Genetics, the future and implications

A few links and a book to get an understanding of the power of genetics and its implications.

From Scientific American, Scientists Synthesize Bacteria with Smallest Genome Yet


Genomics entrepreneur Craig Venter has created a synthetic cell that contains the smallest genome of any known, independent organism. Functioning with 473 genes, the cell is a milestone in his team’s 20-year quest to reduce life to its bare essentials and, by extension, to design life from scratch.

Nature on the same topic:  ‘Minimal’ cell raises stakes in race to harness synthetic life

Nature: Governance: Learn from DIY biologists

Very good book on human GMO, GMO Sapiens: The Life-Changing Science of Designer Babies by Paul Knoepfler, his twitter handle @pknoepfler and blog

Inside the garage labs of DIY gene hackers, whose hobby may terrify you 

Genetics and genomics

Genetics and genomics is an exciting area of scientific research, growing in its importance. It will let us learn more about us and help cure many diseases. A good recent book on this subject is “Genetics and Genomics” by  Tom Strachan, Judith Goodship and Patrick Chinnery.

If you want to stay updated, the US National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) makes available scientific research articles 

You may also want to check Google Scholar

The OMIM (Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man database) provides more information on single gene disorders

For even more info on gene disorders, the University of Washington’s Gene Reviews series are highly recommended and available at

Other very useful resources.
SNP (pronounced ‘snip’) is the short term for Single Nucleotide Polymorphism.
The importance of SNPs comes from their ability to influence disease risk, drug efficacy and side-effects, tell you about your ancestry, and predict aspects of how you look and even act. SNPs are probably the most important category of genetic changes influencing common diseases. And in terms of common diseases, 9 of the top 10 leading causes of death have a genetic component and thus most likely one or more SNPs influence your risk.

The Rs1815739 SNP for example will tell you whether you are likely a sprinter or an endurance athlete.

OpenSNP is a non-profit, open-source project that is about sharing genetical and phenotypic information. You can find info on SNPs

SNPedia is a wiki investigating human genetics. We share information about the effects of variations in DNA, citing peer-reviewed scientific publications.

ClinVar aggregates information about genomic variation and its relationship to human health.

Genecards is a searchable, integrative database that provides comprehensive, user-friendly information on all annotated and predicted human genes.

Free online books at the US National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)

Mayo Clinic

Data Science books

What is data science and what you need to know to be a data scientist?
Joel Grus, in his book writes “There’s a joke that says a data scientist is someone who knows more statistics than a computer scientist and more computer science than a statistician. (I didn’t say it was a good joke.)”

Data Science from Scratch: First Principles with Python by Joel Grus
Doing Data Science: Straight Talk from the Frontline by Cathy O’Neil and Rachel Schutt
Python for Data Analysis: Data Wrangling with Pandas, NumPy, and IPython by Wes McKinney

Machine Learning
Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach by Stuart Russell and Peter Norvig
Introduction to Machine Learning by Ethem Alpaydin
Introduction to Machine Learning by Alex Smola (free download)
Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning by Christopher Bishop
Programming Collective Intelligence Toby Segaran
Bayesian Reasoning and Machine Learning by David Barber
Bayesian Data Analysis by Andrew Gelman and John B. Carlin

Data Analysis
Data Analysis Using Regression and Multilevel/Hierarchical Models by Andrew Gelman and Jennifer Hill
The Elements of Statistical Learning: Data Mining, Inference, and Prediction by Trevor Hastie and Robert Tibshirani
Statistical Inference by George Casella
Advanced Data Analysis from an Elementary Point of View by Cosma Rohilla Shalizi (draft free download)

Statics and Probability
Introductory Statistics Barbara Illowsky,Susan Dean (free download)
OpenIntro Statistics by David M Diez, Christopher D Barr, Mine Cetinkaya-Rundel (free download)
Introduction to Probability by Charles M. Grinstead and J. Laurie Snell
Introduction to Probability Models by Sheldon M. Ross
A First Course in Probability by Sheldon Ross

Linear Algebra and Calculus
Active Calculus Matthew Boelkins, David Austin, Steven Schlicker (free download)
Convex Optimization by Stephen Boyd and Lieven Vandenberghe (free download)
Linear Algebra and Its Applications by Gilbert Strang
Linear Algebra by Jim Hefferon
Linear Algebra by David Cherney, Tom Denton and Andrew Waldron (free download)
Linear Algebra Done Wrong by Sergei Treil (free download)

Presenting the information
The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward R. Tufte

The apps monetization problem

While app stores are a great distribution channel for developers that want to sell applications, it is not the best monetization tool if you want to get a living.

There are some mechanisms in the current model of the stores that limit developers on how and what they can charge for the application and services and this has an impact on the quality of the applications and limit their potential.

Ben Thomson of Stratechery nicely list 3 problems in his From Products to Platforms post.

The problem for iPad developers is three-fold:

  • First, the lack of trials means that genuinely superior apps are unable to charge higher prices because there is no way to demonstrate to consumers prior to purchase why they should pay more. Some apps can hack around this with in-app purchases, but purposely ruining the user experience is an exceedingly difficult way to demonstrate that your experience is superior
  • Secondly, the lack of a simple upgrade path (and upgrade pricing) makes it difficult to extract additional revenue from your best customers; it is far easier to get your fans to pay more than it is to find completely new customers forever. Again, developers can hack around this by simply releasing completely new apps, but it’s a poor experience at best and there is no way to reward return customers with better pricing, or, more critically, to communicate to them why they should upgrade
  • That there is the third point: Apple has completely intermediated the relationship between developers and their customers. Not only can developers not communicate news about upgrades (or again, hack around it with inappropriate notifications), they also can’t gain qualitative feedback that could inspire the sort of improvements that would make an upgrade attractive in the first place

Coase and the nature of the firm

Ronal Coase described how integration works in terms of transaction costs, in his famous on the Nature of the Firm:

“The existence of high transaction costs outside firms led to the emergence of the firm as we know it, and management as we know it….The reverse side of Coase’s argument is as important: If the (transaction) costs of exchanging value in the society at large go down drastically as is happening today, the form and logic of economic and organizational entities necessarily need to change! The core firm should now be small and agile, with a large network.”

technology and new business models have enabled a new disrupting ways to create firms.

Tim O’really Networks and the Nature of the Firm

Esko Kilppi The Future of Firms. Is There an App for That?


Albert Wenger Networks, Firms and Markets

On the world we live in

As the year ends, some interesting articles and books about the world we live in.

The Economics of Inclusion Ricardo Hausmann
A Year of Divergence  Mohamed A. El-Erian
Make No Mistake: The Machines Are Coming Nouriel Roubini

The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee
Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty