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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 @01:49PM (#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
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yeah but it all boils down to the simplest having the best chance of survival.

      Cockroaches survive better than humans, bacteria survive better than cockroaches, rocks survive better than bacteria, atoms survive better than rocks, etc...

      Simple doesn't always mean "good" though.

    • by ByOhTek (1181381)

      Wow, not only is the FP a GOOD post, but it's probably one of the best the article will see.

      Hats off to you, sir.

    • by emjay88 (1178161)
      In that case, I'll take that bet. This way I can't lose!
  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @01:57PM (#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 @02:03PM (#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.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by qbzzt (11136)

        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.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DeadCatX2 (950953)

          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 ExtraT (704420)

            Could you please point me to a single case of an Likud party member setting out official goals of exterminating all Palestinian Arabs, pushing them out into the sea, calling for kidnappings of Arabs to be held hostage and denouncing Arabs' (any arabs) right to live in the geographical palestine?

            • by DeadCatX2 (950953)

              ...are you for real? So the Israeli settlers aren't stealing land from the Palestinians? Putting up a wall around Gaza so that the population has nowhere else to go isn't going to push them out into the sea?

              Of course they won't make them "official" goals. In this day and age, no one comes out and says they want to engage in genocide. That would be like saying the US tortures. No, we use "enhanced interrogation techniques". And Israel put up the Gaza blockade and dropped white phosphorus on civilians i

              • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

                by ExtraT (704420)

                OK, then, you want to dance? Let's dance :)

                - Majority of the settlements are built on land bought and paid for from it's owners. Please show me a verifiable case of land being "stolen", and also point out who, specifically, it was stolen from. I would like to remind you, that since there has never been any "Palestinian state", ownership of all the land on the occupied territories can be traced to a private individual.

                - Gaza houses a belligerent population, implicated in many murderous attacks on Israeli cit

              • by qbzzt (11136)

                In this day and age, no one comes out and says they want to engage in genocide.

                Hamas Charter [mideastweb.org], article 13.

          • by radtea (464814)

            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 international arms dealers.

            There, now we've all demonized our particular nemesis.

            And remember: pointing out that one party is at fault necessarily means that you 100% in support of absolutely everything all the other parties have ever done or might plan on the doing! That's what keeps the debate pointless and stupid, and if we didn't want pointless an

      • There is one way, both sides have to agree to pursue attacks on the other as the criminal acts that they are. Random guy in Palestine shoots a rocket over the border? He needs to be hunted down and tried for attempted manslaughter, as well as maybe some laws against individuals performing international militant actions. The same goes the other way, if a land developer in Israel illegally tries to build a new apartment block on contested territory, he needs to be tried and punished under similar non-inter

        • That won't work, because a lot of attacks are actual military operations which are viewed to be legitimate by one side but not the other. So you get one class of criminals who have military status, and are therefore immune to prosecution.
      • by yyxx (1812612)

        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

        No, that's where you are wrong. Israel is a functioning democracy with governmental control over the military and settlers; they can stop violence against the Palestinians, even if subgroups disagree. The violent elements within the Palestinians are terrorists, uncontrollable by the state.

        For Israel to demand an end to violence by the Palestinians is therefore a

        • Hamas do have the ability to stop the rockets and have done so in the past for long periods of time, those gestures were largely ignored by Isreal. For it's part Isreal forcibly evicted all jewish settlers from the west bank, that gesture was largely ignored by Hamas.
          • by yyxx (1812612)

            Hamas do have the ability to stop the rockets and have done so in the past for long periods of time, those gestures were largely ignored by Isreal.

            Hamas has some control and some persuasion. But it can't guarantee a stop to terrorist attacks. Furthermore, even that level of control comes at the cost of imposing a police state on the Palestinians.

            For it's part Isreal forcibly evicted all jewish settlers from the west bank, that gesture was largely ignored by Hamas.

            Israel evicted all Jewish settlers from th

        • Even functioning democracies can have different subgroups within them. The USA is a democracy and pretty much every issue has a range of differing opinions. In Israel, there are people who want to stay at the peace talks until an agreement is arrived at and there are people who think the only "agreement" should be achieved with military might. Then there are those (the settlers, for example) who think that the "agreement" will be enforced by God when he restores Israel to its Biblical borders. With thei

          • by yyxx (1812612)

            Even functioning democracies can have different subgroups within them.

            True, but while those subgroups can cause political trouble, they do not commit violence against other nations on their own as long as the democracy is still functioning.

            Then the government is replaced with people less likely to "support them"

            That is a political reality, but it is irrelevant to the negotiations. Israel, as a party to the negotiations, could deliver on a removal of all settlements and a complete ceasefire; Israel doesn't

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by ExtraT (704420)

      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.

      O

      • by AmericanInKiev (453362) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @02:38PM (#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 -

        • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

          by ExtraT (704420)

          I don't talk to ukranian antisemites - go play with someone else.

          • Awww, anyone who doesn't wholeheartedly approve every shitty thing the Jews do is an anti-semite, huh? I like that theory.

            • by ExtraT (704420)

              I'm sorry, but this Jew (me) doesn't like to be called "it".

              Also, he doesn't like to be labelled a homophobe simply because he's a Jew.
              And I don't recall any free passes. Especially not from antisemites like him - his kind (the Ukranian antisemites) were murdering my relatives in WW2 while my grandparents fought against the nazis. So, yes, I'm labelling him an antisemite. Because I can tell. And you, apparently can't.

              Deal with it.

              • So here you accuse one of antisemitism for noting that "the jews", whoever that means, and it isn't at all clear BTW, would benefit their own reputation by avoid even the appearance of assigning blame-by-association. You're generous reply includes both - a condemnation of bigotry, followed by bigotry.

                I suggest you're wrong on both counts:
                1. It is not bigotry to encourage a group to rein in their most radical elements - we should be so lucky to have both the jews and the arabs rein in their radicals - which

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        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

        • by ExtraT (704420)

          Wow, what an incredible collection of anti-Israel propaganda. A real overkill in fact.

          Let's break it down to it's very mundane and often repeated components, shall we?

          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.

          Here we have the anti-Israeli double standard: Any military action done by Israel is inherently and purely OFFENSIVE in nature. Israel NEVER has any reason for self-defense and it is always the first one to attack. The hundreds of Israeli citizens murdered in cold blood are conveniently forgotten and the timeline of the conflict is inverted. N

    • And the Palestinians too, of course.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ExtraT (704420)

      Oh, and by the way: what might be "game theory" to you is actually lives and deaths for people involved. You should be alittle bit more careful with your approach to the subject. It's basic ethics and morality - something that should come as second nature to any wannbe humanist ;)

      • by shentino (1139071)

        Perhaps, but the reality is that often the people that are really making the decisions are self serving bastards.

        Consider a corrupt government that diverts relief funds away from its population and towards its own pocket books.

        I don't donate to relief efforts for this very reason.

        I know it's never going into a starving person's mouth as food, but instead into a terrorist's armory as weapons and ammo.

        • by ExtraT (704420)

          The Arab/Israeli conflict is greatly supported by various mercantile interests: starting from suicide bombers blowing themselves for money (their families get it afterwards), continuing to various politicians making career out of the perpetual (and quite futile) "peace process", and ending with various corporations making money on various projects (weather peace or war related).

          As for charity - any kind of money-based charity is questionable (and ultimately harmful), unless you have direct and total control

      • by rthille (8526)

        A humanist should realize that morals are just the results of genes playing at game theory.

      • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

        by yyxx (1812612)

        It's basic ethics and morality

        Absolutely! And people who believe they have rights over land based on ancient religious texts and define their nation through religion and ethnic origin really fail in the "basic ethics and morality" department.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TheCarp (96830)

      I can't help but laugh at that one.

      Actually, I would say that the problem here is that, your assessment is exactly the one that seems to be used by both sides. So long as that is the perceived situation, there doesn't appear to be any solution but to have them fight it out and go with the winner (which would be Isreal, we are talking about one side that can utterly wipe the other off the face of the planet, and one that can't).

      I would like to think that the reality is, that this assessment is flawed in that

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by BadAnalogyGuy (945258)

        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 Culture20 (968837)

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

      Because the stated goal on the Palestinian side (their current government) is the destruction of Israel and pushing the Jews into the sea.

      If the Palestinians stop and [if] Israel doesn't rescind their apartheid policies,

      Because the stated goal of Israel is apartheid (irrespective of violence from those being kept apart)?

    • by Zeek40 (1017978)
      Excellent post/username combo.
    • 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.

      I'm not sure it's a simple as that. I'm no expert on the subject, but it often seems like each side is going beyond the point of defending themselves and antagonizing the other side. There's a lot of revenge and hatred and contempt going on, which often results in sub-optimal outcomes for everyone involved.

    • by DeadCatX2 (950953) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @02:46PM (#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)

      Simple case of the Prisoner's Dilemma.

      If you can't trust the other side to cooperate, it's foolish to put your own ass on the line.

      And it's always profitable to sucker punch the other side once they let their guard down.

    • If you do your research on game theory, I think you'll find that this is more of an Iterated Prisoner's dilemma, than it is a single instance of the game. If you research your strategies, I think you'll find that the most successful strategy requires that the participants be nice, forgiving, and focused on their own success rather than on beating their opponents.

      Apply that to to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and tell me if your conclusion that violence is still the Nash Equilibrium.

      • I don't think your assumption that both sides want peaceful coexistence is necessarily valid.

        • by Burning1 (204959)

          I'm not basing my opinion on the assumption that each side wants a peaceful coexistence; I'm basing it on the OP's assumption that each side wants to avoid their own casualties.

      • by yyxx (1812612)

        Apply that to to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and tell me if your conclusion that violence is still the Nash Equilibrium.

        For the politicians involved, absolutely: elections and popular support are won most easily by instilling fear of an outside enemy into the population.

        And if you can't fabricate a reason ("Nazi Germany is fighting back against Polish aggression") and don't get one handed on a silver platter (9/11), then you provoke attacks (Israeli settlements and blockades).

        Fear of the outside enemy

    • If both sides stop acting belligerent, there will be peace.

      There are no "both sides" that are acting.

      In Israel, the same entity controls the military and its level of violence, makes decisions on settlement policy, has a functioning police force, and participates in the peace talks.

      For the Palestinians, this is not true. Violence by Palestinians is carried out by a wide variety of forces, many of which are under nobody's control. The people suffering from settlements are your average farmer. And the peop

    • 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.

      Scum? It says they're looking to bacteria not Palestinians....

    • by radtea (464814)

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

      Unfortunately, the biological scum in question has an important characteristic that humans do not. From the article: "Bacteria don't hide their intentions from their peers in the colony, he explains — they don't lie or prevaricate, but communicate their intentions by sending chemical messages among themselves."

      That is what enables colonial decision making of the kind bacteria employ. This is not a moral judgment on humans in general, or on the Israelis or the Palestinians, but a matter of empirical

  • I thought the research was pointing at the fact that bacteria seem to function as collectives and are therefore more complex then their individual components would indicate. http://www.ted.com/talks/bonnie_bassler_on_how_bacteria_communicate.html [ted.com]
  • Confound? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by symes (835608) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @02:04PM (#33874518) Journal
    As far as I can tell, the researcher is comparing clusters of bacteria with individual (human) choice. Surely he should be comparing clusters of bacteria with clusters of people, we already know that crowds tend to perform well. And my guess is that a crowd of people would do a whole load better than a petri dish of bacteria. Even a crowd of students.
    • As far as I can tell, the researcher is comparing clusters of bacteria with individual (human) choice. Surely he should be comparing clusters of bacteria with clusters of people...

      I'm not sure why. They're comparing a cluster of bacteria cells to a cluster of human cells. An individual person is still a cluster of cells.

  • I expect no less from a country whose national sport is the Prisoner's Dilemma.

  • The difference is in the size of the rule set for each individual actor in the group. Otherwise, millionaires, beggars, sheep, voters and slime mold all follow similar structural rules for decision making, en masse.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      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?

      • Um. Yesterday. My very competent manager did not scream at my not so competent co-worker for making irrelevant suggestions about low-risk, low-probability events, because she knew it would help nothing, ruin the purpose of the meeting and so she said nothing, taking the person to task, off-line where only she would have to hear him (unpleasant but necessary).

        And whose community are we talking about here? The collective decisions of billionaires for themselves and their own good aren't going to be the same a

      • by Nethead (1563)

        When was the last time you've seen "restraint in the community" for the greater good of the whole?

        Just a moment ago when I read you sanctimoniously pessimistic statement and DIDN'T push the big red button that is labeled "Nuke From Orbit."

      • "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?"

        The last time I drove thru a green light.
  • "Understanding bacteria's reactions to stressful and hazardous conditions may improve decision-making processes in any human arena from everyday life to political elections."

    Bacteria: Finally, a candidate who tells the truth, never flip-flops, and can really get stuff done!
  • A bacterium, being a highly complex, somewhat random, biochemical mechanism, makes "decisions" based on complex, somewhat random, internal biochemical processing of external chemical and environmental messages. When growing together in large colonies, since this processing is happening in a complex stochastic environment, it is hard to understand the ultimate outcome for the colony and the individuals inside it and, thus, the system seems "mysterious and magical" to us. When bacteria are under high stress

  • by vlm (69642) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @02:18PM (#33874704)

    Individual bacteria weigh their decisions carefully

    OK dude whatever. Ultimate in anthropomorphism. I'm surprised the author didn't describe it as little bacteria surfing wikipedia and using their smartphones and twitter to coordinate their flash mobs.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Uhm, it seems that the author described them as weighing their decisions carefully, not as being a random pack of mindless automata that use twitter, wikipedia and who travel in flash mobs. Give these bacteria some credit.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by tnk1 (899206)

      Yes. As far as I know, all that happens is that bacteria execute a highly evolved instinctive program based on billions of years of trial and error at the generational level. They don't decide to take risks, they simply activate whatever part of their programming is triggered by their environment. More to the point, there is no decision because the individual bacterium has no ability to decide to save itself, even in the face of risk.

      It seems like the only reason their actions compare to human decisions

      • You wouldn't have any clue that humans "weigh decisions" or have any kind of mental life whatsoever either, except that you know from your first-person experience that we do.
        • > ...except that you know from your first-person experience that we do.

          But we only know that he makes noises that we interpret as signifying that he asserts that he has this experience. We have no objective knowledge of his internal state.

  • Give me $100 on black plague.
  • So wait... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Philomage (1851668)
    future humans might add bacteria to their physiological make up to help them make better decisions and this article isn't tagged with "midichlorians"?
  • Excuse me sir, we require all patrons entering the casino to have showered within the last 12 hours. We provide public showers for those we can not determine to be telling the truth.
  • Now I know why some people blow on dice before they throw.
  • and by that I mean the availability of all necessary information. The first thing that I noticed as I actually read the FA was that the bacteria start releasing chemicals to signal there intentions and/or state.

    One of the reasons people make bad decisions is because other people will withold valuable information PRECISELY so that you will make a bad decision. Even if you are in a group that wants to do the right thing there is almost certain that important information lying outside your environment is nec

    • by sznupi (719324)

      They might be withholding something as well... how can we be certain? It's just about finding optimum which is good for the long term prosperity - indeed w might be damn close to it, too. Thing is, to properly gauge it requires perspective far longer than human lifespan.

  • by bobdotorg (598873) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @02:44PM (#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.

  • I decided to scrap my long-winded lecture on this topic in favor of leaving only my concluding statement: I see zero connection between the success of natural selection's random genetic mutation based on massive trial and error and an individual's (in)ability to win a chance hand of poker.
  • I was recently in the position of commenting on an analogy a friend was putting together describing DNA-related processes like transcription. My primary criticism was that certain processes were anthropomorphized. Representing cellular processes (or, more generally, chemical processes) as human activities and "decisions" tends to create confusion about what's really going on.

    And within a week or two of that, I find myself reading a story that bothers to ask why indiviual bacteria don't "try to save themse

  • In the "game" of evolution, winning isn't about an individual, but about traits (genes).

    For complex organisms like humans, the set of traits that I contain is different than the set of traits you contain - so if I breed and you don't, my traits "win" and yours "lose" (loose for the slashbots among us). So a trait that makes me a selfish bastard who screws you at every turn may (not always, but may) be more "successful" than other traits. Put a bunch of people in a position where only one can survive, and th

  • Original Article (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hawkeey (1920310) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @03:31PM (#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]

  • I would think that a colony of bacteria are all (genetically) identical - where as a group of people are not.
    Behavior that enhances the survival of the gene is what is going to be demonstrated - not necessarily survival of an individual.
    A colony of bacteria is more akin to an individual than it is to a group of people, which makes the "sporulating" behavior described more akin to a person moving their hand away from a hot flame - while still staying close enough to a fire to keep warm.
    The article demo
  • bacterial generations are fast.

    they've had a lot more natural selection on their genes than we have.

    Whose to say billions of bacteria don't die in these situations and we are not seeing a decision, but merely the survivors.

    The decision being made by letting unsuited members die.

    Humans do that some, but also they try really hard to sustain defective humans they like.

  • I'm not sure I get this. Bacteria have far less external environment to worry about than humans do. Bacteria do not have to contemplate to hit or stand at the Blackjack table (for humans it's optional but you get the idea). How does studying an organism that can ride through the majority of its life on a near program with little improvised thought assist in human decision making? Ok flame me away now...

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