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Future Imperative

What if technology were being developed that could enhance your mind or body to extraordinary or even superhuman levels -- and some of these tools were already here? Wouldn't you be curious?

Actually, some are here. But human enhancement is an incredibly broad and compartmentalized field. We’re often unaware of what’s right next door. This site reviews resources and ideas from across the field and makes it easy for readers to find exactly the information they're most interested in.


The future is coming fast, and it's no longer possible to ignore how rapidly the world is changing. As the old order changes -- or more frequently crumbles altogether -- I offer a perspective on how we can transform ourselves in turn... for the better. Nothing on this site is intended as legal, financial or medical advice. Indeed, much of what I discuss amounts to possibilities rather than certainties, in an ever-changing present and an ever-uncertain future.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Google, Conquering Your Genes -- AI, Bio, Soc, Tech

Google is up to yet more tinkering in artificial intelligence and the human genome. An interesting point made in the linked article is that Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page are thinking very deeply about the future and the course they want their company to take going forward, confronting issues such as the cure and prevention of diseases, the development of artificial intelligence processes and improved language translation and increasing free access to otherwise unavailable sources of information. (A proclivity mentioned in my last article.)

Regarding their efforts to catalogue genetic information, the Post article quotes Stanford president John Hennessy.

"Just think of the application of Google to genomics," said Hennessy. "There are large databases, lots of information, and the need for search." With the addition of specialized data, he said, Google's index could aid in new discoveries in genetics. "You want to be able to use a search system that is content-dependent, with the genome and structure of DNA already built in. It is one of many potential areas where you can see this so-called 'intelligent search' making a big difference. We are going to see more and more of it."

The article adds:

Dr. Alan E. Guttmacher, deputy director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, said Google's involvement in genetics is particularly meaningful because of its capacity to search and find specific genes and genetic abnormalities that cause diseases. He also said that its massive computing power can be used to analyze vast quantities of data with billions of parts-quantities that scientists in laboratories do not have the capacity to process. The old model of a scientist working in a lab, he said, is being replaced by the new paradigm of a researcher working at a computer, connected to databases through the Internet, and doing simulations in cyberspace. "Until recently, the challenge has been gathering data," Guttmacher said. "Now, the bigger challenge is organizing and assessing it. Google-like approaches are the key to doing that. It completely accelerates and changes the way science is done. We are beginning to have incredible tools to understand the biology of human diseases in ways we never have before, and to come up with novel ways to prevent and treat them."

Google plans to assemble a genetic database, analyze it, and find significant correlations for individuals and populations -- thus finding links between particular genes and sets of genes and particular traits such as diseases and specific human qualities (eye color, intelligence, etc). Needless to say, this is another one of those biotech innovations that Gregory Stock would suggest has a powerful dual-use function relating to human augmentation. This kind of information and the capacity to do research in these areas will make augmentation research much easier -- to no small degree because people will be doing such research all the time for completely unrelated reasons, owing to the ease with which these studies can be done.

Need to analyze factors relating to memory for your Alzheimer's drug trials? Go crunch the database. Need to revisit reading speeds for your treatment of reading-challenged children? Let Google do it for you. Want to know what genetic anomalies can be found in learning disabled students? Put the Googleplex on it. That's what they're there for. Among other things...

The article ends by suggesting another "ultimate goal" for Google. A version of Google you could plug directly into your brain, enabling you to have access to all the world's knowledge right inside your head.

(Further insights regarding Google can be found in this discussion transcript with David Vise, author of The Google Story.)

Future Imperative


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