Human beings are big data. We aren’t just 175 pounds of meat and bone. We aren’t just piles of hydrogen and carbon and oxygen. What makes us all different is how it’s all organized and that is information.
We can no longer treat people based on simple numbers like weight, pulse, blood pressure, and temperature. What makes us different is much more complicated than that.
We’ve known for decades that we are all slightly different genetically, but now we can increasingly see those differences. The Hippocratic oath will require doctors to take this genetic variability into account.
I’m not saying there isn’t a place for hands-on medicine, empathy, psychology and moral support. But the personalized handling of each patient is becoming much more complicated. The more data we can gather, the more each individual is different from others.
In our genome, we have approximately 3 billion base pairs in each of our trillions of cells. We have more than 25,000 genes in that genome, sometimes called the exome. Each gene contains instructions on how to make a useful protein. And then there are long stretches of our genomes that regulate those protein-manufacturing genes.
In the early days, some researchers called this “junk DNA” because they didn’t know what it did. But this was foolish because why would evolution conserve these DNA sequences between genes if they did nothing? Now we know they too do things that make us unique.