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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Pharmaceutical Companies According to Jurassic Park

The following quote is from Jurassic Park and stated by a character named Hammond. He's the main man behind creating Jurassic Park. He is speaking with Henry Wu, his main geneticist who is considered somewhat of a genius.

Hammond's speech discusses pharmaceutical companies and I imagine it does simplify and gloss over a lot of issues.  Having said that, what he says does still seem thought-provoking.

'If you were going to start a bioengineering company, Henry, what would you do? Would you make products to help mankind, to fight illness and disease?  Dear me, no. That's a terrible idea. A very poor use of technology.'

(As the reader, you may now think "wow this guy is evil! What a capitalist pig!" This is exactly what the author wants and it makes the following section that much more poignant.)

Hammond shook his head sadly. 'Yet, you'll remember the original genetic engineering companies were all started like pharmaceuticals. New drugs for mankind. Noble, Noble purpose. Unfortunately,  drugs face all kinds of barriers. FDA testing alone takes five to eight years--if you're lucky. Even worse, there are forces at work in the marketplace. Suppose you make a miracle drug for cancer or heart disease. Suppose you want to charge a thousand dollars or two thousand dollars a dose. You might imagine that it's your privilege. After all, you invented the drug, you paid to develop and test it; you should be able to charge whatever you wish.
But do you think that the government will let you do that? No, Henry, they will not.  Sick people aren't going to pay a thousand dollars a dose for medication--they won't be grateful, they'll be outraged. Blue Cross isn't going to pay it. They'll scream highway robbery.  So something will happen. Your patient application will be denied. Your permits will be delayed. Something will force you to see reason--and to sell your drug at a lower cost. From a business standpoint, that makes helping mankind a very risky business. Personally, I would never help mankind.'
Henry had heard the argument before. And he knew Hammond was right;  some new bioengineering pharmaceuticals had indeed suffered inexplicable delays and patent problems.

'Now,' Hammond said, 'think how different it is when you're making entertainment.  Nobody needs entertainment.  That's not a matter for government intervention. If I charge five thousand dollars a day for my park, who is going to stop me? After all, nobody needs to come here. And, far from being highway robbery, a costly price tag actually increases the appeal of the park. A visit becomes a status symbol, and all Americans love that.'

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

I recently watched Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and the whole film was visually beautiful and covered important themes dealing with war, compassion, nature, and other significant topics.

The plot involves a post-apocalyptic future where the last remaining humans are struggling to survive on a planet (supposedly earth but it's never directly addressed) that is progressively being taken over by vast toxic jungles that are full of giant insects and noxious fumes and materials. Humans cannot enter the jungles without wearing protective masks that stop the toxic spores from entering their lungs. The viewer is led to believe that the jungles are vile places and everything in them is hazardous. If the fumes are consumed for prolonged periods of time, they can lead to serious sickness and death.

There is one particular scene that stood out to me because it was very moving. About half way through the film, it's revealed that the protagonist (Princess Nausicaä) has been collecting spores and roots from the jungle and bringing them back to her home. In the basement of the castle she lives in, she has planted all the spores and has grown a miniature jungle. However, this jungle is not poisonous in any way and is actually beneficial for the air and the environment around it. It's not toxic because Nausicaä has been using pure water and soil to grow the plants. It's such a beautiful scene because it covers an important theme. Often times, something (or someone) can turn dangerous or destructive because of the kinds of things it is exposed to or absorbs. A person can become "toxic" if they grow up in a harmful environment devoid of any positive influence. A pristine life-giving river can turn poisonous if a factory dumps chemicals in it. Clouds can create acid rain if they are full of evaporated pollutants. There are numerous other examples of this phenomenon and the film portrays this issue in a richly vivid manner. This scene is also powerful because it pushes the viewer to reevaluate and question his assumptions about harmful things and consider important questions about the root causes behind something that is considered destructive or "evil."

                                                 (A screenshot of the scene described above)

Besides this particularly powerful scene, there are many others issues covered in the film in equally superb ways. I highly recommend watching it.

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