In short, the life science era is here. Notice that although Deep Mind’s breakthrough was in computing, the application was in bioscience. The good news is that Britain is and always has been unusually strong in biology: from Darwin to the double helix and on to gene sequencing, cloning, test-tube babies and DNA fingerprinting, all invented here.
So don’t believe those who preach a coming “great stagnation”, as innovation dries up. There are golden prospects ahead for those who are bold, as the government’s innovation strategy, launched this week, rightly makes clear.
But don’t take innovation for granted either. It’s a myth that technological change is speeding up. Innovation brings prosperity in its wake, but you would never realise that from how little it gets mentioned in parliament or much of the media. The engine of discovery and application is coughing a little, because of the heavy burden of regulation under which it increasingly labours. Entrepreneurs have to fight ever tougher battles against silly rules, frustrating delays, lobbying by incumbent firms, precautionary extremism masquerading as concern for the environment, and similar obstacles.
If we play our cards right, 22nd Century medicine could be absolutely amazing.
If we don’t, 22nd Century medicine could wind up being leeches and the Doctrine of Signatures.