High Impact Technologies with Andrew Barron
Well that’s an open-ended question: What technologies will have high impact in the future?
I think what we are seeing at the moment – and we are seeing it quite rapidly – is the fusion of the biological sciences and the information sciences period – so it goes beyond AI.
We’re seeing a capacity to manipulate and rewrite genomes – again we are actually need an involvement of an AI to do that properly – but we really are truly seeing a fusion of the biological and information sciences which is opening absolutely transformative technologies – that we probably can’t quite properly predict or name currently – but I imagine that the future would see explosive growth in this area and the emergence disciplines that we can’t even imagine currently.
Yep.. exactly… exactly – so new capacities to manipulate genomes – and equally we are getting much smarter about the risks of that and much more careful with that – but we are realizing also that the genome itself is highly self-organized and massively data-heavy – and yet this fusion of biology and information sciences is liberating entirely new disciplines – and it’s happening at such a pace. I mean, just in terms of my life as a scientist – we’ve gone from – when I was at school we were told that the human genome was impossible – informatically impossible – there would never be enough computing power in the world to sequence the human genome. Now we’re sequencing genomes for just over $1000 very very quickly and easily – our challenge now is to be intelligent in what to do with that data.
What’s interesting about the iPhone is not the technology itself – it’s the way that it has changed human behavior. So we’ve suddenly adapted very very very rapidly to a carryable device that enables us to have immediate communication / immediate access to databases and reference libraries – and their capacity to store endless amounts of images if we choose to do so – and we’ve adapted to that seamlessly – to a point when people feel lost and panic if their phone is broken or is taken away from them. That’s the more interesting interesting impact of the iPhone – and I think what that says is that we’re going to see humans adapt very quickly easily to other forms of wearable or insert-able technologies – I think we’ve shown by the iPhone example that we have a capacity embrace that kind of change – if it offers convenience and ease and improves our connectivity and quality of life.
In terms of technology though I think that the biggest strides will come from biological – there is research that fuses biology and technology – I think that we are on the cusp of that – the more interesting technological changes will come not through simple technology – but by an understanding of how our brains work – by understanding the human brain. If we can actually crack that and then interface that with technology – that will get completely transformative technological solutions.
So in the far future could we see humans being a mixture of technology and organic solutions – and would be basically see a re-imagining of humanity – in a far future? Again I see no reason why not in a far future.
Andrew Barron is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University. With his team at Macquarie they are exploring the neurobiology of major behavioural systems such as memory, goal-directed behaviour and stress from a comparative and evolutionary perspective. In 2015 Andrew was awarded an ARC Future Fellowship to develop a computational model of the honey bee brain.
Andrew’s PhD (Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge 1999) considered the possibility of the retention of memory through metamorphosis in Drosophila. Prior to his move to Macquarie in 2007 Andrew had the opportunity to work with and be mentored by Prof. Ben Oldroyd (University of Sydney), Prof. Gene Robinson (University of Illinois), Prof. Mandayam Srinivasan and Prof. Ryszard Maleszka (Australian National University).