WELCOME TO THE FAILURE AGE!
Risk-taking is nothing new, and in the past it was far more exhilarating. In 1903, the Wright brothers invented the world's first successful airplane. In 1969, the first Boeing 747 jumbo jet took off. Such mind-blowing progress happened because we risked the lives of test pilots, crew members and passengers willing to fly in imperfect aircraft. The consequence of failure was often death. I am delighted by the toys and innovations of modern technology. I also believe that individuals must navigate the economic instability we foisted upon ourselves by creating such a brave, new high-tech world. But let's have a little perspective before we get too impressed by the relatively minor risks we take in today's digital age. JASON, France, posted on nytimes.com
My company recently gave a retirement send-off to someone who started his career there 40 years ago. In his thank-you speech, he recounted how his job had changed over the years, from skilled manual labor to high-tech work. The company retrained him at every step. Compare this with most jobs in today's corporations, where the onus is on the employees to keep reinventing themselves. This mantra that we're all in charge of our own personal brand is really a way of saying that companies have no responsibility toward their employees and should be able to discard them as they see fit. FELICITY CARTER, Germany, posted on nytimes.com
WHY ARE SO FEW BLOCKBUSTER DRUGS INVENTED TODAY?
Poor execution of the scientific method is the reason we have so few new drugs. Successful drug discovery requires researchers to test questions by using controls that ensure a ''yes'' or ''no'' answer. An experiment can be designed with several yes-or-no questions in it, but each question must be answered independently, with its own set of controls. Big-data research techniques used in genomic research have encouraged what is called ''shotgun'' research, in which scientists research questions they cannot definitively answer because they haven't included proper controls. CYNTHIA L. BRISTOW, New York, posted on nytimes.com
Drug research and development is expensive because of increased understanding about the adverse effects of trial medications. Major pharmaceutical companies have the difficult challenge of telling shareholders about these realities. In addition, leadership in this highly regulated industry tends toward risk aversion, a trait ill suited for risky research. The future of drug discovery is a series of collaborations -- first between academics and entrepreneurs at the highest-risk end, then a company and the venture capital firm that funds it, and finally the few successes and the major pharmaceutical companies that acquire them. MARK STIDHAM, San Diego, posted on nytimes.com
VIRTUAL REALITY FAILS ITS WAY TO SUCCESS
It's a little bit sad that virtual-reality manufacturers are insisting on perfection before releasing their products. One of the joys of the modern computer era has been learning with designers and producers how technology should work, buying the rough-and-ready early versions of products before their kinks have been worked out. The original iPhone was far from perfect, but it was made better by jailbreaking and the development community (many of whose hacks were subsequently adopted by Apple). Hopefully the Oculus Rift won't get it entirely right the first time, so us layfolks can participate in the discovery phase. NICK BEAUCHAMP, Boston, posted on nytimes.com
PHOTO (PHOTOGRAPH BY SAM KAPLAN) CHART: ANALYTICS: Watching the Watchers: Beverly Gage's essay on a vicious letter from the F.B.I. to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had readers debating domestic surveillance.