People often assume that the world tomorrow will be pretty much like the world today. We all have an in-built bias towards linear thinking when we ponder the future. Although a linear bias was helpful for thousands of years of our evolution, today technology is changing at an exponential pace and in order to better anticipate future market opportunities and technology’s impact on society, it is crucial to think in terms of exponential trends. This is a point that renowned futurist Ray Kurzweil has made in his many books and speeches for the last several decades.
One example of an exponential trend in biology (among many) is the cost per genome sequence (graph below). As recently as 2001, the cost to sequence a genome was an astronomical $100M. Between 2001 and 2007, the cost decreased exponentially (a straight line on a log plot), to the point where a genome in 2007 cost only $10M to sequence. Around 2007, a paradigm shift in technology massively accelerated this exponential process, and the cost decreased even faster than before, hitting just $10K in 2012.
As economists are fond of saying, when the price falls, more is demanded. As a result of this massively reduced sequencing price, many more partial and complete genomes are being sequenced than ever before. The dramatic, exponential gains in price/performance of sequencing technology have unleashed a tidal wave of sequence data.