I came across this intriguing documentary on Web3.0 by Kate Ray and as I watched it I began to see more and more parallels between the world of the web and biotechnology. The film starts off with the claim that “the core problem is our ability to create information has far exceeded our ability to manage it.” What a profound statement. Imagine, a short while ago information was obtained through books in libraries and social learning consisted of getting together with your local book club to discuss the most recent novel you read over a cup of hot chocolate. Today, the vast amount of information available on the web far exceeds our ability to organize and process it in a meaningful manner. Moreover, search engine tools such as Google are quite limited in their ability to provide us with useful information. Think about it. The last time you needed to purchase a digital camera what did you do? You probably googled “digital camera” or some variation of that theme and were overwhelmed with tens of thousands of search results. Is that what you wanted? I thought that the web was supposed to make life much simpler.
Now think about our world of biotechnology. Twenty to twenty-five thousand genes, tens of thousands of proteins, post-translational modifications, proteins behaving different ways in different organs under different conditions. Think about how many permutations there must be! A PI in the ’90s was happy to focus on his or her favorite gene and publish papers on it’s transcriptional and translational control and in-vivo results of his favorite gene knocked out in some type of mouse model. Today the situation is much different. While the aforementioned experiments are still of extreme value, one must consider the intricacies of molecular interactions and be aware of the umpteen permutations that exist in protein-protein interactions.
A great line in the video that I felt hit the nail on the head and royally describes the importance of understanding molecular information in relation to its molecular surroundings is that a word by itself is quite meaningless. It is the context around the word that gives it meaning. So too in the study of genes and proteins. A protein by itself is meaningless. It is the context around that protein that determines its function.
In any event, this is a facinating video and I’d be very interested in hearing how it contributed to your thoughts on our world of biotechnology.