According to Prof. Eshel Ben-Jacob of Tel Aviv University’s School of Physics and Astronomy, current game theory can’t account for bacteria’s natural decision-making abilities — it’s just too simplistic.
In a recent article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), Prof. Ben-Jacob and his fellow researchers outline how decisions made by communities of bacteria trump game theory. “When human beings make a decision,” he says, “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, he explains, 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.
Bacteria live in complex colonies that can be 100 times as numerous as the population of Earth. Under stressful circumstances, bacteria have demonstrated a capacity to assess the noisy and stressful environment around them, filter out what’s relevant and what’s not, and make decisions that ensure the survival of the colony as a whole.