I’d never heard of parallel computing before, either. But as I understand concept, it has to do with trying to figure a bunch of calculations all at the same time. Using computers, one assumes.
The general idea behind something called Amdahl’s argument, though, sounds more familiar.
Named for computer architect Gene Amdahl, this “law” refers to how much improvement you’re going to get in an overall system when you’ve upgraded only part of that system. In parallel computing, they worry about this sort of thing when trying to determine how fast they can get answers while running lots of processors at the same time.
Amdahl might suggest that while you’ve made some bits better, the parts that are still dysfunctional — that is, broken — in time will mess up everything else.
Which brings us to the colossus soon to barrel down on businesses known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The sheer heft and complexity of this beast undoubtedly will produce consequences we’ve yet to fathom.
(See: Law of Unintended Consequences, as conceived by 18th century philosopher and economist Adam Smith. Or as could be interpreted in contemporary parlance, Tag, you’re it.)
Here’s one possible future fork in the health-care road: A number of companies have stated they’re seriously contemplating getting out of the health-benefits racket. HR company Mercer found that more than 20 percent of businesses with fewer than 500 employees (the official definition of a small business) are pretty certain they’re going to drop health benefits; lots of bigger companies are giving it a ponder, too, according to the consulting company’s July 2012 survey.
So here’s my question: What then will happen to all the wellness programs that have become ingrained into our daily work lives? The meetings with health “coaches,” the lunchtime walks with co-workers, the smoke-outs, weigh-ins, gym discounts and other strength-in-numbers activities?
If we aren’t required to participate to receive a discount on an employer-sponsored health program, will we still care about counting carbs or skipping that cigarette as we walk to the parking lot?
And what’ll become of all those brightly colored, self-congratulatory T-shirts?
Something like 80 percent of large companies today offer some kind of wellness program, Morgan Downey, editor of the Downey Obesity Report blog, told NPR last month. And in 2014, companies will be allowed to fatten the amount of the discount on your health premiums if you meet wellness goals — by 30 to 50 percent. (The cap is 20 percent today.)
That is, of course, if they’re still offering health benefits.
An entire consulting industry has thrived over the past couple decades from the notion of workplace-encouraged wellness activities. Some provide excellent guidance and monitoring services into health concerns that, let’s face it, lots of us otherwise would ignore.
The well-meaning point of the Affordable Care Act was to make us more healthy — or at least less unhealthy. Long-lived, less-costly citizens.
This particular consequence could come to be known as the Amdahl’s Law of Unintended Inches.