A History of Bioinformatics (told from the Year 2039)

A week or so back I was watching the chatter around the #ISMB / #BOSC2014 meeting, and saw a number of amusing and intriguing comments about Titus Brown’s keynote talk.

You can see a lot of chatter about it in the Storify. I was delighted to soon see this follow up tweet:

I didn’t have time to watch it right away, but when I did, I really enjoyed it. It’s worth your time if you have some interest about the directions of this field. It’s not easy to pull off a talk like you are 25 years into the future. It’s also rife with danger–as later people might use pieces of it against you. Lincoln Stein wrote an amusing follow-up to to a prediction talk he gave in 2003, entitled: Bioinformatics: Gone in 2012 (follow up piece linked below).  Or it could just end up so embarrassingly off-target that you’ll look like some of the folks that Titus highlights in the talk, whose predictions about future technologies were pretty…um…well, you’ll see. But it’s a clever way to think about the future that we want, and how the path could look to get us there.

SPOILERS: Here are some of my favorite tidbits, mostly for my own notes:

  • Bioinformatics sweatshops [I fear this too]
  • California has disappeared [egads, but...]
  • MicrosoftElsevier [snicker]
  • Universities have collapsed [hmm, not convinced on this]
  • Pioneering appointment of Phil Bourne: “NIH finally realized that training was important” [~20min; oh, please let this come true]
  • the problems of “Glam Data” [contrast to "glam journals" today]
  • in the future, because of better education, 80% of the US will accept evolution [from your lips to...wait...]
  • ~33min, interesting look at the actual outcomes of techno-progress and how they diverged from predictions; via Heinlein’s “Where To?” with 4 curves of predicted human progress (linked below). [Heh, I'm in this argument a lot, this could be handy--piece + chart linked below]
  • “I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m trying new things.” [~38min, about forging unchartered directions in a young field]
  • At the end, ~56min: “Let the crazy people do the crazy things. See what happens.” [Testify.]

Boy, the pressure is on Phil Bourne to solve everything. This is a recurring theme at every genomics and bioinformatics event I see lately…I wish him luck sorting this out. Good news from this talk is that he seems to have done it.

And the slides are here, with Talk notes for the Bioinformatics Open Source Conference (2014) at Titus’ blog.


Stein L.D. (2008). Bioinformatics: alive and kicking, Genome Biology, 9 (12) 114. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/gb-2008-9-12-114

Heinlein R. (1952). Where to?, Galaxy Magazine, February 13-22. ["Your personal telephone will be small enough to carry in your handbag." Well, he nailed that one.]

{sorry,  had to republish to get it in to the ResearchBlogging queue. RB was down yesterday.}