A placebo is something that makes you feel better because you think it will: like a sugar pill shaped like an aspirin that cures your headache simply because you believe in it.
Although lately research has shown the effect can work even when people are told they’re taking a placebo.
Which got a Seattle entrepreneur named Daniel Jacobs thinking, suppose you could put a placebo app on a smart phone. And so that’s what he’s developing. The app is called Placebo Effect, and you’d begin by telling it that, for example, you have a migraine.
“And the next thing that you would see, is you would see a screen that allows you to choose how you feel right now, effectively how your migraine feels,” said Jacobs.
“The next thing we would ask is, ‘Who is the best person to help you effectively relieve that migraine?'”
So you choose a favorite person, you choose a favorite place, and then you choose your type of placebo – and you’re not limited to a pill.
“There are placebo syringes and there’s even placebo surgery, where people effectively are given fake surgery, you know a split is put into their head,” said Jacobs.
And then, like a mad lib, the Placebo Effect App combines your favorite person, your favorite place, and your preferred placebo, and assembles a visual or written narration on your phone describing your customized treatment – and that’s what makes you feel better.
“It’s not to create miracles, you know we’re not God, but it is to create a sandbox in which in a sense miracles can happen,” said Jacobs.
Jacobs is crowd sourcing the start-up money for his smart phone app right now. Although never mind the smart phone, I could placebo-treat you over the radio: Imagine two powerful aspirin. Imagine swallowing them. Now imagine calling me in the morning. Oh the pharmacetical companies are not gonna be happy.