Re: MSNBC feature on genetic testing

Robert J. Bradbury (
Thu, 9 Sep 1999 21:10:26 -0700 (PDT)

On Thu, 9 Sep 1999 wrote:

> <<Several stories, including (what seem to me rather conservative) forecasts
> for use of genetic testing.
It depends what they mean by genetic testing. Genetic testing, e.g. cystic fibrosis is done today. If you look at OMIM (, particularly the "Statistics", you can see that about 5,700 of ~10,000 diseases have been pinned down to specific chromosomes. The last time I read something about this about 300 diseases were pinned down to specific genes, but I suspect the number is higher now.

However, clearly with the genome being done in ~2 years, we are going to have another "big wave", of connections between diseases and physical genes.

Once we have the genes and the polymorphisms (genetic variations), genetic testing will be gated by two things (a) penetration of gene chip into Physician's offices, and (b) whether or not people have a desire to know their defects.

> For instance: By 2040, says Francis Collins, we will have lifespans of
> 90 years. A real pessimist! :-) >>

I don't mind, it gives me a reality check on my optimism. By then lithography line widths will be < 2 nm (as compared with 180 nm today). That gives me desktop systems operating at 10^18 OPS without processor in memory (PIM) architectures and 10^25 OPS with PIM architectures. [Note, that these *exceed* Nanocomputer based OPS, so we are likely talking single electron or quantum flux transistors here.]

If that doesn't give me enough capacity to upload, then I will be truely miffed. And fortunately, with my current age, I'll just make it under that wire. :-)

> This _does_ sound terribly the point of sounding not a
> little ignorant.

I can think of a few reasons for the statement: (a) He is taking the current projections of demographers that do

not include changes in the current rate of change. (b) He thinks that the focus will be on genetic diseases rather than

      aging.  That may be true for NIH, but it is highly doubtful that
      the Pharma companies with R&D budgets bigger than NIH will be
      focused on diseases that affect a dozen people.
  (c) He isn't up-to-date on aging research.  That is probably fairly true
      as aging research remains an outcast for serious biologists.
  (d) He doesn't want to raise a red flag for the luddites.
      Francis is a very bright guy and he can see the GM crop debates
      as well as the rest of us.  As I indicated, at Extro 4, if the
      Social Security Administration produces a report to Congress
      that shows lifespan extensions will bankrupt the country, the
      s**t will really hit the fan.

> Of course, we had plenty of ultra-conservative standpoints and hype re.
> our future in space not so long ago, and many would argue that
> the conservatives were right.

"Big" tech vs. "Micro" tech. The bigger you go the more expensive it gets, the smaller you go the cheaper it gets. [Caveat -- while the semiconductor manufacturers would argue that the factory cost is increasing, the cost per transistor is clearly decreasing.]

> Re: failure to develop space.
> I'm not sure this reasoning adheres to biomedicine, which is everyone's
> game and not, as was popularly conceived, a handful of Cold War technocrats.

Self-interest is perhaps the best predictor of trends... Not everyone has a desire or interest in going into space. Some would be very afraid of this (since it is inherently dangerous). We all have an interest however in living healthy and productive lives.