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      CommentAuthorbadger
    • CommentTimeDec 8th 2007
     (232.1)
    Considering that humans carry more bacterial cells in their bodies than human ones and infection with certain bacteria has been shown to alter behavior in the possible attempt to preserve the host from predators, could it be possible that aspects of our personalities may have nothing to do with our genetics, but are the output of various groups of bacteria working in symbiosis?

    It's an old theme in sci-fi i think, but with each passing year, it seems more credible.
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      CommentAuthorJoe Paoli
    • CommentTimeDec 8th 2007 edited
     (232.2)
    @ badger
    It's an old theme in sci-fi i think, but with each passing year, it seems more credible.


    That it does. I find it a little unsettling.

    I read an interesting novel covering this, could've sworn it was Greg Bear, but can't remember the title. Something about a conspiracy to control the world using bacteria to mind control people. The protagonist at one point is seduced by a woman who infects him through bareback sex and rubbing her saliva all over him after. There're scientists trying to develop a human lifeform not dependent on oxygen who succeed, after a fashion, and the implication that our gut bacteria is part of a huge composite organism that has a geologic time outlook and is unhappy with what we're doing with its habitat.

    It was my first exposure to the idea, so I think of it as relatively new. Like maybe coming into being when they discovered that giant fungus thingie as the largest life form in the 90s. How back in SF lit does the idea reach?
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      CommentAuthorgwferguson
    • CommentTimeDec 8th 2007
     (232.3)
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      CommentAuthorbadger
    • CommentTimeDec 8th 2007
     (232.4)
    Yeah, since toxoplasmosis is transmitted mother to fetus, and it causes females to be more sexually active, pregnancy is more likely... meaning taxoplasmosis is spread. It doesn't help the female much, because she's less choosy about the male contributor, which might not benefit the species... so not really symbiotic.

    Interesting to consider though.

    I don't know how far the giant organism theme goes back in sci-fi. I have that Science Fiction: The Early Years by Blieler. Maybe i ought to check that. Think that i'm going to ask for Science-Fiction: The Gernsback Years for Christmas now.
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      CommentAuthorJoe Paoli
    • CommentTimeDec 8th 2007
     (232.5)
    @ badger
    I don't know how far the giant organism theme goes back in sci-fi. I have that Science Fiction: The Early Years by Blieler. Maybe i ought to check that. Think that i'm going to ask for Science-Fiction: The Gernsback Years for Christmas now.
    Just to be clear, I'm talking about the intelligent bacteria idea more than the giant single organism idea. If those two are actually separate ideas, which I'm not really sure about.
  1.  (232.6)
    The bacterial-control idea was done pretty well by Grant Morrison in The Filth. Worth a look.
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      CommentAuthoraike
    • CommentTimeDec 8th 2007
     (232.7)
    Considering that gene expression (or activation) controls a lot more about us than we normally recognize and that most of gene activation is an incredibly complex process, there is no reason to assume that bacteria in our bodies have no influence on us.

    For example, simple physical touch activates a genetic sequence in babies that triggers the production of growth hormones. (baby rats licked by their mothers experience a genetic activation within seconds or minutes triggering growth and lasts for a certain length of time, then going into dormancy until licked again by the mother.) Also, human babies who have not recieved physical contact show stunted growth. Touch still actually has an effect on adults, in terms of genetic expression, though I am uncertain as to the exact specifics of that (if anyone even is). Or, similarly, the feelings of curiosity or excitement trigger a genetic expression which results in the production of proteins and other chemicals that stimulate neurogenesis (the creation of brain cell pathways) - this is true at any age, btw. So when you are excited and curious, you actually learn faster (especially long term memory). Genetic expression regulates all sorts of facets of our development and existence, constantly. Some genes can switch on and off within seconds, others need hours, or days. When you are under the influence of drugs, or alchohol, or any chemical, this changes the way and amount of genetic expression. Why would bacteria, with their own biochemical systems, NOT be influencing our state of being at multiple levels? I would even go so far as to hypothesize that the bacteria and chemicals you have in your system play a surprisingly large role in who you are.

    This isnt kook science btw... I can heartily recommend Ernest Rossi's "The Psychobiology of Gene Expression" if you are interested in this sort of thing. It is located somewhere between psychology and neurology and is a joining of the two fields in a very scientific way. Not the easiest read, but fantastically interesting.
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      CommentAuthorbadger
    • CommentTimeDec 9th 2007
     (232.8)
    @ Joe Paoli: i'm undecided as to whether they are separate ideas either.

    @ Cat Vincent : The Filth is a good call. I'm looking for an early one right now. The reference book was of little help, as while there were a number of stories described about bacteria and microbes, none seem to be about controlling the hosts. It was a little odd to see that Mark Twain wrote one in 1905 though, called Three Thousand Years Among the Microbes. There was an earlier one called The Autobiography of a Malaria Germ by Theodore Waters in 1900. Both are pathetic fallacy, the microbes conscious of their existence.

    @aike: That book recommendation looks great. Will order it in the coming months.
  2.  (232.9)
    Thanks for starting this thread -- I'll be stealing some of these facts and plugging them into the comic I'm making.

    Cheers!
    • CommentAuthorFlabyo
    • CommentTimeDec 10th 2007 edited
     (232.10)
    There's a variation on this theme in the Japanese film (and later videogame) Parasite Eve. Although they concentrate on mitochondria rather than bacteria, the theme of a parasite acting to preserve it's host is there.
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      CommentAuthorbadger
    • CommentTimeDec 10th 2007
     (232.11)
    Toward a Rosetta Stone for Microbes' Secret Language.

    Decoding the structure and function of compounds involved in this elaborate signaling process, known as “quorum sensing,” could lead to new medicines to block the signals and prevent infections.

    The report describes development of a group of powerful compounds, called N-acylated homoserine lactone (AHL) analogues that are effective against a broad-range of bacterial types, including those that cause diseases in humans. These compounds are “some of the most potent synthetic modulators of quorum sensing” identified to date, they say.


    Or obviously we could co-opt them into serving our own needs... kinda like new interpretation of culture jamming, programming bacteria to program us.