Toward Systems Biology

May 30 - 31, June 1, 2011


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Bacteria Game Theory

Bacteria, the first and most fundamental of all organisms, lead rich social life in complex hierarchical communities. Collectively, they gather information from the environment, learn from past experience, and take decisions. To solve the new encountered problems they first asses the problem via collective sensing, recall stored information of past experience and then execute distributed information processing of the bacteria in the colony. The billions of bacteria in the colony use sophisticated communication strategies to link the intracellular computation networks of each bacterium (including signaling path ways of billions of molecules) into a network of networks. I will then show illuminating movies of swarming intelligence of live bacteria in which they solve challenging optimization problems for collective decision making. I will explain that current game theory is too simplistic to account for bacteria decision making and that understanding bacteria's reactions to stressful and hazardous conditions may improve decision-making processes in human arena. When human beings make a decision they think they're being rational. We now understand that they're influenced by superfluous 'noise,' such as their cognitive state and the influence of others. Bacteria are both simpler and more sophisticated — they can more effectively control this superfluous noise and make group decisions that contribute to the well-being of the entire bacterial colony.

Eshel Ben Jacob, Tel-Aviv University