Identifying Relationships

Source: Deep Learning on Medium

Identifying Relationships

We encounter systems, organizations, classifications, structures, conglomerates, ecosystems, networks and it goes on and on. Conceptually with words such as these, you may think of large and complex schemes too grand, where does it begin and where does it end?

When you think of a relationship, you innately think about the interaction between two or more. The word relationship poses a reflexive thought as to how the relationship is defined. Our minds are designed to sniff out patterns and breaks in pattern.

Relationship injects meaning to a path of discovering, what and how one affects the others and many so on and so forth.

“The nature of things do not happen out of no where, conditions have to be right”

It’s through the process of studying how relationship effects the other in-turn increases the ability to formulate educated assumptions and better questions. What are the factors that increase the likely hood of compatibility and which do the opposite? Is it environment? Is it circumstance? Is it timing? Is it external? Is it internal?

This practice helps you refine your articulation, asking yourself what is my relationship to a chair or the relationship to weather. It’s a systematic method of questioning the existence, value, and meaning of interaction, result and no result. The goal is not finding the right answers but about asking the right questions.

When evaluating a complex “thing” I find that asking very open-ended and board questions gets the ball rolling and provides clarity to ask more refined questions. This is a method done to determine what and what not are the relationships.

Introducing a man who understands a thing or two about relationships is the esteemed English anesthesiologist Dr. John Snow. During the 1850’s he was personally responsible for administering anesthesia to the Queen when she went into labor. However his most impressive contribution to the people of London and the entire world was establishing relationships that pin-pointed the spread of the water borne disease Cholera.

During his time cholera was widely accepted as a deadly air-borne disease. In 1854 an outbreak of cholera was spreading through a densely populated London neighborhood called Soho. Cholera was no stranger to the people of London, first accounts were in the 1830’s during the height of the industrial revolution. It was fatal and would lead your body to dehydration so rapidly that you die within just a few hours of first feeling symptoms. Germ theory*

London during this period was ravaged with poor sanitation, no indoor plumbing, and as a result human waste was disposed into holes dug underneath houses which drained into the river. Neighborhoods reeked of sewage and leant to the widely -held theory of how cholera spread: miasmas. Miasmas was the theory that the air rose up from decomposing waste and somehow infected anyone breathing the air.

This relationship didn’t make much sense to Dr Snow. As an anesthesiologist, he understood how gases moved around, when a gas or miasmas is breathed in, your respiratory system would be effected. Your lungs would respond with coughing and hacking. However cholera obviously affected your digestive system and not your respiratory system. His observations furthermore led him to discount the theory of residents becoming affected by foul air.

To better understand the relationships between those who were affected and those that were not. Dr. Snow noticed the outbreak seemed to concentrate around one particular street corner, furthermore created more questions that needed answers. With the assistance of a priest, Dr. Snow accompanied with a priest, went door to door interviewing residents and tracking how many people were affected and died.

Water pumps are highlighted and Deaths are represented as black squares and rectangles.

After gathering and With the compiling data, he then created a visual map representing the relationships of deaths that occurred in proximity of one another. The result was a visual patterned ripple effect stemming from the local water pump located on a street corner.

Dr. Snow’s investigative findings were convincing enough to persuade the local council to disable the well pump. His findings also inspired fundamental changes in the water and waste management in London and around the world.

Dr. Snow’s findings were significance because it back boned the less accepted concept of germ theory, which in modern day is currently accepted scientific theory of disease.

This is one of many great examples of how outlining where the relationships lie and where they don’t, can lead to the best interpretation.

Identifying relationships has many processes, contextual inquiry, questions, interviews, data, past faults, failure points, creating models. Articulating what is not being seen, identifying the patterns and the gaps in patterns, deviating from your own bias and assumptions, identifying the conflict.

Human Guinea Pig

How about an example where extraordinary lengths are taken to establish relationships and deviates from convention. Introducing Dr. Barry Marshall and his stomach and how both shed light on the undeniable relationships that he and a college Dr. Robin Warren uncovered.

Dr Marshall is known as the man who swallowed living bacteria and ultimately infected himself. Prior to Dr Marshall’s gut busting discovery, conventional wisdom amongst doctors stated stomach ulcers were induced by stress. During a time when many doctors passively dismiss these conditions as “all in the head” One of Dr. Marshall’s early ulcer patients was put through the usual tests, but nothing showed up. And she was later sent to a psychiatrist who then wrote a subscription for antidepressants (not a recommendation of Dr. Marshall). Dr Marshall began to deeply question the relationships of his patients symptoms.

It wasn’t until Dr. Robin Warren the hospital pathologist, said he had been seeing these bacteria on biopsies of ulcer and stomach cancer patients for two years, and they were all identical and wanted Dr Marshall to take a look.

He took a strong interest into these patterns because they raised more questions than answers that lead to conducting experiments. After inspecting a number of cultures he discovered a lone slow-growing bacteria called Helicobacter. When Dr. Marshall and his team observed a relationship that everyone stomach cancer developed it on a background of gastritis, an irritation or inflammation of the stomach lining.

“So I go down there and he shows me two cultures, the grand slam, under the microscope. The lab techs had been throwing the cultures out after two days because with strep, on the first day we may see something, but by the second day it’s covered with contamination and you might as well throw it in the bin. That was the mentality of the lab: Anything that didn’t grow in two days didn’t exist. But Helicobacter is slow-growing, we discovered. After that we let the cultures grow longer and found we had 13 patients with duodenal ulcer, and all of them had the bacteria” -Dr Marshall

“We observed that everybody who got stomach cancer developed it on a background of gastritis, an irritation or inflammation of the stomach lining. Whenever we found a person without Helicobacter, we couldn’t find gastritis, either. So as far as we knew, the only important cause of gastritis was Helicobacter. Therefore, it had to be the most important cause of stomach cancer as well” -Dr Marshall

To show solid proof under lab standards proved to be an uphill challenge. Dr Marshall and his team tirelessly attempted to infect animals. None of the lab experiments resulted in positive test and all failed to test positive. The next step was to experiment on humans however you can imagine that because of regulatory standards, this paht was close to impossible. Dr Marshall felt an urgency “I saw people who were almost dying from bleeding ulcers, and I knew all they needed was some antibiotics, but they weren’t my patients”

So, Dr Marshall did the unthinkable, he gathered the ulcer causing bacteria from a patient and cultured them. Worked out which antibiotics could kill the infection followed by swirling the bacteria into a cup of broth and drank it. Days passed and he began to experience symptoms, the vomiting, exhaustion, and the constant foul breath all ensued. Knowing what was next, Dr.Marshall then biopsied his own gut, culturing the ulcer causing bacteria and undoubtedly proving that the bacteria was the underlying cause of ulcers.

The great thing about science is that it contains tons and tons of these stories were a field of experts are blinded by their bias and fail to look at the obvious.

The most important take away that I want to highlight, is search for evidence that disproves your assumptions. We all have the capabilities to identify relationship however we get in our own way of seeing it.