I Want to Believe – The Health Care Blog


I know, I should be writing about hot topics like monkeypox or the baby formula shortage, but, c’mon, Congress held hearings last week about UFOs – the first in 50 years!  I mean, I followed Project Blue Book in the 1970’s, watched “The X-Files” in the 1990’s, and have seen UFO videos on YouTube.  If Congress is starting to take UFO’s seriously, how could I not?  

And for those of you who don’t see any possible connection to healthcare (except for those unpleasant alien probes…), let me put it to you this way: by 2050, is it more likely that:

  • We’ll know what UFOs actually are;
  • We’ll have fundamentally reformed the U.S. healthcare system.

I thought so.

The Congressional hearings featured Ronald Moultrie, Pentagon Undersecretary for Defense and Intelligence, and Scott Bray, Deputy Director Naval Intelligence.  Mr. Moultrie insisted, “we want to know what’s out there just like you want to know what’s out there,” and Mr. Bray concurred:

“I’m impatient. I want immediate understanding as much as anyone else.” They testified and answered questions in both open and closed, classified sessions.  

As it turns out, there were no huge revelations.  The Pentagon has compiled some 400 reports of encounters with unidentified aerial phenomena (UAPs, the term the Pentagon prefers because the objects may not be physical).  “We know that our service members have encountered unidentified aerial phenomena,” Mr. Moultrie allowed.  

There have been 11 “near misses” with U.S. military pilots, but supposedly no collisions. No firing upon (or from) them, no communication, and no wreckage.  That being said, the UAPs displayed some startling abilities, including high speeds (with no visible means of propulsion), rapid acceleration/deceleration, and hovering. The officials said they don’t believe anything points to non-terrestrial origins, but also were skeptical that foreign adversaries had the sufficiently advanced technologies to account for them.

The officials showed a video of a “spherical object” zooming past an F-18 – not easy to do! – and Mr. Bray conceded, “I do not have an explanation for what this specific object is.”

Our military aircraft take years to conceive, design, and build; they’re hugely expensive (and often overbudget); they take highly skilled people to operate them; they’re surprisingly fragile; they’re beholden to the military/industrial complex.  They’re the most sophisticated ones of their type in the world, yet these UAPs are zooming by them like a Ferrari blowing past a tractor.   

There is some concern that UAPs tend to be seen around military aircraft and bases, but, then again, the military also tends to be careful about observing and has advanced abilities for such observation.  “We do not want potential adversaries to know exactly what we see or understand,” Mr. Moultrie said coyly.

Both the officials and the legislators agreed it might be helpful if there was a central way to compile civilian reports.  We have mostly military reports because that is what has been collected, since the military has stepped up its own reporting since its June 2021 report to Congress.   Right now, though, both officials pointed out, we have “insufficient data.”  Mr. Moultrie said, “So it’s a data issue that we’re facing.”

So, maybe UAPs are, indeed, aliens.  Maybe some John Galt-type character has formed his/her/their own “men of the mind” collective to create new technologies for their own use.  Maybe they’re all really only swamp gas.  What we know is that we don’t (yet) know.

The intriguing thing to me is that they just seem way beyond our capabilities, beyond our understanding.  They mystify us.  They make our technology seem outdated.  They sometimes seem to defy the laws of physics.  Astrobiologist Hagg Misra told Science News, “Maybe they’re a sign of something like new physics.” 

That, my friends, is exciting.

I like to think that UAPs were built in some teenager’s garage, using off-the-shelf materials in some novel way, piloted out by that teenager and his/her/their buddies out on a joy ride.  Whether that garage is in Des Moines or Alpha Centauri, I don’t much care.  

I love things that put us in our place, that remind us we don’t have all the answers, that open our minds to the realization that there’s a lot left to learn.I’m reminded of famed physicist Lord Kelvin, who in 1897 lamented, “there is nothing new to be discovered in physics now.”  This was, mind you, right before the Theory of Relativity and quantum physics.   

Moral of the story: if you think you know how our healthcare system works and the constraints it must have, maybe you need to be open to healthcare’s UAPs – unidentified alterative possibilities.  

In “The X-Files,” Fox Mulder’s unspoken (but not unwritten) mantra was “I Want to Believe.”  As it turned out, there were UFOs, the aliens were among us, and there was an alien/government conspiracy.  Sometimes being the lone believer isn’t crazy.

I want to believe in a healthcare system that is radically less expensive, much more effective, and delivers on health equity.  I’m all for any new physics – or, I suspect, new biology – that helps us accomplish that healthcare system.  

I’m waiting for the pill that fixes genetic defects, the harmless beam that destroys incipient cancers, the relentless nanobots that prevent strokes and heart attacks. I want the kind of healthcare I see in science fiction.  

In today’s healthcare system, such miracles would find the pill hugely expensive, the beam’s side effects so bad that they might outweigh the benefits, and the nanobots prone to being hacked.  Instead of technology being so advanced that it is indistinguishable from magic, as Arthur Clark put it, in healthcare we get magic that overpromises, underdelivers, and costs too much.  

Our healthcare system is a lot like those military aircraft – slow to change, incomparably costly, highly technical, reliant on skilled operators, disturbingly fragile, and deeply indebted to the healthcare/industrial complex.  I hope for a healthcare UAP to outmaneuver them like a kid on a joyride.  

I don’t want everyone to suddenly believe in UFOs, nor do I want anyone to assume that their technologies are beyond our capabilities.  I do want us to let them open our minds to the possibilities they suggest.  

Similarly, there are plenty of sightings to suggest that our healthcare system could be much better, but we’re going to need some true believers to make it so.  Are you one of them?

Kim is a former emarketing exec at a major Blues plan, editor of the late & lamented Tincture.io, and now regular THCB contributor.

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