Request for Advice : A.I. - can I make myself useful?

by zslastman 1 min read29th May 201535 comments


I'm a PhD student wrapping up a doctorate in Genomics. I started in biology and switched to analysis because I have stupid hands. My opinion of my field is low. Working in it has, on on the bright side, taught me some statistics and programming.  I'm roughly upper 5% on math ability, relative to my college class. Once upon a time I could solve ODEs, now most of my math is gone. However, I'm good with R, and can talk intelligently about mixed linear model, bayesianism vs. frequentism and about genetics, biochemistry and developmental biology. It's also taught me that huge segments of the biology literature are a mixture of non reproducible crap, and uninteresting, street-light science, dressed up as progress with deceptive plots and statistics. I think a large part of my lack of enthusiasm comes from my belief that advances in artificial intelligence are going to make human-run biology irrelevant before long. I think the ultimate problems we're tackling (predicting genotype from phenotype, reliable manipulation of biology, curing cancer/aging/death) are insoluble with our current methods - we need effective robots to do the experiments, and A.I. to interpret the results.

Here's what I want to ask the lesswrong hivemind:


1)Do you agree? Do you think there are important problems being tackled now in biology that someone with my skillset could be useful in? E.g. analyzing the brain with genetics to try and get a handle on how it's algorithms work? (I'm skeptical of this bottom up approach to the brain myself)


2)Do you think there are areas closer to the AI problem (or say, cryonics...) I could be usefully working on?


Sorry for bothering you with my personal problems, but I recall a thread a while ago inviting this sort of thing, so I thought I'd give it a try. I'm leaning towards the default option right now, which is to do some more courses, so I can say, bluff my way through Hadoop and Java, and then see how much cash I can earn in a boring private sector job. However, I'd prefer to do something I find intrinsically interesting.


Edit: Thanks guys - this has already been helpful.