The emergence of the network society: a matter of life and death

Agent of History

I recently listened to some lectures by American surgeon Dr Atul Gawande. In the first lecture, he told how a basic practical error in a hospital – placing an oxygen probe on the finger of the wrong hand – nearly led to the death of his own 11 year-old son. In the second, he told how a medical team in Klagenfurt, Austria, were able to work together to revive a 3 year-old girl who had ‘drowned’ in an icy lake for a full 30 minutes before she was fished out. At bottom, both episodes are about the issues of process and co-operation. In the first story, Gawande’s son nearly dies due to an absence of even basic checks and collaboration. In the second, a ‘dead’ girl is brought back to life by a team made up of dozens of individuals each playing indispensible roles in carrying out complex procedures…

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