.
What other theories do you think are now in the realm of not-too-ridiculous?
With the uncommon problems, such as my spasmodic dysphonia, I have to wonder if Google (or WebMD, etc.) can do a better job than a doctor, if not now then maybe in the near future. If you could call up videos of people with identical symptoms, couldn't you diagnose most of your own problems?
For example, are you any worse than your doctor at looking at High Definition pictures of a skin problem and comparing it to your own skin problem?
My guess is that the Internet could equal your doctor in diagnosing uncommon problems. WebMD for example asks a bunch of diagnostic questions and narrows down your symptoms just as a doctor would. That system will only improve over time.
Common problems are even easier to diagnose, give or take someone looking in your ear or down your throat. And I'm imagining someday you can buy a home kit that takes a picture down those orifices and puts it on your computer for easy comparison to stock medical pictures.
This leaves us with the issue of dispensing meds. Your first reaction is that obviously you want a doctor to do that because otherwise people will abuse the system or diagnose something deadly for themselves. But perhaps there is another way to approach this safely.
Suppose as a patient you simply needed to answer a series of questions on your other health issues and medications to determine if a drug is safe for you. Once you establish your medical database, you have fewer questions the next time you need a prescription. The database plus your pharmacist would be enough to keep you from killing yourself accidentally. In some cases you still need a doctor if the meds are especially risky, but that would be rare.
You still have the risk of a patient requesting things he doesn't need. The pharmacist plus your database can flag most of that abuse. And perhaps you could have a system where a doctor "approves" patients to handle their own prescriptions if they appear to be responsible, up to a certain age.
I don't have the details worked out, but I think Google will be your new doctor in some fashion.
My prediction about confusopolies was better than I imagined. For example, I keep reading articles about entrepreneurs starting their own electric car companies. When the barriers to entry for starting your own car company come down, you know we're in a commodity world.
Thanks to the Internet, relatively efficient capital markets, and the fact that some company in China can make just about anything, anyone with drive can start just about any kind of company. The interesting part is that in the near future it can never be profitable to do so, because a hundred other people will start the same company next week and drive down your margins. Your only defense is to be confusing, so customers believe, incorrectly, that your product has advantages.
When I started my first restaurant I was surprised how easy it was for someone with no experience to succeed in that business. I hired the right people or companies for every facet of building the business and my operating partner put all the pieces together. The restaurant was an instant hit and lines wrapped around the block when it opened.
But you know the rest.
The fact that it was easy to enter the business is exactly what eliminated the margins. Scores of independent restaurants opened in the general area in the next few years and all cannibalized each other. With our current economic downturn, I predict 40% of the restaurants in my area will shut down within three years. Their margins had disappeared even before the economy imploded.
My theory of confusopolies had a lot to do with my involvement with dilbertfiles.com. It's a business with lots of competitors, and the options and features are confusing. Most of the comments on this blog about the service took the form of "Why would you need a car when a horse can do the job!" In other words, the competing services had confused people about exactly what they offer to the point of equating a horse and a car.
My involvement with dilbertfiles.com is different from the typical celebrity endorsement in an important way: I actually use the service for my own work, and did so long before I had the notion to partner with sendyourfiles.com for a Dilbert branded version of their product.
When you see a tennis star endorse a tennis racket, there is no chance that star uses that actual racket. Pros use heavier rackets, tricked out for their preferences. You couldn't buy Roger Federer's actual racket if you wanted.
I could give other examples, but the point is that you rarely see a case where the celebrity was already using the product before the endorsement or licensing deal was initiated. Sure, he might play professional games in the sneakers that have his name, but there is little chance he would have chosen that particular shoe if his name wasn't on it.
Obviously I could be risking my reputation and lying about a product I use, trying to make a few bucks, but my incentive to do that isn't high. I see my role with dilbertfiles.com as "a guy you know (sort of) who is already using the service and is happy about it." If you don't want to wade through the confusion and do the research yourself, that can be helpful to know. And realistically, no one has time to research every little decision.
Big money is made when markets fluctuate and when you have better information than other investors. What better way to game the system than to cause the fluctuations yourself?
Now you might argue that such a conspiracy would have to involve so many people that it would be impossible to keep it a secret. I'm not so sure about that. First, you would only need to succeed in manipulating the media 55% of the time, just to pick an example number, and that would be enough to reap huge profits over the long run. And there could still be plenty of dissenting voices and competing points of view, so the manipulation could get lost in the noise.
The key to making the manipulation work is making the manufactured crises more compelling or more "sticky" than the plain vanilla stories that are competing for attention. For example, the story about the shopper stampede only needed to be picked up by one influential news source in order to be copied by all. It could as easily been ignored.
And the stampede story is "sticky" because I will probably remember it for the rest of my life, whereas I won't remember a report of some particular store having lower sales this season. It's the same process used by trial lawyers when they argue their cases in terms of human suffering to have a larger impact on the jury.
It wouldn't require the involvement of many people to control the source of economic statistics. At some point in the process of tabulating the results I assume there is literally one person who sees the total before anyone else. Hypothetically, the "story" of brisk retail sales for Black Friday and shopper stampedes might involve only a few paid conspirators beyond the inner circle of the puppet masters.
I don't actually believe the theory I just described. At least not yet. But if your comments tell me the stores you visited in the past week were empty too, I might revisit that position.