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AlphaFold @ CASP13: “What just happened?” « Some Thoughts on a Mysterious Universe
In a delicious twist of irony, we the people who have bet their careers on trying to obsolete crystallographers are now worried about getting obsoleted ourselves.

What is worse than academic groups getting scooped by DeepMind? The fact that the collective powers of Novartis, Merck, Pfizer, etc, with their hundreds of thousands (~million?) of employees, let an industrial lab that is a complete outsider to the field, with virtually no prior molecular sciences experience, come in and thoroughly beat them on a problem that is, quite frankly, of far greater importance to pharmaceuticals than it is to Alphabet. It is an indictment of the laughable “basic research” groups of these companies, which pay lip service to fundamental science but focus myopically on target-driven research that they managed to so badly embarrass themselves in this episode.

Then imagine that a pharmaceutical company suddenly enters ImageNet and blows the competition out of the water, leaving the academics scratching their heads at what just happened and the tech companies almost unaware it even happened. Does this seem like a realistic scenario? Of course not. It would be absurd. That’s because tech companies have broad research agendas spanning the basic to the applied, while pharmas maintain anemic research groups on their seemingly ever continuing mission to downsize internal research labs while building up sales armies numbering in the tens of thousands of employees.

And if you counter with the argument that machine learning is not pharma’s core expertise, then you only prove my point: why isn’t it?

Who made the advance is less important than the fact the advance was made, and we should unselfishly rejoice in this fact. I say this cognizant of the fact that my own emotions do not entirely coincide with the sentiment I just espoused, but also cognizant of the fact that we are all adults, and that we must and ought to assess this rationally without letting our tribal affiliations cloud our judgement.
biology  deepmind  machine-learning  medicine  future-history  best-of 
5 weeks ago by tjwds

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