Sunday, November 2, 2014


Internalizing is a slow ponderous process. I mean you cannot go to an advanced class on genetics and come out with an understanding how the human body works. May be upon reflection think to yourself, “life is complicated!” Indeed most disciplines are. Some are, as Taoists would point out, dried sponges for minds that soak material at a phenomenal scale, while most, like myself, plod through the process one solitary step at a time. But even among the upper echelons of thinkers internalization requires ridding the past paradigm, before the new one takes its rightful place.

Nonlinear systems do not satisfy the properties of superposition or homogeneity. They have multiple equilibrium points and stability dynamics cannot be precisely programmed.

It would be easy to apply the old linearity argument to all matters in life and come up at the end with “sum of parts is equal to the whole,” but that is reducing everything to a set of numbers and then adding them up to the grand total. That is not how life operates. One cannot predict when the rotor blade of the helicopter will fail. One cannot easily surmise when the engine of a car will cease or for that matter when you or I will die. Even those living at the edge of survival, riddled with infections, bad heart, failing kidneys and confused brains have been brought back to live with their loved ones for few more years. Applying the IFTTT Boolean mechanisms as arbiters of future is fraught with failure.

Life is non-linear!

There are unknown multi-variables that confound the polynomials of real life. There is always a Lorentz attractor waiting to jump and bite the fortune-tellers hand. Let me take you into the confined space of the heart (with respect and some latitude from my cardiology friends). Let us ignore the embryology and dive straight into the mechanics of a beating heart. If one were to simply take into consideration the basics; there is the S-A node that sends electrical impulses to the atria and to the A-V node that triggers the electrical impulse, which spreads through the ventricular musculature and makes the heart muscle cells contract in unison. 

Each atrial contraction sends blood into the ventricle and each ventricular contraction then forces blood out into blood vessels: from the right heart into the lungs where the blood is refreshed with oxygen and then from the left heart into the brain and rest of the body for distributing that new-found oxygen for replenishment. One could apply numerical values as have been for something called ejection fraction and using that information be in a position to diagnose a sluggish or a failing heart.

The simplicity of that concept would be easily graphed into a software algorithm and voila the automatons within the CPUs would give us probabilities of survival. And that is precisely how the physician turned technology wizard foresees the world; in linear terms. But the breakdown is more complex than that.

There is much more to this I am sure you will agree. For instance a limited blood supply to the A-V Node from atherosclerosis might create a dysfunctional node and cause the secondary fibers to take on the function and create a chaotic rhythm, as in atrial fibrillation, or spread down into the ventricles and create mischief there whereby the pump mechanism would fail to pump the blood out due to the erratic and chaotic individual heart muscle contractions and thus to an untimely demise. I am not taking us into the sub-membrane space and the Calcium channels that might also unbeknownst to technologist create their own version of chaos. How would one sum up those parts into the whole. And even if one were to assign coefficients and betas to the proposed mechanisms of failure we would be far off the field in terms of reality. Case in point for arrhythmia occurring in young athletes: there are no predictors available to circumvent those tragic events.

The unknown independent forces exerted on dependent variables

Medicine is being considered as a simplistic linear model by some and it is to the detriment of the health of the people. The Art in medicine supersedes the Science of probability when non-linearity is at play. There is an intuition-labored thought process that is absent in the IBM Watson-like thinking. Yet even with all the known information poured into Watson’s funnels, the heavily air-conditioned, blazing Blue still comes back with percentage probabilities just like the Differential Diagnosis text book from yesteryear. Solving the real puzzle in life as in all non-linear processes, intuit must play a part, that intuit, arrives from critical thinking and reason. And reason is absent within the hot data circuits of the CPUs.

My twitter friend extraordinaire @DrHubaevaluator has this mind map (I borrowed for the sake of explanation) that is telling in its complexity.

Giving the computer a reasoning power through Artificial Intelligence? Well that is a double edged sword, but I digress…

Next time reflect on what your doctor says and not entirely on what Siri or Cortana can drum up in seconds. The discrepancy might well be worth more investigation.

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