In Tom Peters’ 2003 book Re-Imagine, he relates the tale of the Chief of Cardiology at the University of Lund in Norway going head-to-head against a piece of software trying to spot myocardial infarctions [heart attacks to you and me].
The Chief of Cardiology and his team did very well, but the computer kicked their collective ass. Technically speaking, I seem to remember them wittering on about a “statistically significant” difference with a “high confidence level,” but essentially, we’re talking about a cheap microchip and a bunch of ones and zeros giving some medical butts a serious kicking.

Hmmm.

Roll the clock forward a bit and I’m reading a piece in The Spectator in 2005 about US citizens getting their tax returns completed for one-twelfth of the normal cost by sending the shoebox full of receipts to an accountant in India. The number of people doing this was quadrupling each year and was approaching half a million at the time I saw it.

Hmmm.

Yesterday evening, I was perusing Mr Godin’s latest offering, Meatball Sundae, and I came across this passage:

The New York Times reports that for decades, the Catholic Church has been outsourcing the duties of saying special prayers and requiems to priests in Kerala, India. According to the Times, the Reverend Paul Thelakkat, a Cochin-based spokesman for the Synod of Bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church said, “The prayer is heartfelt, and every prayer is treated the same as whether it is paid for in dollars, euros, or in rupees.” It’s worth noting that a prayer purchased locally costs about ninety cents, while the standard price in Europe or the United States for the same prayer is five dollars.

I squirted tea out of my nostrils and all over a very nice shirt when I read this passage. Seth, you’ve really got to come up with some kind of warning system when you write stuff like this. Seriously. I loved that shirt.

Reactions:

  1. Hmmmm – India again.
  2. Decades? I always thought those stiff white collars would cut off blood supply to your brain. Apparently not.
  3. Paying for prayers and selling them on? Isn’t this the sort of stuff that had Martin Luther nailing 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg?

Incidentally, Meatball Sundae is a must-read. Mind-expanding stuff for people who aren’t up to speed on the interwebs and, for those who think they are up to speed, a source of great stories for dinner parties, presentations etc. Great, great stuff. I could grow to hate that man …