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Gambling On Bacteria 128

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 Gorkamecha ( 948294 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @03:01PM (#33874484)
    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. []
  • Confound? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by symes ( 835608 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @03:04PM (#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.
  • by ExtraT ( 704420 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @03:12PM (#33874612)

    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 ;)

  • 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 "massive casualties" on each side are valued more than massive casualties on the other side. Either way, its peoples lives.

    I tend to think that the reality is more nuanced. If Isreal backs off, yes, there would be more casualties. However, I don't see the Palestinians maintaining an elevated level of casualties in such a situation. Its just plain hard to justify continued attacks against someone who is backing down and giving you reasonable things that you asked for.

    My own application of game theory is that, in the medium term, such a strategy would drive a wedge within the Palestinian opposition and erode anti-isreali sentiment.

    The bigger problem that I see, is Isreal internally weathering the short term storm and not swinging back towards ultra nationalism and changing course back.

    Essentially, I would liken such a process to a couple of bipolar people who hate taking their meds.

    Thats the problem with game theory, in these situations, you can't assume a "nation" is a single rational actor. Its a play of internal actors playing out their own games, for the chance to control the overall strategy.

    Imagine... playing risk, but instead of having players, each color is a group of people who are constantly playing a game of poker on the side to determine who makes the moves. I think thats a far better way to think about it.


  • by maweki ( 999634 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @12:21AM (#33879424) Homepage
    I say, the palestinians should go where they came from!

Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.