DNA: Storage Medium of the Future

DNA And Aristotle

The next decade’s version of Facebook, Twitter, or Pandora could be digitally encoded on DNA. How? The next app? A card in one’s wallet? Who knows?

One strand would hold libraries of digital information.

This is not a new idea. It has been suggested before that entire libraries of information could be encoded on DNA and others have tried it without success. But no one thought it was possible until, according to an article in Nature by Monya Baker, “DNA Data Storage Breaks Records,” reported that a team of Harvard researchers encoded a book on DNA and said there was plenty of room for more. A lot more. The possibilities could be limitless.
Cells die and replicate, so using cells is not a very secure system.  The team, led by George Church, a synthetic biologist from the Medical School in Boston, devised a new system using ink to convert the data onto glass chips instead of cells. It worked. Of course, we’re a long way from understanding this completely. And there are problems. It isn’t feasible at the moment to encode an entire library onto DNA. It is far too costly.

You can’t use DNA to drive your computer instead of your hard drive. But it could happen. At first, many thought no one would want to drive a car, fly in an airplane, or even use a computer. In a similar manner, this could be the first glimpse of ushering in a new era just as all those were. How exciting!

But what would be the advantages? Durability and security of limitless information. Imagine what we would know if we could still go to the Library of Alexandria. Even today, beyond the everyday virus, there are talks of cyber-wars and cyber threats that could potentially shut down vast data and threaten the security not just of your personal computer but of nations. What if we no longer had to worry about those things? How would that change our world?

Also, if DNA can store this much information, what is being stored on it now that we don’t even know about? What libraries of information are on our own DNA that we have yet to read? What will it tell us about ourselves in the future that we have yet to discover?

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