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Biotech

Gambling On Bacteria 128

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the double-down-on-anthrax dept.
An anonymous reader writes "When it comes to gambling, many people rely on game theory, a branch of applied mathematics that attempts to measure the choices of others to inform their own decisions. It's used in economics, politics, medicine — and, of course, Las Vegas. But recent findings from a Tel Aviv University researcher suggest that we may put ourselves on the winning side if we look to bacteria instead. According to Prof. Eshel Ben-Jacob of Tel Aviv University's School of Physics and Astronomy, current game theory can't account for bacteria's natural decision-making abilities — it's just too simplistic. Understanding bacteria's reactions to stressful and hazardous conditions may improve decision-making processes in any human arena from everyday life to political elections."
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Gambling On Bacteria

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  • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @02:49PM (#33874308)
    Bacteria has the best chance of surviving whatever we do to the planet, so I'm betting the house on Bacteria to win! Not that it will do me much good when it comes time to collect ... sigh
  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @02:57PM (#33874438)

    If both sides stop acting belligerent, there will be peace.
    However, if Israel stops and the Palestinians don't, there will be mass casualties on Israel's side.
    If the Palestinians stop and Israel doesn't rescind their apartheid policies, the Palestinians will lose what little they have.
    If both sides keep fighting, they will both suffer casualties, but they will not lose everything.

    It's interesting that the Israelis are looking to biological scum for guidance in such matters.

  • by Jason Levine (196982) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @03:03PM (#33874510)

    I'll agree to the basic situation you put forward, but of course the situation is trickier than just two groups on opposite sides. Within each group are a bunch of sub-groups along the spectrum of "let's make peace now" and "we won't stop until they are all dead!" Even if you get most of the groups to agree to a peaceful arrangement, the sub-groups who don't agree can spoil it for everyone by causing trouble, leading to increased tension and eventual breakdown of the peace arrangement. It's very unlikely anytime soon that you will get 100% buy in from all sub-groups within both sides. The best you can hope for is a peace that is strong enough to withstand the inevitable bombardment by the sub-groups who don't join until support for them fades. And, in a region where violence is an everyday fact of life, this is going to be very tough to do.

  • by ExtraT (704420) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @03:07PM (#33874554)

    It's interesting how you're pontificating on a subject you evidently know nothing about.

    In fact, the reality of the matter is that the continuing war means doom only for one side - Palestinian. This follows from the fact that to support their war they had to continuously degenerate their own people further and further towards the stone age. At some point, they will be so low on the civilization scale that no amount of leftie wishful thinking would be enough to support them. And that will be their last day.

    On the other hand, the Israeli society is stable and is getting more stable no matter how much you or other people might hope for otherwise. And this piece of news is actually a proof of that: A network of high end, independent educational institutions is a strong sign of a healthy, stable society.

  • by qbzzt (11136) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @03:30PM (#33874850)

    Not to mention that while peace would be better for Israelis and Palestinians, it is not necessarily better for sub-groups of those populations, such as the Hamas leadership.

  • That is an interesting theory, but it would lead to the result that no nation could act rationally since each individual actor acts rationally within his own sphere of influence. But what that fails to recognize is that such seemingly random actions taken in aggregate actually do exhibit a gestalt which can be examined, and this in turn leads us to view groups as single actors with understandable goals and predictable behavior.

  • by AmericanInKiev (453362) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @03:38PM (#33874978) Homepage

    Read Phyrrhic victory. Everytime a jew "wins" by brutalizing an opponent which is inferior and powerless in every way, it gives back more in terms of the international goodwill marked "holocaust" than it gains.

    Oh; and the homophobes in Brooklyn yesterday didn't do "the jews" any favors; especially when there was no condemnation from any other "jewish anti-defamation league".

    Just sayin.

    First the Jews came for the Palestinians, and I was quiet, because they wear towels on their head.
    Then the Jews came for the gays, and I said nothing because my best friend is a Jew.
    Then they came for the Jews, and I pretended they didn't have it coming...

    The free pass your parents got doesn't extend to future generations -

  • by DeadCatX2 (950953) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @03:42PM (#33875050) Journal

    Not to mention that while peace would be better for Israelis and Palestinians, it is not necessarily better for sub-groups of those populations, such as the Likud party.

  • by ComputerGeek01 (1182793) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @03:44PM (#33875068)

    No they don't. Did you read the article? The point of it was the bacteria working toward a common good.

    "Sometimes we need the restraint of the community," says Prof. Ben-Jacob. "As individuals we need to set some boundaries, and not just boost ourselves at the expense of others."

    This right here is the key sentence. When was the last time you've seen "restraint in the community" for the greater good of the whole?

  • by bobdotorg (598873) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @03:44PM (#33875082)

    IAAGT (I am a game theorist)

    I looked (briefly) but did not find the PNAS article, as I suspect that the medical daily article gets it wrong, and that Prof. Eshel Ben-Jacob doesn't bash game theory tools. The Med Daily reporter probably misinterpreted the Prof.'s comments about groups of bacteria versus groups of people.

    Why don't all the cells go into 'survival mode'? It's not the best for the colony, and there are many real world examples of altruistic behavior towards one's family / colony / species.

    One game theoretical model for this looks through an evolutionary lens: the players are species of bacteria and choose species wide traits. One strategy is 'everybody goes into survival mode', the other strategy is '10% go into survival mode'. Through random mutation, chance, whatever... a species picks its strategy, nature makes its move, and the game goes to the next round.

  • by DeadCatX2 (950953) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @03:46PM (#33875102) Journal

    However, if Israel stops and the Palestinians don't, there will be mass casualties on Israel's side.

    Say what?

    Please, compare the number of Israelis (young or old, male or female) that have died at the hands of Palestinians in the last ten years to the number of Palestinian children that died at the hands of Israelis in the last ten months

  • by shentino (1139071) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @04:00PM (#33875308)

    In other words, bacteria cooperate.

    In game theory this is a common phenomenon that collective good is boosted when people aren't selfish.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @04:25PM (#33875680)

    In fact, the reality of the matter is that the continuing war means doom only for one side - Palestinian. This follows from the fact that to support their war they had to continuously degenerate their own people further and further towards the stone age.

    Yes, this has absolutely nothing to do whatsoever with Israel's treatment of the Palestinians including the blockade. Increase the pressure and use the attacks to justified the continued inhuman treatment.

    At some point, they will be so low on the civilization scale

    Note the dehumanisation here. Again, this is in the context of the Palestinians being to blame for their own fate, so not only can we indulge in that human tendency to dehumanise our enemies, we can blame them for it as well.

    And that will be their last day.

    I'm sure you would argue that this is an impartial statement of fact.

    I can assure you that I'm getting a very different (and chilling) vibe from it.

    On the other hand, the Israeli society is stable and is getting more stable

    Israeli society is right wing and getting more right wing. At this point in time, it's probably fair to say that it's inherently right wing, bordering on fascism and that while there are probably many decent Israelis they are quite clearly in the minority and will have no political influence in the remotely forseeable future, so I have no expectation whatsoever of any change in the opposite direction.

    no matter how much you or other people might hope for otherwise.

    Don't worry about it- I think there are a lot of people who have lost hope with Israel, myself included. And please don't tell me that you don't need my support or care what people like me think- that much is obvious.

    A network of high end, independent educational institutions is a strong sign of a healthy, stable society.

    Yes, I'm impressed. You did it all on your own! The strength of Israel has absolutely *nothing* to do with the military and financial support of the world's richest and most powerful country.

  • Original Article (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hawkeey (1920310) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @04:31PM (#33875744)

    The press release does not link the original article(s):

    Bacteria determine fate by playing dice with controlled odds
    Eshel Ben-Jacob and Daniel Schultz
    http://www.pnas.org/content/107/30/13197.full [pnas.org]
    doi: 10.1073/pnas.1008254107

    This is a commentary on:

    Biological role of noise encoded in a genetic network motif
    Mark Kittisopikul and Gürol M. Süel
    http://www.pnas.org/content/107/30/13300.abstract [pnas.org]
    http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1003975107 [doi.org]

    and makes ample reference to

    Architecture-Dependent Noise Discriminates Functionally Analogous Differentiation Circuits
    Tolga Çaatay, Marc Turcotte, Michael B. Elowitz, Jordi Garcia-Ojalvo and Gürol M. Süel
    http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2009.07.046 [doi.org]

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