We are living in the Information Age. A world where the internet, computers and smartphones are an essential part of our everyday lives, allowing us to immediately access and share information worldwide. Digital technologies have changed every aspect of our lives; from the way we work and learn to the way we play and socialize.
Just as our day-to-day lives have been forever changed, the emergence of the internet and digital technology have revolutionized the scientific world. Here in San Diego, where scientific research in both academia and industry form a substantial part of our economy, changes and advances in research have the potential to significantly impact our region, and the nation.
New digital technologies have automated experimental techniques, enabling scientists to perform large-scale studies that previously were all but impossible due to size and technical difficulty. Advancements in computing capabilities have enabled the development of bioinformatics, wherein scientists apply computer science and statistical algorithms to process and analyze huge sets of data. Furthermore, the ability to share information with the world through the internet has completely transformed how scientific findings are communicated and data are shared throughout the scientific community. One might argue that technological capabilities have advanced faster than our ability to comprehend their full potential and their regulation.
A similar scientific revolution occurred in the 1950s with the development of HeLa cells, the first immortal human cell line. During her recent Exploring Ethics lecture at the University of San Diego, Rebecca’s Skloot, author of the best-selling novel “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” discussed how the establishment of HeLa cells opened the doors to new areas of research and provided scientists with the tools to perform studies never before possible, forever changing the world of science.