The basic statement
It is often difficult to tell if the functional claims of a new product or practice are solid and honest, or if they are just the result of wishful thinking, perhaps even with a touch of fraudulent behavior.
I’m unfolding the consumer’s and the scientist’s views, both of interest in relation to the basic statement above.
The consumer’s way
Ever since the dawn of enlightenment, the consumer’s appreciation of logical reasoning and trust in the scientific method has been following a positive trend (more or less). Hence, today’s consumers are not prone to use snake-oil as the first line of remedy when there are alternative medicines out there, with proven effect and acceptable safety. The optimistic and humble consumer is, however, biased with human traits such as trust in the unobvious self-made expert and by the general opinion. Such consumers often bring promising novel gadgets and ways of doing things into general use, before it is realized that their utility doesn’t match the original claims. The waste of money, time and potential secondary harm this behavior results in can hardly be overstated.
The scientist’s way
The way a scientist approaches progress towards new knowledge is by adhering to the scientific method. The basic idea behind this method, to keep in mind for practical purposes, may be summarized in a very condensed form as:
“use lots of your time and resources to constantly try to trash (by smart experiments with a clear read-out) what you hope to be true (the hypothesis)”
At first, this may seem a little counterproductive, but one will soon realize that this principle helps you avoid dead-ends or will, at least, give you an early hint to back out from the entrance of the same. I’ve chosen to derive this simple principle from the scientific method to call it “the scientist’s way”, but it could equally well have been called “the smart project leader’s way” (compare “kill your darlings”), “the responsible politician’s way” or “the life appreciating climber’s way”, by incorporating at the end “the possibility of reaching the project goal”, “the assumed effect in society” and “a positive hand hold after a dynamic move”, respectively. First after having put appropriate effort in trying to trash the possibility of a positive outcome, you may dare to make radical and sometimes irreversible changes of a position that may be far from perfect, but perhaps just good enough.
An analysis of the current situation
Having been engaged, as well as presently being engaged, in sometimes rather toxic and lengthy debates, it eventually became obvious to me that lots of silly combat could have been avoided, had only the appropriate, independent and scientifically stringent experiment with publicly available results been carried out. The problem is only that it is not obvious who should carry out and pay for such an experiment, even if it is clear that all parts would benefit from the results thereof. The seller of the gadget under question has no interest in sponsoring such an experiment as long as the gadget is selling OK (despite some criticism against its claimed function). The historic big-buyer of the gadget are quite reluctant to see the results of such an experiment, as it may prove that such a big-byer has been fooled by the seller. The consumer’s rights organizations have internal committees making the choices on what to investigate and what to leave behind. The response time for such an organization to carry out practicalities is often unacceptably long, even after a highly valid case has been presented.
My personal proposal and offer
Taking above analysis together with the noted success of open crowdfunding of projects that aim at various products (often electronic gadgets), as well as the promising use of such crowdfunding in charity and even science projects, I suggest:
Crowdfunding of critical and stringent experiments of which the results are to be publicly disclosed and which would provide the consumer with critical information to aid the decision on whether to purchase or not.
This WEB-page is a first attempt, from my side, to make this kind of crowdfunding possible. I have long experience in R&D, academic as well as within the private sector. My major time has, the last few years, been devoted to the development of new innovative products, with a reasonably good track record. On basis of this and since there is still a lack of this kind of simple and direct crowdfunding, I hereby offer my services to the community in handling this kind of service. It will (at least in the beginning) have to rely on your personal trust in me to handle your crowdfunding donations. In return, I promise to do the best I can to design / come with input on experimental designs, identify independent research organizations that could carry out the experiments, make sure that all results are made fully publicly available and help organize and keep track of potential experiments to carry out. In short, I’d simply like to contribute with what I can do to ameliorate a somewhat serious problem, as cited below:
“One of the biggest problems with the world today is that we have large groups of people who will accept whatever they hear on the grapevine, just because it suits their worldview—not because it is actually true or because they have evidence to support it. The really striking thing is that it would not take much effort to establish validity in most of these cases… but people prefer reassurance to research.”
― Neil deGrasse Tyson
I’d appreciate if you’d send me a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with comments, suggestions or perhaps input on potential future experiments that ought to be carried out.
Lund, Sweden, May 18, 2019
David Wensbo Posaric (”DWP” herein and on other fora)