Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Are genomics the next information revolution?
I think so. I think genetics and computer science are a perfect match. Both fields are driven by large quantities of information and both are advancing very rapidly. We have been doing computer science for around 60 years now, and, of course, we are just finding out how to program the human code. On both accounts, we will be able to do amazing things in the next 10 years or so. Beyond the 10 years, we will treading on uncharted territory, e.g., using super computers to digitally manipulate cancer cells
Currently, there are a few companies working on how to use the decoded human genome. Fortunately, VCs will start looking into this field, as opposed to the Web 2.0 craze. Ask your neighborhood's friendly VC and he or she will tell you that he or she is only interested in the next Facebook or YouTube. Boring, really. There's a lot more business models that don't rely on "social networking" to pimp out products. The net is more than just advertising.
I think software engineers will gravitate towards this field. I shouldn't generalize, but the field fascinating: it's a natural progression (I really want to program my own genes to do something), specially after reading this
very good introduction to DNA for programmers. I also recommend Juan Enriquez's 2004 TED talk
If your interest is peaked, I suggest you read Genome
, by Matt Ridley. The book is a good introduction to the human genome and it's proving to be a good reminder of the little chemistry and biology I took in high school. I particularly like his introduction, which reads:
In four thousand million years of earth history, I am lucky enough to be alive today. In five million species, I was fortunate enough to be born a conscious human being. Among six thousand million people on the planet, I was privileged enough to be born in the country where the word was discovered [the word is DNA]. In all of the earth's history, biology and geography, I was born just five years after the moment when, and just two hundred miles from the place where, two members of my own species discovered the structure of DNA and hence uncovered the greatest, simplest and most surprising secret in the universe.
It all sounds very romantic, but reality will kick in: there is money to be made and whole industries will be developed around this DNA stuff.
I'm starting to build the basis for the future
. It reminds of how I got into web stuff: playing around with CGI programs in 1993, and Java applets in 1996/1997. I think the word I'm looking for is serendipity.