Inside the Black Box
We as humans believe that everything around us has a cause and a tractable effect. This illusion makes us feel in control of ourselves and our environment. In reality, most systems around us â€“and within usâ€“ are like mysterious black boxes. We cannot look inside them, and we only know what goes in and out. For example, think of a patient as a black box, where a treatment is the input and the health is the output. How much do we trust our intuition about how black boxes respond? When treating real-world problems like a bacterial infection, we must learn how to deal with the box’s behaviour. Otherwise, ill-advised solutions such as self-medication may backfire.
With the aid of mathematics and computers, scientists in many fields can simulate how a black box (i.e. a complex system) transforms any input into an output. This allows us to build predictive models of how the real system would respond.
In ‘Inside the black box’, we simulate a bacterial infection controlled by a hidden circuitry of interacting components. We challenge the audience to control the growing bacterial infection (red light) by interactively administering treatment (green light). In the process, we will collect time-series data about the behaviour of complex systems and test whether human intuition can outsmart intricate black boxes. If played by enough people as a game, data from high scoring simulations could reveal optimal strategies for diagnosis and treatment of real patients.