Balloon Mania: Happy Birthday Health 2.0

Having been around for the beginning of the Health 2.0 movement, it is good to see the conference continuing into its sophomore year. A lot has and continues to happen regarding the ongoing health care innovations that collectively make up Health 2.0.Balloon

An ongoing criticism and source of frustration for me has been the banter of those who continue to regard the entire space as a “farce.” People who demand the “proof”, demand unwarranted standards of outcome/impact prior to experimental implementation, and dismiss the space because current business models have yet to produce multiple exits (although there have been a few notables, including AthenaHealth, Medstory, HealthCentral, etc).

So at the infancy of this movement, all I can share with those doubters is an anecdote from the life of one the most famous tinkerers of all time — Benjamin Franklin (just finishing up his biography). In describing the distinctively French invention and subsequent “hype” associated with hot air balloons:

Ever since the days of his electricity experiments, Franklin believed that science should be pursued initially for pure fascination and curiosity, and then practical uses would eventually flow from what was discovered. Because the English saw no utility in ballooning and because they were a bit too proud to follow the French, they did not join in the excitement. “I see an inclination in the more respectable part of the Royal Society to guard against the Balloonmania until some experiment likely to prove beneficial either to society or science is proposed,” Lord Banks wrote.

Franklin scoffed at this attitude. “It does not seem to me a good reason to decline prosecuting a new experiment which apparently increases the power of man over matter until we can see to what that power may be applied,” he replied. “When we have learned to manage it, we may hope some time or other to find uses for it, as men have done for magnetism and electricity, of which the first experiments were mere matters of amusement.”

At first, he was reluctant to guess what practical use might come of balloons, but he was convinced that experimenting with them would someday, “pave the way to some discoveries in natural philosophy of which at present we have no conception.” There could be he noted in another letter, “important consequences that no one can foresee.” More famous was his pithier expression of the same sentiment, made in response to a spectator who asked what use this new balloon thing could be. “What is the use,” he replied, “of a newborn baby?”

(From “Benjamin Franklin, An American Life” by Walter Isaacson, page 421).

Happy first birthday, Health 2.0. Confident in your potential, I am really looking forward to watching you grow up.

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2 replies »

  1. Balloons?
    What a deliciously fitting analogy. Sure balloons have been truly interesting novelties, but have neither garnered wide adoption nor stood the test of time. Keep “prosecuting experiments” as long as you can get someone to pay for this fun. Just do not confuse this with making a real impact.
    Plus balloons have a habit to pop. Like bubbles, Health 2.0 including.

  2. The phrase, “build it and they will come” is ideal for health 2.0.
    The therapeutic established peer reviewed naysayers, are firmly embedded in their own cement.
    Recently I have seen glimmerings of academicians critiquing blogging and asking to set professional standards for medical blogging.
    They don’t get it. We don’t work for them.
    That would be akin to setting standards for ‘bellying up to the bar”…. I have some further comments on my blog.