Monthly Archives: April 2016

More Important Than Doing Well

My wife and I take a routine monthly trip to Costco to refill the refrigerator. Now with less than two months from core exam, she said she can drive by herself so I can have more time to study. It was thoughtful of her to offer. I thought for a moment. Buying chicken and cheese may be routine and unexciting, but it is something we do together, and there are some things more important than doing well on a test.


Doing Better Stems from Being Bored of Doing Good Enough

“The result of our approach,is that we end up with a team of people who will quickly become bored by performing tasks by hand and have the skill set necessary to write software to replace their previously manual work.”

Ben Sloss, Google

Google engineers are not afraid of automating themselves out of a job.  They embrace the challenge of finding the next best thing in machine learning, in big data, in medicine, or moonshots like longevity, because of this philosophy.

Are we bored with clicking and measuring things by hand yet?  Spell checking your report manually for semantic (i.e. error of meaning not spelling) errors? Making a differential diagnosis strictly from memory?  We should get bored.  Then we can start to improve it.

It’s when we are satisfied from “good enough” that we forget “doing better” is possible.

Programmable DNA Circuits Make Smart Cells a Reality – Sort of

… and imagine if you could program life itself.  Rather than 0’s and 1’s, you have four possibilities, a computing system performing quaternary arithmetics.

I still remember being dazzled as a freshman in college, during the first computer science lecture. The professor spoke of quantum computers, where improvements in speed of calculations can be measured in squaring time 2n rather than the traditional doubling time (i.e. Moore’s law) 2n.  And there was biologic computing, using simple building blocks of genetic material ACTG to perform calculations which take place in living cells.

Then, I spent the 15 years that follows writing them off as science fiction, pontifications of an old man.

I was, of course, wrong.

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