HEALTH: the measure of a systems condition as a percentage of a supposed potential

Health is the survivability condition of an entity, considered as an averaged assessment of all its operational systems. Whether the entity is a vegetable garden, a human being or a factory, its behaviour will be less than or equal to a hypothetical maximum output. As in numerous comparable scenarios, mathematics could be introduced into the situation to confer a sense of objectivity and cosmic significance to the proceedings. By choosing the condition of death or total dysfunction as the zero reference point, the health of a system could be expressed as a percentage of its hypothetical maximum. Thus whether the entities are biological, financial, administrative or political, any assessment of their level of health could range upwards towards 100% in the direction of maximum potential, and downwards in the unhealthy direction of dysfunction and death. Practical experience tells us that under this analysis some systems could be less than dead. Many political, financial and administrative systems which appear on the surface to be operational are in fact in a state below death, and can only remain in this state of negative percentage health by substantial external inputs. In the case of biological systems, and humans in particular, sustaining less than dead states is technologically possible but expensive, and justifying the continuation of this condition is usually an exercise in legal perversity or religious dementia. For most practical purposes then, a health index so defined would range from slightly over 100%, for those systems which manage to infiltrate undetected input... like an athlete on drugs... down to those systems below 0%... like failed finance companies... which usually have hyperactive PR departments.

Systems wear out and need to have their health monitored on a regular basis. Whilst this is obvious in the case of human bodies and car motors, so also do monetary systems and medical systems become deficient and dysfunctional. Your garden needs a health check. Your house needs a health check. Any system whatsoever needs to be appropriately and regularly repaired in order to continue functioning. Whilst it is amusing to satirically extrapolate the suggested mathematical index and compute a mean percentage fractional health index... obtained from the average fractional efficiency of all interrelated control systems... never-the less, the technologies of sensors and micro-computing make such a development possible and useful. Many engineering and robotic systems are quite capable of self-monitoring and even correction. It may be helpful and cost-effective to have both valuable and invaluable humans monitored on a continuous basis by appropriately located transducers and probes. Linked either by wireless communication or a secondary output plug located via the navel... the other orifices usually being less than convenient... a personal health quotient could be obtained at any time of the day or night, and immediately compared with the mean values from a data-base of the entire terrestrial population. Some of the benefits are immediately obvious. Government agencies could issue real-time bulletins on the state of the nations health that would complement the ones on business confidence. Individuals like journalists could check they were sufficiently above zero before they gave one of their live interviews, otherwise they could simply record the piece and play it live at a later date. One could even graph the general decline of the health quotient with age and use linear regression methods to predict one's demise. When the 0% reference was reached, it would not then come as a surprise when the automatic audio message transmitted to your cochlea implant confirms that you are dead and that the authorities are being notified of your condition and your GPS coordinates.

It has often been seductively suggested that health and happiness are somehow causally related. There may indeed be some evidence for a higher than random correlation, but for a causal relation to be demonstrated it would need to be shown that energy flows from one to the other. No amount of linguistic ingenuity is likely to make that exercise convincing. Just as there is a high correlation as to where the nose and the mouth are located on the human face but no one assumes that one caused the other, so health and happiness may or may not be found in the life of one human and it is not necessary to assume they are linked. There are as many unhappy healthies as there are unhealthy happies. The pragmatist selects one behaviour if it promotes health and selects another behaviour if it promotes happiness. When they conflict... as they inevitably do... it can only be resolved by preferences and priorities.

A fruitful option is to join the gardeners... at least for some of the time. Create a garden. Grow your own apples. Plant the seeds you have saved yourself and harvest you own crops. Participate in the earthy food-chain of continuous life and death. Health will quite likely be one of the consequences and so may a little happiness. An apple a day will at least help keep some iatrogenesis at bay.