Not just genomics: the creeping future

By Razib Khan | March 8, 2012 8:44 am

In 2007 Reihan Salam asked me when the $1,000 genome was going arrive. On paper, probably around this year, or early next. But as I’ve been suggesting it really isn’t that big of a deal (the sticker price isn’t real in any case, someone will want the publicity). Over at The Crux I try and do my own impersonation of Peter Diamandis. But I wanted to emphasize that genomics alone, ubiquitous as it will be, is not going to be the “real deal.” Rather, it has to be integrated into a much thicker and richer information environment plugged into more efficient analytic tools. Personal genomics is a visible manifestation of the likely revolution in the health information ecology which is possible just around the corner. As an example, Mike Snyder starts out with his genome in his presentations on the outlines of this nascent revolution, but probably the more important aspects have to do with fine-grained tracking of his biomarkers (which resulted in actionable information for him personally). Imagine a daily check-up instead of a six month check-up (or a minute by minute tracking system for the hypochondriacs out there).

With all that said, keep in mind the dynamic that Christina Agapakis highlights in The Crux. The hype around some technologies always results in them being 10-20 years into the future.* Artificial intelligence is probably a case of this, but less commented upon is the similar phenomenon in humanoid robotics. And yet it is easy to “problematize” the contention that robotics hasn’t yielded anything; I put the qualifier humanoid there precisely because my understanding is that robotics is more pervasive away from prying eyes than we might think. Genetic engineering probably hasn’t hit people as being a revolutionary technology, but it is, in the form of GMOs. There are many ways that we don’t live in the world of the Jetsons, but there are many ways that the Jetsons could not imagine our own world. We see the visions of the future through a dark mirror.

* Shiny unitards are always in the future it seems.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Genetics, Genomics
MORE ABOUT: Futurism
  • http://www.scribd.com/doc/74944514/ Robert Dole

    “Artificial intelligence is probably a case of this, but less commented upon is the similar phenomenon in humanoid robotics. And yet it is easy to “problematize” the contention that robotics hasn’t yielded anything; I put the qualifier humanoid there precisely because my understanding is that robotics is more pervasive away from prying eyes than we might think.”

    You seen these?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQIMGV5vtd4

    We can finally keep a persistent, minimally invasive eye on indigenous populations that are at risk from loggers or miners.

  • http://www.wired.com/ Schrödinger’s Hat

    There’s a difference between technologies that we can implement today in ways that aren’t cost effective (full genome sequencing), and technologies that are 10-20 years in the future because people feel that we’re *so* close and a a proof of concept is right around the corner (cold fusion, AI). The former has the important work done, and it’s just a matter of refining the process. The latter is still missing the important parts, even if some think we are really close.

    Also, shiny unitards (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/CrystalSpiresAndTogas) are always 10-20 yrs in the future because of how we see the future, and advances in robotics have already yielded a vacuum that is cleaning my apartment (http://www.engadget.com/2011/10/11/neatos-xv-12-robot-vacuum-cleans-your-floors-dressed-in-white-f/) while I type this comment.

  • juan

    Some of the advances that today are commonplace, but once were written of in glowlingly futuristic terms.

    The “Newspaper of the Future”. News delivered electronics. Customised to your personal interests! In other words, my boring old rss feeds.

    Automatic translation. Chrome offers a one click “Translate to English” button whenever I access a non-English site. This would have seemed magical less than a decade ago. Yet it’s here.

    Routine speech recognition. People still seem impressed with Siri, but the routine speech of every big company’s customer service phone # has been here for years and nobody even blinks at it anymore.

    Oh, and those quad-copters are impressive. But all of the sensors and computation are off-board. There is a room full of cameras surveying the scene and giving the off-board CPUs perfect knowledge of the environment. The quadcopters are impressive, and the computing will eventually be on-board – but that sensor model can’t be applied to the wild. External cameras with a known, fixed-to-th-millimete position and a god’s eye view of the entire scene aren’t applicable outside the lab. Other labs are working on building scene data from noisy, moving on-board sensors. It’s a much harder problem, though.

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Gene Expression

This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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