Maybe this is what I will be doing in 10 to 20 years

If you have had the immeasurable joy of reading my previous blog post on being unemployed, this can be considered its follow-up. Despite my lack of a formal job, that pays me that thing that non-socialists call money, I find myself so busy that I have fallen behind on critical responsibilities such as keeping up with superhero television series like the Arrow and the Flash. Please, don’t even get me started on how far behind I am with the Walking Dead.

So what do I do all day? Well, I continue to prepare my monthly newsletter, which is a survey of medical information that gets published and shared during the previous month. I am subscribed to a number of web services that send me updates from all of the top journals. Also, via social websites, I come across a great deal of updates that are just as important. Admittedly, the social websites I follow tend to focus more on technology. But since my newsletter, and in general my raison d’être, is to share and explain updates in medical technology, it all gets put into the same bin and published in my newsletter.

I try to keep my newsletter down to approximately 30 to 40 topics a month. The idea is that a person who receives my newsletter should be able to devote a small amount of time every day to reading it, and comfortably cover all of the material throughout the month. In the last couple of newsletters I have begun once again to include personal comments about the material. I find that this is an important service as it combines one abstract with information from other sources, and presents a possible conclusion that is important to consider.

For example, I just read an abstract that speaks to rice cereal that is a standard food source for young children in the westernized world. As it turns out, through natural means, the arsenic levels in the rice are borderline high based on medical standards. At the moment the FDA is actually accepting public comments on a proposed measure to modify this situation [possibly by not using rice, or by finding a method to extract the arsenic, and so on].

Why is this so important? First of all, in high enough proportions, arsenic is a poison. In general, anything that is deleterious to our health, can be even more dangerous in very young developing children. Something that an adult can tolerate can damage developing brain tissue in a young infant.

Of late, there has been a tremendous outcry by a significant number of individuals in relation to the dangers associated with vaccination. While the overwhelming medical opinion is that there is no risk of autism associated with vaccination, and that there is a very real risk of severe illnesses amongst those who do not vaccinate, there are still loud and powerful voices that are convincing people to avoid vaccination.

What if there really is an increase in autism related to the way we raise our very young children? But what if that increase has absolutely nothing to do with vaccinations and actually is due to the arsenic in these rice cereals? Please do not take what I am saying as a possible explanation for autism in children, secondary to the arsenic in rice. There is absolutely no evidence to support anything of this kind. But my point is that a large group of people have blindly, I repeat, blindly followed a group of certain doctors, naturopaths, celebrities and others who have decided that the only possible cause of the autism that their children have must be vaccinations.

We don’t know what causes autism. For all we know it could be something the mother ate during her early pregnancy. It could be due to low folate and B12 levels in a lot of women during the early period of development, before they even know that they are pregnant and start taking multivitamins to raise their folate and B12 levels. It could be the age of the men’s sperm or damage to that sperm due to lifestyle choices by the men. We don’t know. And this present announcement about arsenic in rice is a perfect example of how much we don’t know. To label vaccinations, which have saved billions of lives, as the cause of autism is criminal. And for all we know, someone will discover tomorrow that autism is caused by something totally unrelated to anything we do. It could very well be that autism is the result of bad luck. It could be that certain genes just get confused during development.

This “bad luck” theory is actually already established in terms of cancer. It is estimated that two thirds of cancer is due to bad luck, in other words, random mutations in genes that are not related to our behaviors or geographical location. So for all we know, this is what causes autism.

So this is how I spend my day. I read, I write, I interpret, I share, and I wait for comments from the readers I have. On top of this, I am taking online courses towards mastering the field of machine learning. I’ve mentioned this in the past and I have set myself a deadline of a year to focus on this field. My hope is that once I gain sufficient mastery of this critical field of data analysis, I will then be able to offer my services to anyone who needs them. Yes, I will have to overcome my socialist sensibilities and ask for reimbursement for my time. What can I do? They won’t give me milk for free in the store.

I actually find this work quite exhausting. I sometimes feel like my brain is going to pop from all of the different kinds of information that are out there. I click on the link and I get introduced to a whole website that contains information that I was not even aware of. Other people have spent a great deal of time collecting libraries of links to articles that summarize a particular topic.

I also have on my online account, an entire directory devoted to books that I have downloaded from various websites, that have to do with data analysis of all types. In my dreams, I hope to read these books at some point and take advantage of the knowledge in them.

My point of all of this is to say that staying busy even when you do not have a formal task, is very easy. More so, as the amount of information doubles every few minutes across the world, people, including professionals in a particular field, will need editors and filterers to extract the critical conclusions from all of the various research and derivative articles that are generated. A general surgeon does not have the time to read for 4 to 5 hours a day about everything that is going on. And once again, based on the pace of information generation, 4 to 5 hours will be totally insufficient within a few years. Therefore, I can easily imagine an entirely new field dedicated to information consolidation, that becomes essential for a whole range of people.

Imagine Twitter and LinkedIn being put through a funnel and then sieve, with the output being a professionally summarized short article that keeps the reader up to date on critical new news. I just added an article to my newsletter that sounds too good to be true. Apparently, a treatment developed at the Weitzman Institute, is now being tested at the world famous Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. The treatment is minimally invasive, requires an hour to an hour and a half of time, does not involve any toxic substances, and does not have all of the standard side effects that present day cancer treatments have. The work on this new type of treatment has presently been limited to the prostate, but the results are so amazing that they truly have to be double and triple checked. If these results are actually true, it could revolutionize the entire field of oncology.

Something like this is critical information, and many doctors should be aware of it even though it is still yet to be proven. To expect every doctor to find the article that discusses this treatment and read it from top to bottom is unreasonable. But a professional reviewer could dedicate two or three lines of the newsletter to this topic. As such, the reader would be aware of this new technique, and would expect to receive a further update once the studies at Sloan-Kettering have been completed.

The obvious next question is, who would pay for the service? In an open market, multiple individuals could present their summaries to the general public, and those interested in reading these summaries would pay a nominal fee per month.. With enough readers, the reviewer would make his or her income. Such work could also be sponsored by major corporations, but then there is always a concern of bias. I personally am not too concerned about the money issue, as I expect that there will be a sufficient number of people interested in getting this information, especially from someone who has a curriculum vitae that justifies their selection of articles and interpretation of their results.

Presently, until my next job hopefully becomes available, I am actually very much enjoying what I’m doing. I could easily see myself doing this on a day-to-day basis. I suspect that in the future, this will not be a hobby, but more so a critical job that people seek out. Hopefully, I will prove myself to be an accurate source of information to the point that people trust my work and are willing to pay a small fee for it.

The obvious question is what happens when smarter computers can do everything that I do, faster and better? Well, as I say at the top of each of my newsletters, “I am an analog person in a digital world. I am redundant”.

Thanks for listening.

About the Author
Dr. Nahum Kovalski received his bachelor's of science in computer science and his medical degree in Canada. He came to Israel in 1991 and married his wife of 22 years in 1992. He has 3 amazing children and has lived in Jerusalem since making Aliyah. Dr. Kovalski was with TEREM Emergency Medical Services for 21 years until June of 2014, and is now a private consultant on medicine and technology.