Radical Life Extension Requires Faster Computers

If radical life extension is to get underway within our lifetimes, this era must become a golden age, a true revolution in biotechnology. This golden age of biotechnology requires the development of faster computers - much, much faster computers.

the hype that followed the complete mapping of the human genome in 2000 is true: The 21st century really is turning out to be the golden age of biotech.

All that gene-sequencing and protein-mapping is going to take us into a brave new world of health where you can walk into your doctor's office, have your DNA sequenced, find out what diseases you're at risk for, and then ingest a single chemical compound mapped to your proteins that will help eliminate your risk.

You can see that happening already, albeit in relatively small (and relatively pricey) ways.

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Second, all that demand from biotech is going to boost our supercomputing power the same way the space race helped spur the development of the mainframe computers that were revolutionary for their time.

New branches of science that most of us are unfamiliar with are about to become household words, or at least recognizable job prospects: genomics (the study of genes), proteomics (the study of proteins), biostatistics and bioinformatics (which create algorithms to help analyze biological data).

Biotech research centers are springing up everywhere from Brazil to Zimbabwe. The field, awash in pharmaceutical cash, is sucking in researchers, programmers, engineers, biologists, computer scientists - anyone whose career path comes close to meeting the needs of computing-driven biotech.

The more that scientists examine the genome and pinpoint the locations of certain ailments, the more numbers that supercomputers will have to crunch to find a cure.

Consider that it is only in recent years, now that computing power per dollar has really started to take off, that major progress has been made in long-standing fields such as cancer research, genetics and immunology. Without advances in processing power, and the tools of bioinformatics built atop this foundation, scientists would have no hope of dealing effectively with the sheer complexity of human biochemistry.

With tools, understanding, hard work and funding we will be increasingly able to tackle the details of degenerative aging: replace failing mitochondria; turn cancer into a manageable, chronic condition; remove toxic byproducts that accumulate inside and around your cells with age; repair the aging immune system; build replacement tissue from our own stem cells; and much more. Every problem has an answer, if only the resources are applied to find it.

We are fortunately to live in a time in which the possibility exists to engineer additional healthy decades of life. Let's not miss this chance at a longer and much more fascinating future: we should do our utmost to support the advance of medical technology.

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Comments

I've read pharmaceutical company workers say they are looking towards 1 petaflop supercomputers at least. To do simulations of the interactions going on.

The fastest super computer in the world, IBM's bluegene, is 280 teraflops. As the name suggests this line of supercomputers is being developed for future demand from the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. Check out http://www.top500.org

By 2015 we should see pharmacuetical companies with 1 petaflop supercomputers. Actually if you look at the trend line we could see supercomputeres in the 10's of petaflop range in 2015.

Posted by: aa2 at August 20th, 2006 1:56 AM

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