Inside Out Quality

Cargo Cult Quality: Better Science Through Rituals

October 05, 2021 Aaron & Diane Season 2 Episode 5
Inside Out Quality
Cargo Cult Quality: Better Science Through Rituals
Show Notes Transcript

Quality Assurance is all about controlling variation in the midst of science and human behavior.  We have outcomes we want, but sometimes take quirky paths to get there.

We explore this with help from  Dr. Lamont Lindstrom's and "Cargo Cults," a name attributed to social movements from  Melanesian Islanders, and scientists who embraced rituals to improve their research.

We are also joined by Defense Analyst, Dr. Tina Elie, and Neuroscientists Drs. Michael Long and Robert Froemke on this journey to understand and perhaps embrace rituals!

To learn more about Cargo Cults check out Dr. Lindstrom's book:
Amazon
Scholar Space

Dr. Michael Long's Lab
Dr. Robert Froemke's Lab


Aaron Harmon:

Hi, I'm Aaron Harman and this is inside out quality, a podcast about real life events and experiences shared by our guests of when things have gone wrong, and how we can learn from them to build better products, companies, and improve lives through an effective quality system. Ray Kroc opened his first McDonald's in 1955, the life expectancy in the US was 69. At the time, if we fast forward to 2014, there were 14,000 McDonald's and life expectancy had rose right alongside to 79 years, we gained 10 years of life, thanks to McDonald's growth. Now in 2020, the life expectancy dropped a few years. But of course, if you look at McDonald's numbers, those also dropped a little bit. So my theory is to improve life expectancy. We need to build more McDonald's quality people are all about data and evidence, we want to know that what we do gets us the right product each time, we want to know when something is only associated with an outcome, or if it's the cause of an outcome. In this episode, I'll explore the concept of association and causation through a different route. We are going back to World War Two to talk about islanders rituals and wanting to get to a better place. We are exploring cargo cults with the help of Dr. Lamont Lindstrom professor at the University of Tulsa. He is the department chairperson of anthropology and author and has agreed to talk with us. Welcome to the show, Dr. Lindstrom.

Unknown:

Hey, thank you for the invitation.

Aaron Harmon:

So first of all, how did you get involved with the studies of South Pacific cultures?

Lamont Lindstrom:

You know, I started out as a college student at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in the early 1970s. And back then there was a center for Pacific Island studies there and a number of professors, anthropology and otherwise, were working in the Pacific. It sounded like a great place to me. So I fell into that into that area. And eventually, I ended up at University California, Berkeley. And really, by kind of happenstance or chance, I started doing research in what was then the New Hebrides, it was a remaining colony that was administered by France and Britain. And it's a chain of islands in a particular island that I ended up on how to a social movement that had been called a cargo cult that had started in the late 1930s. And it was kind of all around me. The original research proposal, which probably wasn't the best conceived was to apply. As some of the famous as social scientists, Max Weber's insights to the South Pacific vapor was a 19th century German Social scientist who wrote a famous book called The Protestant Ethic in the Spirit of Capitalism. And roughly he argued that, you know, how does capitalism begin? Well, it begins because people are concerned with salvation. And they do a number of things like saving their money and investing and bingo, you get capitalism. So I picked this little island because I thought at the time, they were three different communities of people. They were Christians, mostly Presbyterians. There were heathens or pagans, who maintained traditional religion. And then there were followers of this social movement called the German firm movement, AKA a cargo cult. And I was going to compare the economic success of each of these communities. It was kind of a totally wrongheaded comparison. But it did lead me into lots of more interesting areas of research and study.

Aaron Harmon:

That's fascinating. So as a scientist, I'm used to looking like at a maybe cell culture flask as an experiment. But it sounds like you're choosing an island and a whole population.

Unknown:

Yeah, anthropologists often called the Pacific laboratory and that there's so many different islands in so many different communities, you can do cross cultural comparison. We never really succeeded all that well. But yes, the island was kind of my test tube.

Aaron Harmon:

That's great. That sounds like a very nice climate to have the test tube in.

Unknown:

Yeah. Really great people. And it tropical weather. So was hard to take a better place.

Aaron Harmon:

The term cargo caught, you mentioned, how did that name show up on the radar, like where they come from?

Unknown:

So let me back up a little. I mean, there are people everywhere, once in a while, create what anthropologists, sociologists call social movements, where we gather together and we try to change our lives. And we can, you know, work politically to try to work the system, or we could call on the spirits, we can kind of work religiously, and they've been all kinds of social movements, famous ones, particularly since 1492. When the old world meets the New World, we get 500 years of colonialization. And people are not always happy with you know, the ways in which other other people have moved in on top of them and they react right. So there have been a whole series of famous movements over the years in the Pacific, World War Two, which really reached the Pacific in 1942. had a huge impact, especially in smaller isolated islands and ran up to the war when they plenty of power has tried to move back and re establish themselves. You got a flusher a series of movements, really protest movements, and he and they were led by leaders sometimes profits, they made trouble for the remaining colonial powers and the same label appeared. Cargo Cult that first showed up in the November 1945 issue of a local news magazine called Pacific Islanders monthly, an old Australian colonial settler was concerned with kind of revolting natives who were making travel after the war. And he warned that if we don't, you know, watch it, we'll have these cargo cults and he called them a cargo cult, because they're at least a couple of score these movements. And one of the messages that people were circulating around is, is that, hey, we need to get the material, the goods, the stuff that we enjoy it in many places in the Pacific during the war, and in the pidgin English is of New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, at the time, the word cargo or cargo is the word for supplies and, and stuff. So I'm not quite sure where Mr. Byrd who wrote this letter found the word, the term cargo cult, but it got adopted by anthropologists and then kind of abandoned by anthropologists. But since then it's spread, you know, widely outside of anthropology. So if anybody's interested, I suggest you just Google cargo Colton. And you'll see all kinds of uses and applications that continue to pop up.

Aaron Harmon:

And the first place I had heard about it was a speech that had been given, blanking out, it was at University of California, Berkeley, about Cargo Cult Science,

Unknown:

Richard Feynman. Yeah, he was a famous physicist. And the way that term has been used outside of, you know, describing social movements in the Pacific is that if you find people who have, you know, a good idea or a worthy goal, but they are trying to achieve that goal through supernatural, original or not very effective means, so they don't really know what they're doing. You could label them or take them as cargo, mislead misleaded cargo cultists, kind of tragic cargo cultists, and finally gave this famous lecture, where he was castigating some of the some of some of his fellow physicists for being just like Melanesian cargo cottage or Allen cargo cultists in that they were deluded. They weren't pursuing proper physics,

Aaron Harmon:

you mentioned ritual, is there a difference in social movement wanting to get somewhere? And how they do it that makes it a superstition or ritual?

Unknown:

Well, I mean, the general understanding is that, like, if you're the Taliban, right, and you've cut weapons, and training, and you want to change your situation, take over your country or whatever. Yeah, you can, you know, you turn to politics, and, you know, military, military maneuvers, and maybe you succeed that way. But if you're a kind of oppressed, not very powerful people, if you turn, you know, if you take up arms and you know, much down the road to try to change your situation, you could be guilt and shut down. So people in those circumstances tend to call on the spirits calling the gods to help them because they know they can't do it on their own. Or if they tried to do it on their own, you know, they'll come to a bad end. So social movements can be political, they can be religious, they're often a mixture of the two. But the civic movements after the war, were mostly religious, and that they, the prophesy said that if you just dance in these new ways, or if we just they have ourselves and be nice to our neighbors, or if we just stopped trying to socialize and saw each other, then either the ancestors will come back and make our lives better and bigger, bring us some cargo, or in some cases, it was the American military who had left much of the Pacific, not all of the Pacific, but much of it by 1946. The US was sent back the cargo ships and the cargo planes and also get rid of the British, the French, the Australians, whatever colonial powers that were making trouble for people.

Aaron Harmon:

One of the stories about the cargo called the original, something about they had built fake runways to try to learn back airplanes. Is there truth to that? Or is that a myth that's kind of been built in?

Unknown:

Well, it's no it's half truth. There's some historically documented runway buildings or building wars for cargo ships to land and a few. There may be a 50 or 60 of these movements, small and big, you know, from 1845, three, maybe 1965. And a few of them did actually clear support For a one way, runway sorry, I did my own research on an island called Tana, which is the southern part of what today is the country of Vanuatu and in 1943, the US military Center, an expedition down to Tana, because they had her people there, I'm clearing the bush for runway. So yeah, people actually cleared some, some forest and Bush and said, you know, the planes will soon land at us, you know, give a talk and say, no, no, we're really not. We don't need a runway, you know, we're not going to bring you any cargo. And then they had a couple of machine guns with him when they shut up. They shut up some of the people's houses to make their point. But I think the runway, you know, building a clearing of runway or, you know, building a war to attract cargo, I think was was really popularized in 1962 Italian film called Mundo Kony, by the director, Jakob Beti Giacometti. It was a kind of early documentary, it was called where he, the film was just a bunch of snippets. So strange things that human beings do here and there around the world. And the last step is the last of his scenes. His episodes was New Guinea cargo coat, and he's got people and I think he faked it. He's got people kind of moving around airstrip and building a big plane out of wood, waiting for the the spiritual cargo cargo planes to land. So some of the runway associations I think, have been kind of boosted by Western appropriation of the term carbo called, but ways in which we use the term and not so much what people were doing back in the Pacific, but my friend, Santana, from 1942, through really 1945, a lot of them recruited to work in native labor corps for the US military, US military had two huge bases in the New Hebrides, and one of the things they did was to help clear air strips and runways. So they had experience, you know, real life experience working on runways,

Aaron Harmon:

for maybe the runway clearing helped prepare them inadvertently.

Unknown:

Well, no planes ever landed. But you know, that the social movements do is they do make changes, you know, even if cargo or whatever the hope for end of it all, never, never occurs, but they do reorganize people in the groups, new leaders emerge. And, you know, existing social structures get tweaked a little bit, at least. So some of these attempts, you know, are misguided, you know, like, Richard Feynman was complaining about his fellow physicists, but it doesn't mean that they don't have effect. So, right. And they may, you know, make people's lives at least a little bit better. Because often, you know, the prophets, the leaders of these movements said, Well, we're not going to get the stuff, you know, the ancestors aren't really going to come back, or the American planes won't really land unless we really start to behave yourselves, we have to be nicer to each other, we have to stop fighting, we can't be trying to kill each other with sorcery all the time. So some, you know, there were some positive effects of some of these movements, even if they didn't achieve the ultimate goals that they might have had.

Aaron Harmon:

Yes, and I've, that's been one of my learning processes. Through this episode, I have three scientists lined up to record. And all of them have some kind of superstition or ritual that they do in their laboratory work. Some of these things we do as maybe rituals or superstitions have an impact on us. And then that maybe gets us somewhere.

Unknown:

Yeah, I mean, that's really typical. I mean, people are looking at religion comparatively asked, you know, when do people turn to God? When do people turn to the spirits, and it's usually when you're in a situation that you can control the outcome. There's a famous article in anthropology written by an anthropologist who was a baseball player, professional baseball player named George Cumberbatch, and kind of best baseball magic. And it's just because through all of the things that professional sports people do before, again, because you can't control much, you know, whether you're going to win or lose, so it was like, you know, the lucky bobby pin are always eating pancakes, you know, the day before the game or never changing your shirt if you want in the shirt the last time and when I teach religion to students, I'll ask them, you know, how many of you were in high school or college team? And was there something weird that he did? You know, before a game and is really common that yeah, we're on the soccer team. And we had to run back and forth and touch both goalposts or, yes, you know, we're on the football team. And we couldn't talk to our girlfriends the night before. So there's, it's completely typical in any kind of endeavor where you don't really have complete control over what's going to happen that people will become spiritual or turn to superstition is another way to say that. And sometimes it works. You know, the, you know, the river But he knows about the placebo effect. If you think that you're going to get help, then sometimes, you know, you're helped.

Aaron Harmon:

Yeah, I find it to be fascinating. And I think my thought process about this episode actually changed. Because the original questions I had for you are about like, how do you change a group that's got something, some superstition. And you mentioned that you don't change them, that you kind of observe. And listening to the scientists I had talked to, I kind of felt the same after that, like, these are things we do as humans, and they have something for us, in them, and maybe they do or don't impact what we're trying to get to. But they still do something for us in the process.

Unknown:

Yeah, I mean, some things I mean, anthropologists often observe more than we manipulate, although a lot of anthropologists work for developmental agencies where the goal is to change behavior or improve things, but the kind of anthropology of done is just a try to figure out what what people are doing, and leave them to it. And, you know, systems are complicated. So you think, okay, I can fix this by just doing one two or three. And it turns out that in fact, you get all these unanticipated results to the your interventions. So that easy, you know, it's not easy to change things. You can point out that you know, with vaccine hesitant people in America today, you can point out the difficulties and they're likely to get sick and but you know, how to convince them to actually get a vaccination is another thing. And that particular behavior, belief or stance may be tied up with all kinds of other things. So if they change one thing, maybe you'll have five or six or seven things that will fall down, you know, connected to the first that you had no idea that you might be making things worse, sometimes, you know, from working with a social movement in Vanuatu, that used to be called a cargo cult term, I got interested in the history of the term Cargo Cult. So I did write a book about where it all came from. And then part of an interest was to follow it on into places beyond the Pacific and I'm, you know, personally interested anthropologist have tried to kill that term for going on 40 years now, we're embarrassed by it. We're sorry. We call these movements, cargo cults, because they were far more complicated than just a bunch of deluded natives waiting around on the beach for the cargo planes will be can't kill it. I mean, the term has proved so popular all over the place. You can find art artists doing Cargo Cult art and musicians doing there's a band called cargo cult, there are all kinds of people like Richard Fineman and all of his successors to use the term as a kind of turbo chiefs to say you're a bunch of stupid Cargo Cult is illogical, and you're never going to reach the goal that you want to reach. So I found it, I found it interesting about you know, how that and why that term continues to circulate around and around that around. And it's far beyond you know, the controller anthropology anymore. A lot of people have found it useful term and it kind of fun term to play with. So I don't know if you want to say anything more about that. But not everybody will know cargo code, but it's out there. So as I said, if anybody wants to just Google Cargo Cult imagery, or cargo cult, whatever, you'll find lots and lots of uses of it today. Well, thank

Aaron Harmon:

you, Dr. Lindstrom. All right. Well,

Unknown:

good luck on the on the program and talking to the others.

Aaron Harmon:

Thank you. Now we're gonna make a transition into more recent experiences by scientist. Dr. Tina Elie is currently an analyst with the Department of Defense, she also joins us to share better ritual she used for success in her research. Welcome to the show, Dr. Ellie, thanks for having me. Know, during your graduate work, you've had a ritual that involve music. Can you tell us about that?

Tina Elie:

Um, yeah. So during my graduate work, I worked with animals, I did a lot of studies on rodents, mostly mice. And I also did a lot of the basic cell Molech experiments using, you know, petri dishes to grow cells and analyze gene expression. And one thing in biology, there's a lot of uncertainty. And there's a lot that you can't predict no matter how well you prepare your experiment. So for me, having music and listening to pretty much a sim repertoire, through some experiments helped me bring some form of certainty into the research process. And I have tried doing my experiments with and without music, and my results have always been more consistent. And I've always had cleaner scans, cleaner slides when I listened to music.

Aaron Harmon:

Nice. Is there a certain style of music you listen to or certain songs?

Unknown:

So they were very experiment based? So when I had To handle rodents, a lot of it involved manipulations for those experiments. I mostly listen to classical music, something kind of stable and soothing. Max reachers has. With all these sports season we reimagine. And I also listened to Mozart's Requiem, and St. John's passion, all of them has that very rhythmic, very repetitive, very predictable and very temple marked. Touch them. So,

Aaron Harmon:

so is music percolating through your whole career now, or the rest of your life?

Unknown:

Oh, no, no, I love music. I listen to music a lot. It's a very big part of my life. I guess that's why it helped me regulate and keep certain certainty in my work and make me feel more grounded when I was at the band. Even now in my current occupation. When I work from home, I listen to music a lot. And, you know, doing slides and charts once in a while, it's really good to zone out and listen to music while working on briefs. So yeah, music hasn't left my work rhythm.

Aaron Harmon:

The music had no impact on your research, but it had an impact on you. It's as if you were the medium for the music and through you. It ultimately affected your research in a positive way.

Unknown:

Exactly.

Aaron Harmon:

Well, thanks for being on the show. Oh, yeah.

Unknown:

You're welcome. Thanks for having me.

Aaron Harmon:

Now we'll take a quick break to hear from one of our sponsors.

Unknown:

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Aaron Harmon:

Dr. Michael Long, an associate professor at the New York University School of Medicine is well published in the field of neuroscience and communication. He has a vision to have a better place one where his research gives better results. How did he get there eating hot dogs at spikes, junkyard dogs. Welcome to Inside Out quality. Dr. Long.

Michael Long:

Yeah. Hi. Very pleased to be here.

Aaron Harmon:

That's good to have you. So first of all, what are you working on in research right now? What's your project? So

Michael Long:

we're very interested in how the brain produces speech, and how to people can interact and how the brain actually allows for that to happen. About 15% of the population has communication disorders that can really be debilitating. And we want to get some handle on how to try and fix those processes when they break. So that comes from looking at human brains, but actually also a whole range of other vocalizing animals, including songbirds, parrots, and even a new species of singing rodent singing rodents. Yep, from Costa Rica. They're wonderful.

Aaron Harmon:

That's amazing. You have this ritual of eating hot dogs. How did this get started?

Unknown:

Right. So this was actually in graduate school. And there, I was working on a different set of projects. But we realized that we got great data every day that we went to eat at this place spikes, junkyard dogs. And so, you know, it just happened to be that that the project we're working on was somewhat fickle. You know, sometimes, you would look at the preparation, and the data were beautiful, and sometimes really disappointing. And it seemed almost random enough that something like a superstition can kind of sneak in. And it became the case that strangely on days, when we had lunch at spikes, junkyard dogs on Thayer Street in Providence, Rhode Island, we'd walk right back to the lab and get absolutely beautiful data. And, and I discovered this crazy correlation first, you know, obviously, it's a superstition. And then I told the other members of the lab and one by one they all started wanting to see want to convert it to despites and realize that maybe the tail can wag the dog. So there, I really need great data, I'm gonna go grab a hot dog. And then it became actually even outside of the bounds of the lab. So there was a postdoc in the lab whose husband was going for a job. He worked in finance. But before his big job interview, he sat down and had some hot dogs it spikes as if it could conjure some kind of generic great luck from the heavens. Give him an even better

Aaron Harmon:

pay. I feel like if I happen to have one of those in my graduate school days, things would have been a little easier to Man, if I'm over on the side, I think there's a chain of these are things that a chain.

Unknown:

Yeah, there is. So I don't know if the one the original that we went to their street is still there. But yeah, they're they were peppered throughout the kind of Boston area, and there's suburbs and really tremendous, tremendous place to grab a hotdog,

Aaron Harmon:

I'm gonna have to do that if I ever get over that way. So vegetables are pretty fun. But on a serious note, you know, you and I talked earlier and got talking about the importance of quality and research in the academic setting, you elaborate a little bit more on that, like how you kind of consider the impact of quality into the academic world.

Unknown:

Quality means everything, you know, so I think we have a major responsibility as scientists, because many of us are funded by taxpayer money, you know, money that goes into the National Institutes of Health, we have to apply for increasingly competitive grants. And if we're awarded that grant, we can use that to buy supplies to pay for the payroll of the researchers within the lab. And so of course, here it only works, if everything we find is really of the highest quality. Right? So understanding how does biology work? How does the brain work? How can we push this and really make sure that that what we found is, is real and that it can be informative, and that there isn't some other bias or explanation for the data. And I think science, especially now is more important than ever, with things like climate change with the pandemic, to really rely on the veracity of science, and to trust what it means it's something that I take very seriously.

Aaron Harmon:

Yes, I'm good. I'm glad you do. I think you hit it right on, this is the time where we need to make sure everything that comes out and goes out into the world as the best that we can make it.

Unknown:

Absolutely yeah. And I think science has become increasingly politicized. And to the point of, you know, people believing or not believing and things like global warming, and it's like believing in gravity, it doesn't really matter whether you believe in it, it's still gonna be there. Right? And so how can we take sensible steps to combat this? Right? And so I think, I think in all scientific endeavors, or maybe all, everything we do in life, it's about really being thoughtful about each step and understanding what it means. And can this be explained in another way, because we have a responsibility to discover how in this case, the brain works so that we can benefit from that we can really fix some of the major problems that that exist. Yeah,

Aaron Harmon:

that's a big responsibility. But I'm, I'm glad I'm in that space. And I'm sure you are as well. Yes, yes. we've ever envisioned that eating a hot dog with somehow and you on a podcast talking about quality assurance.

Unknown:

I missed those hotdogs. I can't wait to get back up to Boston and have one of these. They're they're really tremendous. Yeah, it's a it's, it's a great thing I really appreciate you having me on.

Aaron Harmon:

I'm glad you took the time out of your day to join us. So thank you. Great. Lastly, we have on the show, Dr. Robert from key from New York University School of Medicine, he in his lab have a ritual of watching experiments, even when they don't need to be watched. Like when I was a graduate student, once an experiment started, I bolted I hardly ever stuck around to watch, but not Dr. Frankie, welcome to the show. Hi, yeah, thank you. So how did this ritual get started, and like, tell us a little more about the ritual?

Robert Froemke:

Well, I don't know if it's quite a ritual. Let me maybe it's more like the feeling one have of concerned parents. Um, but when I was in graduate school, back in UC Berkeley, and this would be around 20 years ago or so, the experiments I was performing involved making electrical recordings from, from brain cells. And it would take a wild pair all the tissue, we'd have to pull tiny glass, Pat Flynn up all the electrical equipment, including like old school, you know, green going and telescopes and that kind of thing. And this also kind of delicate and involved and, you know, kind of rarely worked that the moment we got the recordings going, it was almost impossible to have wrench yourself away. So important because you can learn a lot just by watching the activity of a neuron in the moment. And I think that following that sort of is still true today. One of the big changes have occurred in science, certainly from both days till now that my lab really of capitalizing on is more or less taking advantage of documentary documentary filmmaking type approaches, where we can have lots of cameras or could have high powered imaging equipment set up to record not just from one neuron. But 10s of neurons or even hundreds of neurons, we can do this continuously for long periods of time, we can monitor animal behavior, more or less 24/7, day and night recording in the home cages of mice and rats in the laboratory to get a kind of a full record of their life for weeks or months, or potentially even that their entire life long. But nothing is still really replaced of the eye. Even though there are amazing sort of computer vision and machine learning approach of for analyzing data and dealing with Massive Datasets on the order of terabytes, or trying to help analyze movies that are literally, you know, weeks in duration, there really is no substitute for human observation. And a lot of this is simply about quality control, knowing kind of in the moment, what's going on with one experiment, that includes kind of the environment that the experiments are being performed in, as well as any potential electrical glitches, sometimes, you know, systems will break or shut down, maybe you've filled up the harddrive. And so there's just no more storage space, and photo rather than I guess, sort of a spooky ritual of watching the data as it comes in, it's really just about making sure we've got the controls in place to keep the experiments going. And to watch for anything, also potentially interesting that might be occurring, be it in the activity of single neuron and the electrical blitz that's submitting, or really interesting animal behavior. Because so much of you know, even human social behavior can be sort of here, and they're in the blink of an eye. And yet to convey so much information, like for example, an eye roll or clap for handshake or something, we want to make sure we're capturing all of that, and that the people in the lab are sensitive to the details, their experiments. That's mostly what the film about

Aaron Harmon:

just that curiosity, the work you're doing now, what questions are you trying to answer?

Unknown:

So some of the work relates to even what we were doing what I was doing way back when in the darkroom at Berkeley, trying to understand the basic mechanisms by which brains grow and change and we can learn things. I would say one of the overarching hypotheses, one of the major goals in all of neuroscience is really understand the amazing capacity of the brain to learn and change. And we believe that a lot of that takes place at the level of single neurons and the connections between neurons. And trying to understand that we call it plasticity. That amazing property of the nervous system that allows it to be changed by experience, and how that relates to changes in the patterns of electrical activity. We've continued to work on that for the last two decades, it's a hard problem, there have been a lot of advances, but there still are major challenges. And then, in addition, because of capacity now for storing almost unlimited amounts of data, and capitalizing on the amazing advances in computer vision and analysis, to be able to parse out and understand posture that trajectories, the identities, even of multiple animals, or humans interacting in some kind of social environment. We're interested in, though, from a very low level, little details of, of contact, of interaction of how animals might communicate, and how transient momentary interactions between them speak to the kinds of relationships and social networks with animals are part of, as well as how they learn from their experiences. Because so much of learning really can take place in in a flash, in a few seconds, if we want to make sure we're capturing all of those important details, with high resolution videography, and microphones and stuff like that.

Aaron Harmon:

It's crazy to think of all the stuff that goes behind an AI role. Now, you mentioned

Unknown:

I mean, one way to think about our current research, sort of, if you will, kind of based on that idea. Imagine trying to understand the social network, in a bar at a party, and all the connections between different people as they sort of talk and mingle. All of the nonverbal communication that goes on the glands move, did a touch on the shoulder or handshake. And just how much information is really conveyed by something as simple and as complicated as rolling one's eyes. And so if experimentalists just fine just for fun to understand that worth observing that kind of those kinds of interactions And you just didn't capture that, you know, for split second eye roll, which could potentially, you know, impact a relationship because, you know, even lead to a permanent change a breakup, you might not understand why the relationship went the way it did, unless you really were able to capture sort of everything going on there. And in addition, it can be tremendously difficult, after the fact, to fit and kind of watch all of this, and be sensitive to it only, you know, in the, in the wake of all the things occurring. And so even for something maybe easier to fit down and kind of kind of watch, like the activity of a single neuron in a dish, as that neuron flutters along, you know, there's just so much that you learned by watching it. And in addition, a lot of these recordings do fail for various technical reasons. Preparations go bad, there can be electrical glitches and that kind of thing. Those are the two things put together, right? The hope of discovering something really sort of interesting and new in the moment, as well as the deep fear, having an experiment go wrong, and then you weren't able to correct it. Because you know, you, you went out to get some food or something. That's why I think a lot of us do have this sort of, you know, hot feet stay and kind of watch, as things are going on, I think it's actually not so different from perhaps being a parent and watching your kid at the playground. It's a mixture of hope and joy, watching them discover and do things for the first time, maybe make a new friend or play or show off a new skill, and you know, the dread of turning your head, and then all of a sudden, you look back and are nowhere to be seen, and having that panic attack of trying to find your kid to the playground.

Aaron Harmon:

So there's a news article in Nature where you had written that is, these rituals like this, this watching taps into something deep about the human condition? Is that what you were getting at?

Unknown:

I think so. One of the things that I really found marvelous, so I started graduate school, I came to biology from a different field. I went to art school a long time ago, and then I was a computer scientist, for some time a programmer, and it really kind of was surprising to realize just how much experimental science is so, so personal, and you know, that it has such a human involvement that you really do get invested in a profound way, in experiments that data collection isn't, or doesn't have to be the passionless kind of endeavor that, you know, fraught with, with human emotion, especially if they're complicated experiments that might require months of training, even months of setup, capture, something just writes, again, that's sort of that hope that things go well, or at least become interesting, combined with that fear of like, what if, what if it doesn't work? Again, I think it really just sort of part of the drive, as a scientist to watch and learn, and especially persevere, when trying to perform complicated experiments. And what I tell my own graduate students is that if you know what you're doing, you might not really be doing cutting edge fire. If you know what you're doing, if you know, you know how the experiment is supposed to go, sort of by definition, that's a control experiment. And so if you're then sort of struggling in the dark, not sure if what you're doing is correct, that even knowing you know what correct even means, then, you know, potentially, you know, you might be off on from in from dead end, but you could also be on to something really kind of new and exciting

Aaron Harmon:

to be discovering. Exactly. Well, thank you for sharing and being on the show.

Unknown:

Thank you.

Aaron Harmon:

We've got a lot of fun. And this show, we went all over the place went from Pacific Islanders to hot dogs, music and watching experiments. Why? Because people like me sometimes need a reminder that we are all human. We impact the things around us, and they can impact us. How does this apply to quality? It means we have to consider the human element in our work. We need to understand that the people we support are people, not robots, but instead complete with rituals, beliefs, emotions, and AI to detect even subtle associations in our world. And this can be a very good thing. So maybe the next time you are struggling through an investigation, trying to finalize a procedure or completing a validation, need to turn on some classical music, eat a hot dog, or even build a runway. Now, get back to watching experiments, and stay tuned for the next episode. We hope you enjoyed this episode. This is brought to you thanks to South Dakota biotech Association. If you have a story you'd like us to explore and share, let us know by visiting www. SD bio.org. Also, if you live in the Sioux Falls area, check out QUIBIT a local Quali y Assurance Professionals Networ . You can find out more abo t QUIBIT by clicking on the link on our website too. Thanks or listening. So if you would l ke to hear what a Costa Ri an singing Now sounds like here is an audio c Thank you for listening to this episode of Inside Out quality