An interesting feature of modern medicine is the increasing tendency to view disease processes as the breakdown of normal biochemical, electrical and circadian control mechanisms. These can be referred to (with a terminology borrowed from artificial intelligence) cybernetic controls – meaning that the disease process is understood as the breakdown of normative biochemical and other control mechanisms. Cancer, genetic and autoimmune diseases are increasingly expressed in this manner. For my own study, this has been a particularly useful trend and it provides bewildering arrays of information and an always interesting job in making sense of the data patterns.
In the growth of the modern European scientific method applied to medicine we have moved from seeing the universe through the lens of clockwork – then as more complex biological machinery and hermetical systems – to biochemical systems and with the rise of computing – cybernetic biochemical ones. Is it that the technology influences our seeing or is it that the technique expresses the possibilities hidden in our ontology?
The most interesting of the emergent technique approaches are those that have begun to view the body as an open system with cybernetic controls of an array of subsystems linked by the intercellular matrix. Occasionally the influence of quantum mechanics has to smash its way into the party, for medicine remains doggedly Newtonian. This approach, especially developed by the late Prof. Alfred Pischinger increasingly yields insights which begin to resemble the insights expressed in the ancient energetic medicinal approaches of Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Greco-Arab Medicine, albeit expressed in a systems bio-machine description of the human bodies.
I am often amazed at the lack of realisation of the philosophical implications of many of these insights. With my natural love of the study of patterns and their cosmological indications, this is proving an exciting journey and the discipline of maintaining a medicinal focus has begun to yield interesting therapeutic implications, especially in the treatment of chronic diseases. Systems biology is truly a fascinating frontier.