Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Biomedicine in the Post-Information Age: 1

Apparently, we have entered the post-information age. I've been doing a little research on "post-information", and I'm not sure that a good definition exists.

My impression is that you enter a "post-fill in the blank" age when the basic tools and principles of an age are completed and available. In the "post" age, the world develops new and useful advances from pre-existing tools.

So, for example, the industrial revolution involved developing machinery and engines that could perform some of the difficult chores that humans were struggling with: ginning cotton, moving goods from the Eastern states to the Western territories. The post-industrial age involved using the principles of machine design to clever things, like visiting the moon.

Another example is the genomic and post-genomic ages. The age of the genome was devoted to sequencing the bases in human DNA. Once the human genome was sequenced, the post-genomic age began. Now, we're expected to use our knowledge of genes to cure cancer and halt the aging process.

The information age was focused on building powerful, fast, and affordable computers and to develop computational strategies for collecting, storing, accessing, exchanging, annotating, and analyzing huge amounts of information. We've done that, and we've used computers and software to do many of the tedious tasks that were once done "by hand." So now we're in the post-information age. Now, we're expected to use all that information to do completely new things; things that were not envsioned during the information age.

Over the next few days or weeks, I hope to write a few blogs about what we might expect from the post-information age. As usual, I will tie everything to my favorite subjects (data annotation, classification, new methods of data analysis, and biomedical progress).

- Copyright (C) 2008 Jules J. Berman

key words: biomedical informatics, post-genomic
Science is not a collection of facts. Science is what facts teach us; what we can learn about our universe, and ourselves, by deductive thinking. From observations of the night sky, made without the aid of telescopes, we can deduce that the universe is expanding, that the universe is not infinitely old, and why black holes exist. Without resorting to experimentation or mathematical analysis, we can deduce that gravity is a curvature in space-time, that the particles that compose light have no mass, that there is a theoretical limit to the number of different elements in the universe, and that the earth is billions of years old. Likewise, simple observations on animals tell us much about the migration of continents, the evolutionary relationships among classes of animals, why the nuclei of cells contain our genetic material, why certain animals are long-lived, why the gestation period of humans is 9 months, and why some diseases are rare and other diseases are common. In “Armchair Science”, the reader is confronted with 129 scientific mysteries, in cosmology, particle physics, chemistry, biology, and medicine. Beginning with simple observations, step-by-step analyses guide the reader toward solutions that are sometimes startling, and always entertaining. “Armchair Science” is written for general readers who are curious about science, and who want to sharpen their deductive skills.