The Code Breakers

I read and enjoyed Walter Isaacson’s new book The Code Breaker, about Jennifer Daudna, mRNA, and gene editing. Here’s Isaacson’s claim about the importance of this topic:

The invention of CRISPR and the plague of COVID will hasten our transition to the third great revolution of modern times. These revolutions arose from the discovery, beginning just over a century ago, of the three fundamental kernels of our existence: the atom, the bit, and the gene. The first half of the twentieth century, beginning with Albert Einstein’s 1905 papers on relativity and quantum theory, featured a revolution driven by physics. In the five decades following his miracle year, his theories led to atom bombs and nuclear power, transistors and spaceships, lasers and radar.

The second half of the twentieth century was an information-technology era, based on the idea that all information could be encoded by binary digits—known as bits—and all logical processes could be performed by circuits with on-off switches. In the 1950s, this led to the development of the microchip, the computer, and the internet. When these three innovations were combined, the digital revolution was born.

Now we have entered a third and even more momentous era, a life-science revolution. Children who study digital coding will be joined by those who study genetic code.

Since reading the book, I’ve been thinking about whether I should invest more time and energy to understand biology (and related life sciences trends) more thoroughly.

Isaacson does a fine job explaining the basics of mRNA in this book, but there’s at least another 30-40 hours of reading/studying that I could do would likely be both accessible to a novice and beneficial. And if this is truly a third and “even more momentous” era as the physics and computer revolutions, then it may well be worth it.

So many topics, so little time…

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