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How Good Are You At Simple Maths? Maybe Not As Good As You Think.

Mathematics is not always as simple as two and two making four. Some particular problems are so counter-intuitive that they’ll make your head spin. And we aren’t talking about quantum physics or binomial equations, we are talking about simple fractions. Something you would have learned in Primary School. The most famous of these is the Monty Hall Problem, though there are plenty more. The mind does funny things when faced with problems of ‘chance’. and these brief thought experiments demonstrates how bizarre probability can be. So we will place a bet, if you get this wrong, give it a share.

A Good Problem

The Monty Hall problem refers to a US 1960’s game show called ‘Let’s Make A Deal‘ whose host was Monty Hall. The show involved three doors. In this case, a goat, another goat, and a roadster. When we talk about the statistics problem, we can imagine that we are contestants on ‘Let’s Make A Deal‘. There are three doors with three prizes, and we want to guess the best door for the best prize. We could win one of two goats or a roadster. We want the roadster, so we wish to maximise our chances of making the ‘right guess’.

Your chance here of picking the roadster, based on the knowledge you have, is 1/3. One door in three. Pretty simple. But let’s make it a little harder. The host, Monty Hall, shows us the prizes and shuffles them behind doors number 1, 2 and 3. After some thought, we decide to pick the second door. We’re about to open the door, when the host (who knows where everything is), opens the third door to reveal one of the goats. He then asks us “Do you want to change your mind?” (i.e do you want to stay with door number 2, or switch to door number 1.)

So what do you do? Do you stay or switch? It seems like a 50/50 chance of winning the roadster. But actually, it isn’t. There is a hidden factor. But, you can make a decision here which increases your chances of winning. Figured it out yet? This is the Monty Hall problem. Is it to our advantage to switch our selection? If you haven’t heard of the problem before, think about it while I explain the history to you. The puzzle was first posed in an American mathematical magazine, with the answer appearing later down the line. The answer, being not what you’d expect, caused a media furore against Marilyn Vos Savant, the woman who’d explained the solution.

Are you ready for the answer?

A Simple Paradox

Believe it or not, the best move is to switch doors. You know door 3 has a goat behind it, so door 1 and 2 are left. So you switch to door one, and it is opened to reveal the luxury red roadster. But why was it beneficial to change your mind here?

In the beginning, the roadster has a 1/3 chance of being behind each door.

1      2      3

1/3    1/3    1/3

You pick 2, which has equal probability of being any of the prizes that point, a third chance. The host, then reveals to you a goat.

1        2         3

1/2    1/3    Goat

At this point, your original choice remains one in three whereas the other door has half of chance of being the roadster. The answer lies with the assumptions of the problem. As the host is aware of where each prize is hidden, he cannot open a door to reveal a roadster (he would lose the show money! He has all of the information and by revealing the goat to you, he imparts some information which alters the balance of probability. As one mathematician points out: “Probabilities are expressions of our ignorance about the world, and new information can change the extent of our ignorance.” This is the simpler version of the proof, but requires a little more heavy work to explain it fully.

goat monty hall maths paradox

Do you want a Goat, or a Roadster? You can cuddle either, and ride both. But one bites. Image courtesy of Tamsin Cooper

So bear with us.

The Best Solution

They key to solving the problem is the following assumptions:

  1. At the start you have a 1/3 chance of getting the roadster and a 2/3 chance of getting a goat. So you picked a door (door 2 in this case.)
  2. The host opened a door (door 3 in this case,) which had a goat behind it.
  3. The host will not help you win, so his behaviour would directly effect your chances of winning the roadster.
  4. So at this point instead of the remaining doors having a 50:50 chance, you must now account for another factor, the probability that the host may force you to lose.
  5. By multiplying together the probabilities, you can get a clear answer of the ‘best’ door to pick.
  6. Remember,  you don’t know what is behind your door (2), or the other one (3.)

Take a moment to read that again. You aren’t dealing with just a 1/3 chance anymore, you are dealing with a multiplicity of uncertainty where you must account for a combination of the hosts effect on outcome (1/2) and your original choice of winning (1/3.) So let’s see what happens when you apply the math in each case. Each fraction is here is your chance of winning if you switch in each case;

1: You picked a goat (2/3 chance of doing so). The host reveals the remaining goat behind door (1/2 of doing so), he cannot reveal the car. (2/3 x 1/2 = 1/3) Your chance of winning is 1/3.

2: You picked a car (1/3 chance of doing so). The host reveals a goat behind door 3 (1/2 chance of doing so). (1/3 x 1/2 = 1/6) Your chance of winning is 1/6.

3: You picked a car (1/3 chance of doing so). The host reveals a goat behind door 2 (1/2 chance of doing so). (1/3 x 1/2 = 1/6) Your chance of winning is 1/6.

4: You picked a the other goat (2/3). The host reveals the remaining goat behind door 2 or 3 (1/2) again, he cannot reveal the car. (2/3 x 1/2 = 1/3.) Your chance of winning is 1/3.

So now we can add the probabilities together. If we talk options 1 and 4 (i.e you picked either goat,) your chance of winning by switching = 1/3 + 1/3 = 2/3.  If you picked a car, (options 2 and 3) then your chances of winning by switching are 1/6 +1/6 = 2/6 = 1/3.  So comparing the probabilities, if you pick a goat door, and the host doesn’t want you to win, then you best switch (2/3 chance of winning. If you picked the car door, and the host doesn’t want you to win, you best not switch (1 – 1/3 = 2/3.) Admittedly, and some of you may have spotted this already, if the host was not biased, or wanted you to win, the answer may be different. Let us know what you find in the comments below.

goat roadster monty hall problem paradox

Einstein may even have had trouble with this one.
Image courtesy of Tom Haex

If this still sounds strange to you, don’t worry; you’re not alone. After Vos Savant published her proof, many attacked her and claimed that she was wrong despite many simulations and proofs. Even the (arguably) greatest mathematician alive at that point Paul Erdős wasn’t convinced at first. This is an example of veredical paradox; that is, a situation or result which at first appears to be wrong but can be demonstrated to be true. How many of your friends do you feel would get it right first time?

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The opinions expressed in this article are those of Dr George Aitch and Dr Janaway alone and may not represent those of their affiliates. Images courtesy of flickr. Note from the Editor:  I had to write this out and work out the fractions myself before I was convinced (lights cigarette, stares blankly into the sea listening to soft circus music.)

 

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Should We Message The Programmer? The Ethics Of A Simulated World

Having discussed how you should generally approach living in a simulated world in our last article, we can now enquire a little further into specific acts. And, don’t worry, we will cover a fair few. So lets talk about Genocide through knowledge. In fact, let’s ask the question a different way. If you ran the risk of destroying the entire simulation universe simply through sending a message to it’s creator, should you? Or would the potential benefits of talking to it’s ‘creator’ outweigh the risks? And how even may you contact them, let alone convince them either way? Today we will consider an automatic message, i.e ‘universe.exe’ realises that ‘entity x’ has become aware. Let’s take another trip into a simulated universe through a thought experiment.

‘Why does the eye see a thing more clearly in dreams than the imagination when awake?’ – Leonardo Da Vinci.

Messages and Knowledge

Firstly we must consider why, not how, we have come to be in a simulation. And the two main theories, based on why we ourselves would create one, would be either ‘for entertainment’ or ‘for experiment.’ Although both seem simple, each is full of a multitude of ethical concerns and open questions. So lets start by saying what we can, that is logical and valid, for both. Firstly, there is significant evidence that we are living in a simulation. Simulations are built on some sort of code, that is readable and checkable. Certain actions of the simulation may prompt review by its creator and user, much like an ‘Error’ on your PC. And that prompt can be automatically or manually dealt with. For example (in a manual response;)

Observation: Entity no. 3216732178 has become aware of ‘universe.exe’

Warning: Universe.exe ”experimental” parameters now biased. Terminate program Y/N?

science philosophy dream simulation

The Universe may be beautiful, but can we destroy it with knowledge?

We can be assured logically that since you are reading this, there is no automatic action to destroy the simulation if one person becomes suspicious of, or convinced that, they are living in it. You can also logically conclude that the realisation of ‘Entity no.3216732178’ has not been deemed enough concern to terminate the program manually. The creator is okay with it, at this level of penetrance at least. But imagine that the program running the simulation has an in-built threshold, by which the program offers a new prompt for manual decision making, or worse automatic. It may go something like this;

Observation: 51% of known ‘Human’ entities (and Parrot No. 321132892190) have become aware of ‘universe.exe’

Warning: Universe.exe ”experimental” parameters breached beyond tolerable levels. Terminate programme Y/N?

User: N

Warning: User override denied. ‘Universe.exe’ has breached operable parameters. Data corrupted. Terminating in 10 seconds.’

As scary as this thought may be, it makes a number of assumptions. The first is that there is a tolerable level by which the simulation could operate whilst entities were aware of it. For The Truman Show, that was 0. Day to day many of us labour under delusional beliefs, and yet the universe does not shut down. So it can be inferred that it is the specific belief that matters to a creator. They are happy to let millions believe in Thor as it doesn’t effect the purpose of the simulation in a negative way. So be it an experiment or entertainment, the simulation runs on. The eventuality that concerns us here is in which circumstances would a creator click ‘Yes’. (Note, this ignores an automatic deletion.)

‘Good morning, and in case I don’t see ya, Good afternoon, good evening, and goodnight.’ – Truman Burbank, The Truman Show.

Messages And Response

For the sake of argument let’s first consider that we live in a simulation designed for ‘entertainment.’ In our last article we discussed how this may be bad news for the world if we realised it. So much of our top TV shows rely on violence and shock to stay alive, it could be argued that we should do the same to ‘stay switched on.’ But lets consider what may happen ‘naturally’ if the simulation hypothesis was not just proven, but widely accepted. There are two extremes of outcome that are immediately apparent, each with a multitude of potential responses by the creator.

  1. We lose our minds. The Universe is a joke and there are no repercussions, as long as we stay on air we will stay alive. Prep the nukes.
  2. Okay, perhaps the watchers want peace, lets go with that.

We cannot predict exactly how the creator would respond to either (1) or (2), suffice to say that as long as its entertaining enough to stay watched, they will not terminate the simulation. But remember, reality TV either adapts, becomes a circus act, or dies.

simulation ethics science philosophy

A Circus Is Entertaining? But what of Humanity?

A second argument, that we are an experiment, offers both concerning and reassuring extremes. The first option is that a clear realisation that the test subject has become aware of the experiment and it’s potential hypothesis may have three obvious outcomes;

  1. The experiment is terminated as any new data is no longer reliable.
  2. The experiment is left running as ‘knowledge’ of the experiment is just another variable.
  3. The experiment will continue until x percent of test subjects become aware.

In (1) the creator relies on the ignorance of ‘us’, the ‘test subjects’, for the experiment to succeed. We cannot know that we may be in a simulation, and therefore cannot bias the test. But since I am sitting here typing this piece, the presence of my frontal lobes and ability to use information renders the ‘cannot know’ irrelevant. We clearly can. So we are left with option (2), which is that realisation in the experiment is not a contrary to its operational parameters. This could be for a number of reasons, including that the creator is interested in what may happen with this specific realisation, or is running a study of a populations response to chaos. And since we can consider this option, the experimenter has enabled us to do so.

So, since I am still here, option 2 or 3 can be argued as reasonable deductions.

‘A place where we all go can’t be bad, can it girl?’ – Chris Nielsen, What Dreams May Come

Should We Send A Message?

Well, we already have. The first time a scientist, or more likely an author, even briefly considered the ‘simulation’ then that data became available. The question here is when does that information become troublesome to the creator, at what level of penetrance? And do we risk a universal genocide? In the entertainment hypothesis, it depends what we do with the information, how we react and whether the watchers are entertained. If it is an experiment, the stakes are higher.

If option 2 is to be believed (The experiment is left running as ‘knowledge’ of the experiment is just another variable,) then we are probably fine. This is not a new idea, and has been atlas considered by thousands. But if its option 3 (The experiment will continue until x percent of test subjects become aware,) then we may approach a point of no return.

So, in that sense, this may not just be a ‘thought experiment’ after all.  And hypothetical creators up there, please retweet and comment.

‘I find myself exposed, tapping doors, but irritate, in search of destination.’ – Damien Rice, Eskimo (O)

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The opinions expressed in this article are those of  Dr Janaway alone and may not represent those of his affiliates. Featured image courtesy of Flickr.

Note: Once again, as per with the previous article, the subjects discussed are not done so exhaustively. There are many other intermediate conclusions that can be drawn between the extremes presented, but for the sake of discussion I have chosen polarising outcomes. You may also be able to fairly debate my inferences and deductions, and it would be useful to do so. Furthermore this entire article has been a rather meta experience. If we are iliving in a simulation, I have broken the fourth wall and rendered the Universe susceptible to the conclusions drawn. If not, then this may provide an entertaining discussion alone.  Awaits ‘Mad Scientist’ badge.

Media credits

  1. Lake and Trees, Flickr.
  2. Circus Performer, Flickr.

 

What Should You Do In A Simulated World? The Ethics Of A Dream

simulation universe ethics

Ethics are tricky in the real world, but there is a surprising amount of evidence that we may actually be living in a simulation. If that is indeed true, we can only speculate on the creator and the motive behind such a complex and compelling trick. Who are they? Are we an experiment or entertainment? What would it mean to them if we figured it out? Do we risk being ‘turned off’ if we were break the proverbial ‘fourth wall?’ And perhaps an equally poignant question, does this change our code of ethics? Join us in the first of several thought experiments into a simulated Universe. Press ‘Save’ now.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before. – Edgar Allen Poe.

Simulated Worlds And Real Ethics

Ethics are not simple. The Declaration of Human Rights sets out legally bound rules for what is considered reasonable behaviour, and for the most part it has led to a better world. The basic premise of these rules is that most people would agree with them in order to be fair to others. Legal systems, which differ by country, may interpret these rules differently (and some come up against the United Nations,) but the overall premise of law is the same; to hold everyone to an equal ethical standard where possible. Religions often run foul of these rules, but that’s for another day and a ballsier writer (or after some whisky.) We are all familiar with ethical dilemmas too, for example the famous philosophical question of ‘The Trolley Problem.’

 

 

The crux of The Trolley Problem is quite simple, when does murder become ethically permissible? Would you sacrifice one to save many others? Depending on your individual view it may never be okay to kill, but in a study by VSauce it found that most participants would not kill one to save many, even if they would claim otherwise. There are also multiple philosophical schools or ethics, including Utilitarianism which dictates that we must also provide for the majority even at the expense of the few. We consider such conundrums and hypotheses in a world of consequence, but what if suddenly those consequences seem to disappear? What might be ethical in a simulated world?

Ethics For Entertainment

If we are just a television show, such as the one experienced by Truman Burbank, then it may be wise to consider our audience. And like George reasoned in his discussion of a simulated universe, we may best judge their wants as reflective of our own. And when one of the top rated shows on television at the moment is Game Of Thrones , this is a little unsettling. Humans love drama, action, intrigue, love, hate, violence and explosions in our films. Jerry Bruckheimer makes a living from explosions. So, as economist Robin Hanson says, we should be as ‘entertaining as we can.’ Now here is the problem. If we assume that being ‘boring’ risks our continued survival, then commonly accepted ethics could be argued as an impediment. A progressive world full of love and communication is a worthy goal, but probably wouldn’t make good television. Earth would be ‘cancelled.’

ethics simulation alien television

What would be entertaining to an alien may be integral to our survival.

One could reason that our actions should be as dramatic and entertaining as possible to a lay watcher. Unfortunately this raises many questions, and if the world was suddenly to learn its best chance of existing was violence, drama and explosions, the result would likely fly in the face of common ethics. War would be entertainment, crime pay-per-view. and Alien minds could pay an extra season pass price to follow a criminal from sentencing to execution (but only after the cosmic watershed.) Although this is discussed jovially, it does cause pause for thought. What do you think Truman would have done if there was no door in the sea wall? And sadly, a utilitarian ethos would support mass war as long as more survived than died.

Fortunately there is an alternative explanation for a simulation, experiment. But, even then, we must be careful.

‘It’s the sad thing about entertainment, it’s not always about who is the best.’ – Jake Roberts.

Ethics For Experiment

First off, if an alien species were to create a simulation for their entertainment it wouldn’t be very ethical. Unless, at death, our code was transported to an eternal databank akin to an Abrahamic heaven. So we would have to assume an ‘ethical’ justification for our simulation experiment. So we can work with two extremes, either the creator’s ethics are like ours (or a better version,) or they are very different. You could even argue that, like The Purge, we could be a form of stress relief in a violent extraterrestrial society (so to speak.) So lets assume these greater beings have what we would call ‘good ethics.’

In this case the best we could do, in a rather Nietzsche perspective, is be the best we can in tune with what we perceive as ‘the ultimate good.’ Immanuel Kant proposed the ‘categorical imperative‘ to explain an inherent code of morality within humans that we must adhere to. Wouldn’t be much of an experiment if the creators loaded the dice like that. So lets assume we have a choice to extol or ignore these virtuous ideas, then run the simulation for a few billion years. You can see how making changes to the environment (such as drought or plague) and the insertion of strong beliefs (such as religion or cults,) would make for an interesting test. How would a large, diverse population respond. How would they change? What would be the outcome? The takeaway for the creators is clear, they have a working predictive model of anthropology, politics, psychology and social interaction by which to run their own species.

experiment ethics simulation

If we are an experiment, then how would we act to be valuable?

In this case, we may want to stay around as long as possible. To be useful to the experimenters (but this assumes having an inkling of their hypothesis..)  But that if that means ‘being aware’ of the experiment, it is immediately faulty. We walk on a tightrope.

‘To assume all the powers is not good for anybody. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. All those experiments have a bad ending.’ – Rafael Correa

So What Do You Do?

So, in this potentially highly hypothetical situation with contrasting variables and contradicting endpoints, how do you live ethically in a simulation? My personal thoughts would be, if we are alive now, then we have fulfilled either the ‘entertainment’ or ‘experiment’ role. So you could just say ‘carry on.’ But when ‘just carry on’ means continue jihad, crime and war, our own ethics come into question. So I will propose a compromise, go with Neitszche. Do the best you can for the most you can, but be true to yourself. And in the end, there is a saving grace. Catharsis is stronger than division, and our alien viewers may like a happy ending. And our experimenters would probably find it worth learning from anyway… maybe.

Next time; If we could prove this is a simulation, should we?

What’s Next?

  • Learn more about a simulated universe.
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The opinions expressed in this article are those of  Dr Janaway alone and may not represent those of his affiliates.

Note: The arguments and assumptions presented here are in no means comprehensive. For example we have not considered the outcome of a simulation experiment, the role of bias, or indeed something as simple as its hypothesis. Furthermore we have not considered the full scope of ethical standpoints that an alien or creator species would have, what they may find entertaining. Each assertion is anthropocentric, and therefore is limited, and the causal nature of each premise based on plausibility rather than induction. This article is not designed to examine all these alternatives, but perhaps a book down the line could. Some of these subjects will be touched in the following articles, but I would wager more questions  would be raised than answered in such a short format. In essence, this article is designed to inspire you to pose your own answer to the riddle.

Media credits

  1. The Trolley Problem, provided courtesy of BBC Radio 4
  2. Featured image courtesy of Flickr
  3. Alien courtesy of Flickr
  4. Petri Dish courtesy of Flickr

 

 

Hopes For Childhood Cancer Prevention As Doctor’s Focus In On Immune System

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) is a cancer of blood primarily affecting children. And currently kills around 1400 people a year in the USA alone. It is often a devastating disease, presenting with non-specific symptoms and can be advanced at the time of diagnosis. Treatment is usually chemotherapy, a collection of chemicals designed to wipe out cancer cells but often doing damage to other systems. For the longest time myriad causes have been used to explain the disease. But in a landmark article published in Nature Reviews Cancerit may be that  unifying cause has been found. And with it, new avenues for the prevention of this deadly disease.

A New Hypothesis

In his work, Professor Greaves reviewed 30 years of evidence, including studies on leukaemia ‘epidemics’ in the wake of infections, to come to the novel conclusion that ALL may be due to an ‘untrained immune system.’ He also noted that the rise of the disease in affluent societies (primarily western,) may be accounted for by this explanation. But to explain this new theory, we must first understand a little about the immune system.

leukaemia prevention greaves

White Blood Cells become unregulated and destructive in Leukaemia

The human immune system exists to identify, memorize and attack threats. These include viruses, bacteria and often atypical cells that could become cancer. In immunodeficient states, such as HIV, the immune system is rendered incapable of performing its tasks and people get sick with infections that otherwise would be harmless. You can be born with a faulty immune system, or it can become compromised later through disease, cancer or different therapies (chemotherapy, for example, can damage multiple systems including the immune.)

But a working immune system relies on exposure to a pathogen, like a virus, to be able to identify it, build up ways of fighting back and then, ultimately, attacking and destroying it. Failure at any part of this system creates problems. This is where ALL may be a problem.  In his new Unified Theory, Greaves claims that the development of leukaemia happens like this:

  1. A genetic mutation occurs in the womb that increases the risk of developing a ‘pre-leukaemic’ clone cell.
  2. A lack of exposure to pathogens in the first year of development means that the immune system does not learn how to recognize and deal with threats.
  3. Exposure to infection later in childhood causes an immune misfire leading to leukaemia.

To put things simply, in a target population genetically predisposed to a higher risk of leukemia, reduced exposure to normal infections increases the risk of developing leukemia.

A Disease Of Affluence

leukaemia infection greaves prevention

Greave’s work may help to explain why modern societies have a role In increasing Leukaemia risk

This all may sound fairly straightforward, but you may wonder why western societies are at risk. Along with other hypotheses linking disease with sanitation, the Unified Theory suggests that our penchant for cleanliness may be a factor in creating disease. Often children in the western world, growing up in cities and with justifiably cautious parents, are simply not exposed to the same diseases that used to be commonplace. And then after an epidemic of a disease later, this means that the untrained immune system is prone to malfunction. It is a bold hypothesis but readily accounts for a disease that has a significant risk.  As reported by the BBC, he said;

“The research strongly suggests that acute lymphoblastic leukaemia has a clear biological cause and is triggered by a variety of infections in predisposed children whose immune systems have not been properly primed.

But Greaves is quick to point out that there is no blame for parents, but that the disease more likely reflects society in general. He says it is not as simple as exposing your child to ‘dirt’, but that encouraging normal interactions with other children may be beneficial in early years. He also states categorically that more research is needed to establish how the disease can be prevented. And charity Bloodwise have been quick and sensible to reassure parents that nothing could have been done to prevent current cases based on Greave’s early findings. They said;

“While developing a strong immune system early in life may slightly further reduce risk, there is nothing that can be currently done to definitively prevent childhood leukaemia.”

Exposure and the Future

Whilst Greaves hypothesis may shed light on why ALL develops, it is just the start. For some kind of preventative measure to work we must first research further just what exactly is protective, and whether this can be delivered in a safe and reliable form. Something like a ‘live yoghurt’ has potential, but in a disease of such severity, we must be sure. This will take time. So although the research may provide new avenues, we must be patient to ensure that any new intervention will be effective.

What’s Next?

  • Learn more about new findings in medical research
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The opinions expressed in this article are those of  Dr Janaway alone and may not represent those of his affiliates. If you are concerned about your health please see your local healthcare provider. Images courtesy of Flickr.

Image credits

  1. White Blood Cells 
  2. Cityscape 

 

 

 

 

Researchers just created a Robot ‘Mini-Organ’ Nursery, and the implications are astounding.

nursery robot disease freedman

Robots are an increasing part of our day to day lives. From simple assistants like Siri to complex quadripedal automatons like Spotmini, robotic technology is rapidly becoming common. And although some may seem novelties, a revolution in robotics has been pioneering medical treatments for a while now. And researchers at UW School of Medicine have just taken the next step into a future that seems all too magical. For the first time, robots are growing human tissue that functions just like our own organs.  What does this mean for the future? And just how are they doing it?

Robot Nurseries

In a statement released by UWSOM, Professor Benjamin Freedman hailed the new technology as a ‘secret weapon’ in the fight against disease. He and his team utilized pluripotent stem cells to create miniature versions of human organs to test new medicines and disease treatments. These particular types of stem cells are special because they can be influenced to become any type of cell, and as such are already an exciting prospect for degenerative diseases. And although stem cell medicine has been around for a while, its integration with automation makes widespread research all the more likely.

One of the barriers to influencing and maintaining these cells is time, and the other is difficulty. A researcher may take a day to set up an experiment and have to keep a very close eye on things. The spectrum of error is large. But by using a robotic, high precision and automated system, the research team has been able to repeat the process in as little as 20 minutes. Furthermore, since the system cannot ‘get tired’ or ‘lose concentration’ it is able to experiment for as long as necessary, with a level of precision and reliability far beyond human scope. By creating these robot nurseries, Freedman has turned stem cell research into a superhighway.

Mini Organs by Robot

The science is complicated, but essentially tiny versions of human organs are made for experimentation. This allows researchers to test new treatments in a far more realistic and contained setting. And with automation, means that experiments can be done en masse in a short time. As reported by IFL Science in their wonderful article, the team was able to produce ‘diseased’ miniature kidneys, and discover new pathways that could be used to treat human disease. This is just one example of how this technology is already yielding incredible results.

So whats to be excited about? Simply put, by using robotic technology to automate stem cell research we can better understand disease and treat it, and in faster times. In a world with a growing population, efficient and cheap treatment is all the more valuable. Many warn against the use of robotics across different sectors, but this is one clear example of just how useful they can be. Summarising the significance of the new technology humbly, Freedman says;

“The value of this high-throughput platform is that we can now alter our procedure at any point, in many different ways, and quickly see which of these changes produces a better result.”

Are Robots Medicine’s Future?

With robotic technology already commonplace in medicine (i.e in surgery,) and improving every day, there is no doubt that it provides an excellent means of care. Greater accuracy, learning and control are granted to doctors and researchers through the use of adjuvant robotic tools. Freedman’s work is miraculous because it may overturn the major sticking points of one of the worlds most promising research avenues. By speeding up the process and increasing its efficacy, the lag between need and treatment may shrink substantially. So watch this space, because who knows what will come next.

What’s Next?

  • Learn more about spotting Good Research Writing.
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The opinions expressed in this article are those of  Dr Janaway alone and may not represent those of his affiliates. Images courtesy of Flickr.

 

 

 

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