Stuffocation, minimalism & experientialism


Just finished the book ‘Stuffocation’ by James Wallman; I would recommend it highly. It is about the cultural switch from materialism (consumerism or conspicuous consumption) to minimalism and/or experientialism. The book raises a lot of issues relevant to health and healthcare. I wonder if healthcare is ready for a minimalist revolution and whether or not we can design a better healthcare system that can be experiential rather than consumptive? Any comments would be welcome. I have lots of ideas to try and make this happen; all of them are compatible with the current trend towards self-management.

Apologies about being incommunicado but the Internet connections on the Greek Islands we have been staying on is very poor and intermittent; to be frank abysmal.

7 thoughts on “Stuffocation, minimalism & experientialism”

  1. A less materialistic attitude is certainly laudable in my book, and – having moved in excess of 20 times in my life – I strongly advocate the policy of "if it's neither use nor ornament, get rid of it". But benefitting as much as I do from my latest genuinely useful gadget, an FES unit, which my physiotherapist issued me with by way of charitable funding, I could not possibly declare outright that a yet more minimalistic NHS would be a good thing. This gadget is so helpful to me, I hate to think of anyone with the same problem as I have not having the opportunity to try one.

  2. Society has always oscillated between the spartan and the baroque. Neo-classical minimalism one decade, Rococo splendour another. Peaks and troughs, largesse and belt-tightening. So, it is perhaps inevitable that there will be a shift. Interesting, though, is that popular culture's shift from conspicuous consumption to minimalism has implications on the NHS. People's personal desire for minimalism (if they are healthy) means they may start begrudging overt spend on medicine and healthcare. 'If I can be frugal, why can't they?' the mantra might go.Last night I spoke to a Consultant in A&E. She said that the mantra she often heard was that '30% of people in hospital don't need to be there'. She shook her head when she said this and mentioned that she always wondered where that 30% were, as she would go from ward to ward and not see it evidenced. She mentioned that the findings that underpinned this political mantra were 10 years old. But no one wants to run a headline saying 'NHS ruthlessly efficient.'The idea of a streamlined, minimal, cost effective future is, I think, of concern. Straight lines don't allow for crooked lines. Efficiency does not always look kindly on those who are not efficient. And what is a disability if not a lack of efficiency? Technology is the love child of minimalism in this sense. Binary code has to efficient. It either works or it does not work. Such a plus and minus approach to life, culture, health should worry those with MS. As technology and man searches for quicker, faster, leaner, sleeker ways to live, the binary philosophy that underpins such a techno-revolution might contaminate the human milk of kindness, compassion and difference.In many ways I fear that minimalism and efficiency hamper and harm innovation and treatment leaps of faith. Profit and loss accounts do not smile at risky experiments to see what might happen with this drug or this treatment. Technology's binary curse makes us more risk averse, not less.So – when it comes to MS, I say this. We need to be large, baroque, flamboyant and diverse. We need to be crooked and warped. Bent and imperfect. Grande and grotesque. We need to be human. Technological minimalism would not have this and we should not have that.Rail, rail against the tyranny of the minimal.

    1. Really good stuff Iain, wow!I'm afraid I don't understand what Prof G means by 'minimalist revolution in healthcare'. What could that possibly be?

  3. Iain, your words flow wonderfully.I would like to investigate personal medicine to augment our care. I am interested in analyzing my blood as regularly as a diabetic to see what patterns emerge. We could start with a few data points and go from there. Ideally could we build some kind of open source analysis tool?I would like to get certified to draw blood and then get a cytometer to generate data. If we could get more people then we get more data. More data should refine the search which would lead to a better tool, perhaps even a wearable that would continuously monitor level X.

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