Monday, November 22, 2004


I'm always impressed by what we don't know. Living on the edge of knowledge is more interesting than cramming facts. In the December Scientific American, an article asks a simple question, "Are Viruses Alive?" It turns out this question has no answer because one must first define living versus dead at a biological level then determine if the parasitical nature of a virus qualifies it as living or mechanical process. No one can agree on either fact set yet.

I thought this fascinating and mentioned it to an acquaintance who is an immunologist and an executive editor of a science publication. Her response? "Who cares?" Her view is that it isn't necessary to know whether a virus is living or dead to work with it. That same attitude arose when quantum mathematics were developed in the early 20th Century. Einstein fought against quantum concepts but scientists used them because they explained things.

Pragmatism also should be the view communicators take. We shouldn't care what medium we use as long as we achieve results we want. Dividing media into disciplines is interesting, but who cares other than those doing the dividing. CEOs want results. They don't care if communicators use media placement, advertising, direct, web or something else. That's why when we counsel clients we should be careful not to bias advice toward what we know best. We should know the attributes of media and recommend what is best for a client whether we do it or not. It is honest and builds credibility. How many of us actually do that?


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