“Using the Gaian virosphere as a supercomputer for the last 3.8 billion years, Deep Thought has calculated that the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything will be known by 2042. Our job is to figure out what the question is...” - F.L.R. paraphrasing Douglas Adams

The BIG Question


In 2002, the first virome and the Phage Proteomic Tree were published. These papers are emblematic of the Metaomics Age, which is characterized by large datasets that necessitate lots of bioinformatics plus new-generation statistics. Twenty years later, lots of data has been collected and the computers are happily chugging away, but truly predictive biology remains elusive. This is a quintessential example of a paradigm shift leading to a normal science scenario (Kuhn 1962). The goal of the 20/20 Virision Meeting is to identify ways forward and hopefully initiate a new paradigm shift.

"Asimov's Ideas on New Ideas", a 1959 Essay by Isaac Asimov on Creativity,


The Top Ranked Questions + Projects for Working Groups

These rankings are from SurveyMonkey (average weighted average (smaller is better); sum of very interesting category (larger is better). These will be the questions and projects that we tackle in the meeting, unless someone and/or group decides to ignore the consensus and work on their own preferred question plus project. Rank your favorites on SurveyMonkey.

AveSumQuestionThought Experiment
1.2528Environmental Genetics: What the hell are all those unknowns?Design a machine/algorithm/experiment that determines the function of 100s of millions of genes.
1.8117All the World's Data: You have collected all the metaomics data. Now what?Build a database that has everything in it and the analysis tools to do predictive biology
1.8417Breaking the Wheel: What have we learned over the last 20 years & how can we use this knowledge to break current "normal science"" cycle?"Build a time machine, return to 2002, and tell us how to not get stuck in 2022.
2.0115Viral Confusion: Why didn't we think of that?It is 2042, you take a time machine to 2022. What do you tell us to build and/or do?
1.9713Inordinate Viral Fondness: How do viruses drive origin of life, sex, multicellularity, etc?Design an experiment that proves all major evolutionary innovations occurred because of the viruses.
2.0512Viral Perception: How does an environment (e.g., different cytosol) influence viral functions?Design a machine/algorithm/experiment that determines the infinite number of possible combinations of different viruses & their genes in different cells in different environments.

Down-Selected Questions + Projects for Working Groups

Those of you inclined to rebellion, anarchy, and/or chaos are welcome to try to rescue one of these and/or come up with your own!

AveSumQuestionThought Experiment
2.068What should we be screening for? How to develop a lexicon for viral and microbial behaviors?Design a machine/algorithm/experiment that predicts new, never observed behaviors and give them a name.
2.0813A Billion Ways to Die: How are all those phage and protist predators killing things?You have ground up a lion and metaomics it. How do you extract information about the lion's behavior without relying on homology?
2.1511Computeromics: Viruses instead of bits & qubitsDesign a computer-algorithm combination that uses viruses and cells to determine why 42 is the answer.
2.209Viral Expansion: Viral populations (or their genes) are so large that they can't go extinct. What does this mean for evolution?Build a tool to cause the global extinction of at least one viral gene family. Describe how this changes the planet.
2.559Viral Economics: How to spend all the money?Design a funding agency that would sponsor the most important research as judged from 2042.
2.7010Remote Manufacturing: Viruses as informationBuild a self-replicating machine on Mars by transferring only the information via a laser.
3.064Do cultures have culture? Language, decision making, and consciousness.Build a machine that can hear the microbial screams when a viral or protist predator shows up. Or design a test of microbial consciousness (e.g., very small lipsticks & a mirror).

Other Discussion Questions & Suggestions

Time capsule We are going to put Ty and Peter in a time capsule, dig them up in 2042, and show them how entropy has decreased. What else should we put in the capsule?
Betting on ideas from the meeting Bet on your favorite prediction. Put $20 on an idea and we'll put the money into a bond. The winner needs to be both correct & alive in 2042.
How to capture social time
  • Card Against Humanity-like questions for the bars
  • Write stuff down at bars and restaurants and turn in afterwards
  • 1-minute talk each morning. The speakers cannot use anything previously discussed
Self-organizing groups using whiteboard-post it notes


The 20/20 Virision Meeting will be hosted at Bread and Salt in the vibrant San Diego neighborhood of Barrio Logan. Bread and Salt is a "45,000 square-foot gallery and experimental center," "comprised of multiple gallery, studio, and event spaces." Meals will be informal at the nearby restaurants and bars.

The 20/20 Virision Meeting Hotel will be La Pensione in San Diego's Little Italy neighborhood, which has tons of great bars, restaurants, and shopping. Lyft/Uber time between La Pensione and Bread & Salt, the meeting site, is about 15 minutes.


CNN Travel: Time Out's Top 10 Coolest Neighborhoods

  1. Colonia Americana - Guadalajara, Mexico.
  2. Cais do Sodré - Lisbon, Portugal.
  3. Wat Bo Village - Siem Reap, Cambodia.
  4. Ridgewood - New York City, USA.
  5. Mile End - Montreal, Canada.
  6. Barrio Logan - San Diego, USA.
  7. Shimokitazawa - Tokyo, Japan.
  8. Cliftonville - Margate, UK.
  9. Barrio Yungay - Santiago, Chile
  10. Cours Julien - Marseille, France


The GBMF has generously agreed to cover most of the meeting costs, so at this time, we do not anticipate a registration fee. However, attendees will need to cover their personal costs for travel, lodging, and food. We are working on getting some conference prices for lodging in the area.