The Importance of Coding In Life Sciences
Computer programming, or coding, is as much art as it is science. The art of coding isn’t sitting around all day on a computer, generating scripts, hoping that our commands will execute. Coding can allow us to do things we never thought were possible. Coding can even help to guide how living things are grown. Each line of code can be its own experiment, and creativity and intuition becomes just as important as constructing and executing digital commands.
With all of the recent advances in technology, I feel that at least understanding the basics of coding is the best preparation for our future. Through knowing how to code, one will be able to develop a better understanding of not only biology, physics and chemistry, but also economics, politics and complex systems. Take biology for example: coding can allow us to grow plants that we want, with their desired characteristics, in our own homes. That’s what we are trying to accomplish at the MIT OpenAg Initiative. In the next 30-35 years, the United Nations estimates that the world’s population will reach nearly 10 billion. Simply stated, there will be too many people on this planet and not enough farmland to grow and adequate amount of food with the recommended nutritional requirements for a population of this size. This is why technologies such as the food computer will be an essential component in how we feed and distribute food. The coding piece comes in as we look to create and share ‘climate recipes’ which allow for specific growing climates to be coded and created, regardless of location. For example, let’s take a look at lettuce. By knowing how to code a lettuce climate recipe, #nerdfarmers will be able to create the perfect recipe for lettuce with the characteristics they please. Once that perfect recipe is created it can then be shared with anyone and they can plug it into their food computer and grow the perfect lettuce under the perfect conditions right in their own home. This supports the concept of open science, which we strongly support at the lab.
By growing our own food in new ways, we can skip the packaging and shipping process which can be time consuming, polluting, and also limiting freshness. The food computer, and the associated coded climate recipes, will lead towards the ability to grow fresh food, literally, right at our fingertips.