“The Emperor of All Maladies”: Why Our Society Overfunds Internet Companies and Underfunds Cancer Research

“The Emperor of All Maladies”: Why Our Society Overfunds Internet Companies and Underfunds Cancer Research.” By Glen Kelman, LinkedIn.com.

This post is part of a series in which Influencers describe the books that changed them. Follow the channel to see the full list.

A few years ago, I was on a train to the airport for a flight to a wedding when my mother called to say that she had cancer. The train had just stopped to get more passengers. When I looked up, the door was already about to close. I realized then that life is divided into two phases and that the second phase, when you know you’re going to die, is very short. I got off the train.

What happened to my mother in her second phase would be unbearably dramatic except it’s so commonplace: the bad news, delivered in fluorescent-lit rooms while bridge cards drooped in our hands. The way we lay down together when she was in pain, and how I felt when I could get up to leave. My mom’s announcement, after a manic effort to cook a vast Christmas dinner, that she was very, very tired.

After her death, I picked up “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer.” . . . . At a time when science is being questioned by a public that frets over evidence-based medicine, vaccinations, genetically modified foods, evolution and global warming, it is a relief to see an Oprah-recommended book discuss Her-2 antibodies. After all, the entire delicate system underpinning a science-based society — the prestige of being a scientist, the public funding to pursue the truth, the collective will to solve a problem — depends on our humble agreement to act on facts. . . . [Yet] money, talent and prestige are gushing out of science into computer science on a global scale.

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