TED Conversations

Dyed All Hues

Thinker and Experimenter,


This conversation is closed. Start a new conversation
or join one »

Should we hear/read/learn about the failures of things; especially if it was "scandalous" and they become successful from hiding it?

Ben Goldacre states that studies of medicine done on humans that are failures should be published. I agree. I think failures are something everyone wants to hide, but how can we learn if can't learn what not to do or what bad signs to look for.

Shouldn't this pertain to all other institutions as well, such as; education, government, religion, health, organizations, businesses, safety enforcers, and so on and so forth. I would also go so far as to say that people should be a bit more open about their own errors, but I don't think I would say lay it all on the table.

So should we know about the failures aside from the successes of things?

Update: Thanks to Fritzie for introducing us to this interesting link that "illuminates" failures.


progress indicator
  • thumb
    Sep 29 2012: Here is a link, Derek, to the Journal of Errology, an academic journal that publishes articles in which scientists share their failed experiments and the lessons and cautions others in their disciplines could take away from those experiences. Because scientific journals typically publish findings of experiments that were properly executed with interesting results, the staff of this journal saw a niche for a journal to illuminate serious research efforts that failed and the reasons for their failure.

    This sharing has potential to help other researchers avoid the same errors of execution.

    • thumb
      Sep 30 2012: Yay, Fritzie! I'm going to post this in the description for anyone's' future reference. =)

      Thank you for the link!
      • thumb
        Oct 2 2012: Derek, I am afraid your reference to me above makes it seem that the existence of the Journal of Errology is thanks to me! I only told you about it.
        • thumb
          Oct 2 2012: LOL! I will rephrase that error. =)
        • thumb
          Oct 2 2012: Oh and I just realized some irony of the situation...haha!
  • thumb
    Sep 29 2012: Hi Derek,
    I believe EVERYTHING is an opportunity to learn, grow and evolve as individuals, and as a whole, so I do not perceive very many "failures", or "mistakes". Every step taken, is another step along the journey of learning. That being said, there are certainly things that are more or less useful to us as individuals and the whole. When we openly consider and evaluate ALL information, we are better able to move forward with good intent, making well informed decisions, so I like to look at, and consider all available information. I would not deprive myself of the opportunity to make well informed choices.
    • thumb
      Sep 30 2012: Yes! "Well informed decisions" is one of the best ways to look at the concept of failures! I love information, even when sometimes it takes me awhile to understand, I still drink from the chalice of knowledge. =)
      • thumb
        Oct 13 2012: Dear Derek,
        Is your "chalice of knowledge" overflowing yet? :>)

        I believe that all organizations, including "education, government, religion, health,...businesses, safety enforcers, and so on and so forth" are more credible when they are open regarding their activities. I believe as individuals, and organizations, our credibility is challenged if we are not open and honest. That being said, as individuals, it is wise to choose with whom we want to "lay it all on the table", and what information we choose to share with others at any given time:>)
        • thumb
          Oct 13 2012: I pick (D) agree with all of the above in Colleens comment.
          I can only gain enough knowledge as the pool of knowledge and it seems pretty plentiful from my perspective. =D

          Thank you Colleen.
      • thumb
        Oct 18 2012: I agree Derek, that the pool of knowledge is HUGE...especially with our continually improving communication systems! It is becoming more and more difficult to hide information now, and I believe that will be helpful to our global community as we are moving through positive changes, which I believe is happening.

        Abuse and violation of human rights, for example, happens more when people are isolated, and isolation is becoming more difficult, because of instant communications around the world. Corruption in government, churches, business, etc., is getting more difficult because of our advanced communication systems. TED is a very good example of people connecting, learning about what is happening in other parts of the world. It is quite amazing that so much information is available to us immediately. That's all we need to have, as individuals, is open hearts and minds to be willing to listen to each other respectfully:>)
  • Oct 1 2012: If 36 failures exist and 38 successes, then this trial is bluntly NOT a success. I agree with you, if everyone would accept the above statement as a definition of "(NO) SUCCESS". I also agree that all sectors of life has to ask this question, but at the same time, the sector of Medicine is risking others Life, which is just too costly, compared to most other sectors. I see this as an "ETHICAL" problem and not really a scientific or administrative problem ... And, in my opinion, Ben Goldacre has put this in a very polished and acceptable way, which can be "digested" by the pharma industry if it wants to.
    • thumb
      Oct 2 2012: That is very true. It is a very important ethical issue that should get more exposure. If you have ever watched those 20/20 specials or some special report, they talked about pharma companies using any means possible to get their product on the shelves, example seduction. Crazy how people who are saving peoples lives are just as likely to corrupt as the mobster down in the alley. Don't doctors need to take a Hippocratic oath or don't they have a more logical or scientific train of thinking?! I guess I assume too much, but I wish these great institutions would just be somewhat more ethical than the person down at my fast food joint....=/
  • Sep 29 2012: Yes we should know about failures aside from the success. What steps did you take to recieve your success? what decisions were made that lead you to take that path? What does history show where past failings are still happening today? ... war, kaos and peace, trust and betrayal, it is all part of what makes us ... submissive information will only keep people in the dark. For people who may struggle with failure, just knowing that others can make the same bad choices may be more comforting than you think, to see that we are not alone on what ever it is you're doing. The true failure would be if we stopped trying because of it.
    • thumb
      Sep 30 2012: Thank you for the inspiring comment Carla! You Move Me! =D

      Examination and Analysis is some of humans greatest tools for innovation!
  • Sep 29 2012: Failures should not be given as much publicity as successes because of the people whose perspective of failure is not helpful to humanity and the society.
    There are people who see failure as an evidence of impossibility, or as a sign that things will never change. These people need to be protected from the minor setback
    However there are people who intend to learn from their mistakes or from the mistakes of other people. These people would view failure from a right perspective.

    It would be hard to talk about your failures when you have not changed the story with an obvious evidence of success. Then it would seem as if such an individual has had nothing to show for all the hardwork except a series of failures.
    But the story becomes inspiring when one speaks of the failures of the past while celebrating the success of the moment.
    • Sep 29 2012: Are you suggesting that out of sight is out of mind?
    • thumb
      Sep 30 2012: Not to be cliche, but I will be, "there is always a silver lining to every situation".

      I believe that failures of studies, history, and certain situations in peoples lives should be announced and made known. In the scientific perspective, the build-up of empirical evidence should be shared with the general public. I would want to know if the mouse they experimented on turned into a zombie, maybe if the evidence describes how to make the medicine hurt people, then I think that people will use that information as they would without knowing if someone who takes more than x number of pills would hurt them or they will know the effects. People with bad intentions will have bad actions and people with good intentions will have good actions, but that isn't always true, also mistakes and accidents happen. Failures allow us to examine the best equation for the least damage or for others the worst.....just hope for the best and continue living.
  • thumb
    Oct 18 2012: Derek, Sure we all want to know if the product we are using will end in Funny Looking Kids (FLK). But the real truth here is lawyers. Have you ever listened/read of "the possible side effects of this product". After listening to what may occur if I take the pill I have decided to take a chance that I will not die from the ailment. No lawyer would ever let a company discuss all of the steps forward and backward in the development. The bottom line is profits. If the company can make a trillion in profits and thinks they may be sued for a few million then they would give the green light. That is not saying they knew of the problem but as a result of normal business risk.

    Doctors are not magical. They read and treat symthoms. There is a book published that lists the best known meds to eliminate those symthoms. It tells them the good and bad of the med. The doctor reviews your file and then decides if it is right for you. New meds are introduced and doctors read reviews and journals on the effects and successes but I would say most stick to the tried and proven meds.

    The real winners here are the lawyers. The real losers are the patients. The common denominator in the equation is that corporations, doctors, and patients all seek legal representation and the lawyer gets paid win or lose.

    Hope I understood the question. Bob
    • thumb
      Oct 19 2012: Lawyers are a funny category to introduce, but you have a point. I think you are saying in your response that lawyers are a sorry lot and they gain from others joy or misery? I don't think it is plausible to take away lawyers in the near future, unless everyone knows their rights, laws, and articulates great arguments in the future.

      On the other note, the best possible solution for proper medication and diagnosing patients would be for doctors to warn other doctors of possible signs of diseases or their special case scenario. It is important for a health care or service provider to know the in's and out's of their field or a specific patient of theirs because it's all about life and death in a persons' mind and it should also be on the service providers mind too.

      Thanks for reading my thoughts. =)
  • Comment deleted

    • thumb
      Oct 2 2012: What I mean is that people(s) who have failed should talk about their failures personally, and not have some third party, like the news, broadcast their failures. I think it would be a better learning experience for both the group/individual as well as the group/individual receiving the information. Goldacre talks about peer reviewed data and how the failures are usually not published, due to detracting credit from a group/individual like pharmaceutical companies.

      I feel as though my description explains this point somewhat clearly, but if there is anything more specific you'd like me to clarify, please feel free to ask. =)
      • Comment deleted

        • thumb
          Oct 2 2012: Aha...that sounds like a good i-dear.
        • thumb
          Oct 2 2012: I feel like my rephrased question has a better ring to it?