Lines of Fate

I overheard a conversation yesterday where a molecular biologist was talking to a programmer thanking him for his help solving a problem. Then the programmer thanked the biologist for explaining it & helping him understand the problem they needed to solve.

A few hours later I found myself in a meeting room on an employee fun event watching The Lego Movie as the sky cracked open with tears. Clouds & rain. Through the windows I observed folks in the lab managing tissue samples with an industrial cooling unit, loading the instruments and running tests.

After work I went to a hotel bar & happened to sit next to a microbiologist who was here from Portland. Who happened to be close to a dancer from New York City ballet. She showed me a bunch of gorgeous pictures, I recognized him immediately.

We talked about people we knew that had died from cancer, or who had been diagnosed and were in treatment. We discussed the fallibility of the clinical treatments due to the error margins in diagnostic assays and how we might shave those margins by keeping more detailed records of lines custody for biological samples in anonymized databases. And developing methods that could be used to search for patterns, regressions, correlations & clusters to provide new insight and targeted goals for both microscopy and molecular biology.

And we shared war stories of failed research projects. Lots of money, no fundamental hypothesis. Doomed to fail, and did. A cynical & wasted opportunity cost because somebody neglected to ask that one question, the core conjecture of all science.

Millions of dollars down the drain.

That’s when it struck me how small our world is. And it’s shrinking by the day. You’re one airplane ticket away from coronavirus right now. Not only that, but we are 99.9% the same people. There’s less than 1/10 of a percent genetic difference between you and every other human on the planet that has ever existed.

The only thing that truly separates us is circumstance. Where & when you were born, the color of your skin and the color of money. How you got to now. The lines of fate draw certain truth.

Our individual moments are ephemeral and collectively forgotten, but we all share the same spectrum of experience. We’re all built from the same blocks. Love & joy, pain & suffering, hunger & gluttony, sight & blindness, memory and forgetfulness. Us & them.

Ultimately we all experience the same fate. We are bonded by a common story, living in a common world, painted with the same brush. If you want to observe our differences you’re going to need a microscope and a computer to tell us apart enough to be helpful. And if you want to do that you’re going to need a hypothesis of our differences to know where to look.

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