Vår januarikrönika på Lytics.ai 2017

Who and what am I?

We often hear: “it’s not possible”, “it costs too much”, “we don’t know how to do it”, in the myriad of no-nos.

If you inhale volcano dust you may end up in serious trouble. If symptoms evolve your doctor will let you know you developed deadly silicosis. If your doctor instead wants to play word-games with you she might instead say you suffer from pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis. If you stay tuned and analyze the statement it makes good sense, it describes your problem (better than silicosis).

The long complex word lets you know that you have inhaled (coniosis) into your lungs (pneumono) fine (ultramicroscopic) quartz (silico) dust from a volcano (volcano) that resulted in serious silicosis. Complex matter is understandable, however still complex.

Let’s look at a geekier example. If you’re a chemist you may sit in front of this three-hour readout of:

“Methionylalanylthreonylserylarginylglycylalanylserylarginylcysteinylproly- larginylaspartylisoleucylalanyla-…-ylserylphenylalanylhistidylprolylmethionylleucylarginyltyrosylthreonylasp- araginylglycylprolylprolylprolylleucine”
(the whole word here)

If you’re in your lab and don’t have the complete and extremely complex stuff organized you have no chance to get it right. The fabric of letters, syllables and words is a beautiful construction for advanced, and distinct, communication and messaging. Access only to fragments in this fabric muddies the waters. Or said this way, when we don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle on the table, and not all of them in their right place, we can only make (qualified) guesses.

Let me digest this a little bit further. If we don’t see or have access to the whole word (or bigger picture) we’re sort of lost. Not even silicosis gives you enough information; basically only that your lungs are affected by (quartz) particles and that you probably will die rather sooner than later. We know nothing of what’s behind the diagnosis, what the patient’s needs are and what we can do to make the patient live a reasonable good rest-of-her-life. Nope, we have to get our arms around the bigger picture.

The exponential development in sciences hasn’t left medicine at rest. We treat deadly diseases routinely and cure patients; we can measure and analyze more or less everything that’s going on in the human body (and mind), the specificity of modern drugs is phenomenal, and doctors and nurses know so much more. When ill, you’re in very good hands.

But, there is a BUT.

A disease or a medical problem is never, yes I prefer to say never, understood from just a few, and however sophisticated, analyses. When you dance out from the emergency room, happy to have survived, or when you leave your doctor’s office with a prescription for SSRI, you also leave the qualified institutions behind with patient records far from being a good-enough guide to your problems, what you value and need. Technically, you are probably given the best advice you can get. Probably, they still don’t know enough about you to know what’s best for you the next several days to come.

I would prefer to be met by someone who tries to dig into my inner me, who wants to understand who and what I am. So why isn’t that just what happens? I would prefer if the first questions you’re asked are: “how are you”, “what do you need from us”, “what can we do for you”, “how can we help you do what you love”, and “what kind of life do you want to live”. The overarching answer to these questions is that we don’t, generally, practice the bigger-picture-approach. And that’s because your guardian angels don’t have all the information they need combined or all the pieces of the puzzle in place to enable them to see you as the complete and complex individual you are, and not just as a subject/patient with a problem/diagnosis.

Let’s imagine you sit in front of this giant puzzle with pieces that don’t seem to fit at all. Your first impression is that it’s a total mess (like the chemical above) and that the pieces make up not just one big puzzle, but several. The next logical step is to simplify and find the pieces that attract you most and seem to come together as something reasonable. You may end up with a decent combo, but are still extremely confused by the huge number of pieces not yet dealt with. If the big puzzle is me, the tremendous number of pieces comprises everything from my shoe size (from when I was just a kid till to date) to my genes (and the way they are set up and influenced over time), and everything in between. Okay, I agree. It’s not obvious that an obscure variable must be critical. But that’s the point, it’s not obvious. Just because of that we have to bring everything reasonable, and unreasonable, into the equation – for the bigger picture.

All right, next problem. We can’t gather everything, and if we could, how do we handle virtually millions of variables? It’s already impossible for our brains to grasp and understand how just a few variables relate to each other and what they express has happened, and will happen – what we can learn and what we can predict from that we are taught.

Oh well, it’s not really correct. Today, we have the methodologies, technologies and tools to collect more or less everything around and within us, and next dissolve and interpret the messy and extremely complex totality of information and variables into Heureka-messages and indicative predictions.

There is no longer a good reason, for anyone, to say: “no we can’t”.