Coming Age of Biotech

From the beginning of human history until about 1800, the way humans traveled didn’t change all that much. And nothing was much faster than a person could run. Whether you were on a boat, on foot, on a horse, or in a wagon, you were moving at maybe 12 miles per hour or less. Anything faster wasn’t sustainable over long distances.

From 1800 to about 1970, the modes of transportation developed rapidly. Anyone born in that period had faster modes of transportation than their parents had. First there were steam ships then trains. By the end of the 1800s there were personal automobiles with internal combustion engines. In the first decade of the 20th century there were primitive airplanes and within 3 decades of that, there were airplanes crossing the oceans with passengers. By 1969, there was a man on the moon and super sonic passenger jets. Transportation speed went from 10 to 12 miles per hour to over 1,300 miles per hour.

Interestingly, the science fiction from this era was also focused on transportation. Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke and Robert Heinlein and the other sci Fi writers from that time, all wrote about space travel and traveling in tubes and flying cars. Improved transportation was always a central component of their sci fi worlds.

So what I’m suggesting is that transportation experienced something like Moore’s law from about 1800 to about 1970, which coincidentally is about when Gordon Moore made the prediction now known as Moore’s Law.

But then it plateaued. The speed with which you can cross the world today whether by plane or by car in 2024, isn’t much faster than it was in 1970. In fact, it’s slower because we don’t have the Concorde anymore and we have strict speed limits on roads.

Moore’s law states that the number of transistors on a chip doubles every two years. Gordon Moore made that prediction in 1965 and it’s held steady since then. Now, of course, Moore’s law isn’t a law of nature. He made it based off the trend he spotted from 1955 to 1965 that transistors were shrinking in size about every two years and that the trend would continue until 1975 even though it’s held true through the present moment in 2024.

1800 to about 1970 was the age of transportation. We are now in the age of the microprocessor but I think we are coming to the end of it. We’ll have computer chips with 2nm transistors being produced by 2025, 1nm chips by 2027, and beyond that, we start hitting the atomic limits of how many transistors you can fit on a chip. And I should stop here and say, I have no idea what that means. I’m regurgitating things I’ve read online, I’ve never looked at a microchip under a microscope or been to a chip factory, I have no idea what I’m talking about. But that’s two or three more doublings of transistors before we may see a plateauing of how small our devices can get. And the sci Fi of our era is obsessed with the miniaturizing of things. The famous example here is in Minority Report, which was filmed pre-smart phones, they showed cell phones as just tinier versions of flip phones.

Which leads us to the question, what’s next?

The next age is the age of biotech.

Let’s call it 2030 and beyond. Just as transportation speed didn’t change from the beginning of history until about 1800, and computation didn’t really change from the beginning of history until 1970, human lifespan hasn’t really changed from the beginning of history until now. We still live about 78.5 plus or minus about 10 depending on what country you’re from, what lifestyle you lead, etc. I think that’s going to change. The age of biotech will be marked by:

1) the lengthening of human life

and 2) by the merging of the digital and the biological.

First, human lifespan. Again, I’m just regurgitating what I’ve read online, I feel like that’s an important disclaimer when talking about anything. I know nothing. But what I’ve read is that scientists now understand aging and are on the way to slowing aging. I’ve heard it said that the youngest among us will live into their 150’s.

Secondly, I think we are going to merge more and more with the digital. Neuralink has successfully implanted chips into people’s brains and they are able to control computers with their thoughts. Everyday there are more and more wearables in watches, rings, even clothing now. There was a breakthrough a few days ago where scientists were able to generate images from someone’s dreams which is a step toward computers being able to read our thoughts. And we are all spending more and more time online sharing more and more about our lives. The ultimate conclusion of that is that we will have a device implanted in our brains where we can stream every thought to the collective consciousness of everyone. And our every biomarker will be tracked at all times and contributing to the collective intelligence of mankind. From there, AI will be developing drugs and technologies at a rate we can’t even imagine. Decades of progress will happen in a single year. 2030 will look more different from 2024 than 2024 compared to 1970.

And the new sci fi is already focused on biotech. I read Theft of Fire recently which was published last year. In it, the main character has one of his eyes replaced with a smart eye that is essentially his built-in AI assistant. And there’s another character whose a genetwist, basically a designer human. Her DNA was programmed so she’d have no diseases and a particular height and hair color and things like that.

These are the things I like to think about. We’re so lucky to be here at this transition point in history and I can’t wait to see what’s next.

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