A Brief Tour of Craig Feied's Mind

We write at some length in SuperFreakonomics about a physician and technologist named Craig Feied, who is responsible not only for a lot of medical innovation but who looks at problem-solving in a resolutely unorthodox manner. The hours we spent with him were among the most fascinating research time on that book.

Now, for the rest of you, here’s a sample: Feied giving a far-ranging talk (about 37 minutes into the following video) at a recent Computing Community Consortium conference. Among the highlights: how a lot of current medical tests are ineffective, and therefore not cost-effective as well; how diseases are often diagnosed too late, after “the plane already crashed”; and how the time lag between research breakthroughs and clinical treatment is shrinking. And how Aum Shinrikyo sprayed anthrax from the roof of its building in Tokyo.

It is no accident that Feied wears a bow tie: he is devoutly vigilant about stemming the spread of bacterial infections, which traditional neckties sometimes enable.

Richard, UK

Has anyone ever professed that they were wearing a bow tie by accident? Given how difficult they are to tie (for the inexperienced of course) it would be some coincidence for a series of accidents to lead someone to wear one!


"It is no accident that Feied wears a bow tie: he is devoutly vigilant about stemming the spread of bacterial infections, which traditional neckties sometimes enable."

That's stupid.

I would guess the fact that ties are rarely (if ever) laundered is the reason they contain germs. I don't think whether a piece of fabric is knotted into a bow tie or a long neck tie makes much difference.

-Think Again

re: #2

I guess, Doug, that is why you write to blogs instead of provide meaningful content.


Ever watch your primary care doctor lean over on the counter to write notes? That counter where his tie is dragging is the same one that you (a sick patient?) put your hands all over, and all the patients before you put their hands all over.

Washing would make it clean in the morning, but that's gone by the time 10am rolls around.


I often sleep in a self-wound coccoon of worn neckties to build up my disease immunity.


While I greatly appreciated that you provided the video to Dr. Feied's talk, I think your lead in was inaccurate due to incompleteness - to the point where I wondered if you actually watched the video or just passed it on.

Of course, the current methods of test are ineffective, inaccurate, etc. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

The key point is that the amalgamation and analysis of wide ranging data - including from the emergent fields of genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, etc. - within computer models could foster a much better, and possibly, as forecasted by the current trendlines, a complete understanding of human ailments.


Actually, dry surface to dry surface is a very poor way to spread infection (from an OR study looking at shoes and contaminated but dry floors). Certainly if a tie were to become contaminated by secretions and then touch an area not protected by skin (wound etc)... It is a lot simpler to have a tie tack or pin preventing the tie from going where it should not. Bow ties have a definite advantage in pediatrics, where the tie not only can passively dangle but be actively grabbed.