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The era of convergence of science in biology

The era of convergence of science in biology

This is an observation, insightful at first, in order to arouse sympathy for your enemy: he is doing exactly the same thing you would do under the same circumstances. However, this is not entirely true.

It is true that living organisms develop and change with genes and the environment, but there is no mechanical causality in behavior, but rather an interconnected causality. Something that can be extrapolated to everything that concerns humans. Because it’s supposed to be Erwin Schrödinger in What is life? (1944), we are “a symphonic interaction between genes, cells, organs, the body and the environment.” Warning slips Sonia ContraProfessor of Physics at Oxford University in her book Living nanotechnology (Arpa, 2023) By invoking so-called complex systems.

This new interdisciplinary publication aims to move us away from the reductionist approaches that still exist, for example, in genetics; The “this gene causes this” type. Because evidence is beginning to suggest that processes of a very diverse nature, such as height, schizophrenia, rheumatoid arthritis, and Crohn’s disease, can be affected by all the genes in the genome. In fact, a revolutionary comprehensive model has been proposed, suggesting that almost all traits and diseases can be modified in a complex way by all active genes. This approach, only in the field of genetics, without taking into account the rest, further highlights the complex nature of our biology and the need for an interdisciplinary approach to unravel it.

Recognizing the enormous work still ahead of us, but always optimistic and with a new interpretive clarity, Contera invites us to consider quantitative biology as an essential tool, a field of study in a state of full activity. This discipline deals with the use of mathematical, statistical and computational methods to study life and organisms, and can be applied at all levels of biology, from molecular and cellular biology to ecology and evolution. Its ambitious goal is to discover the connections that exist between biological behaviors and the complex structures and processes that give rise to them. To this end, we should focus not only on the hybridization of disciplines, but also on the hybridization of technologies. From advanced microscopy that is combined with biochemistry and genetics, to the implementation of nanostructured materials and nanotechnology tools that explore different levels of cellular and tissue behavior. In addition, Macedonia also uses physics, mathematics and computer science to build increasingly accurate models that address biology in all its complexity, from the molecular to the cellular dimension, and extend to understanding living organisms in their entirety.

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These rules governing the nanoscale can be extrapolated to many other fields, if only to make us think more deeply about their implications and limitations; Areas such as artificial intelligence. The idea that everything can be justified loses its power. Previously, we believed that we could control and direct every stage of the scientific process logically and rationally. However, we are now beginning to understand that if we really want to develop more complex structures, we must integrate processes that are outside our direct control. This also offers an interesting philosophical reflection: whether in artificial intelligence, nanofabrication and nanotechnology systems, we achieve our goals, yes, but without fully understanding the process. As if the causal connections were always inextricable.

Sonia Contra is Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford. / Photo: Arba Editors

Contra’s vision, given that we cannot control everything, is to draw inspiration from biology, which has already evolved millions of years ago and proven its effectiveness. For example, in our attempts to build artificial brains. Through the interweaving of genes, digital and analog formats hardware And the ProgrammingMind and emotion, the universe forms biological intelligence. Artificial intelligence, on the other hand, has evolved through a completely different process: it has not only been developed according to the principles of physics and biology, but has been largely influenced by the laws of scientific geopolitics and industrial competition. However, using a biological intelligence model would avoid many of these episodes, even though we are still far, perhaps very far, from fully understanding the nature of biological systems and how they relate to each other.

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In short: in a world that is unstable and threatened by geopolitical, climate and energy uncertainty, among others, we have to assume that reality cannot be simulated using algorithms. Therefore, we must return to the reality of physics and biology, which always escapes the complete control of human logic, in order to allow us to stand, once again, on the shoulders of giants. Nature’s shoulders.

Living nanotechnology
Sonia Contra
(Barcelona 2023)
272 pages
21.90 euros