Thumb Drive: DNA to be used for data backups

Wish you could store those files, photos, music and video but running out of space?

If you’re like me, you’re constantly shifting stuff off of your aging laptop onto a hard drive that you hope will last long enough for the day you’ll need to access it.

What if you could store data on yourself?  Like maybe your forearm, or… forehead?

DNAThe latest in biotech says that may not be a stretch:

A team of Harvard and Johns Hopkins geneticists has developed a new method of DNA encoding that makes it possible to store more digital information than ever before.

Apparently I’m not the only one running out of space – according to Robert Gonzalez: “Humanity has a storage problem.”  He goes on to state that “With data accumulating at a faster rate now than any other point in human history, scientists and engineers are looking to genetic code as a form of next-generation digital information storage.”

In fact, they say the world’s information is “doubling every two years,” which is probably a conservative estimate, based on my own Instagram usage.

The story goes on to  note:

Archival storage is where DNA comes in. As storage media go, it’s hard to compete with the universal building blocks of life.  At theoretical maximum, one gram of single stranded genetic code can encode 455 exabytes of information. That’s almost half a billion terabytes, or 4.9 * 1011 GB. (As a point of reference, the latest iPad tops out at 64 GB of storage space.) DNA strands also likes to fold over on top of themselves, meaning that, unlike most other digital storage media, data needn’t be restricted to two dimensions; and being able to store data in three-space translates to more free-space. DNA is also incredibly robust, and is often readable even after being exposed to unfavorable conditions for thousands of years.

My question is: when will I be able to tweet hands-free, and device-free?  And when I can I take a photo with my eyeballs?  My 20-20 vision could use some filter options, however, and perhaps a zoom lens.  Clearly I don’t understand the technology, because I tried to write this blog post simply by thinking it.

Can you read me?
Can you read me?

But a serious question becomes: what are the ethical ramifications for this, if any?  Will we hire people to donate DNA to store data on them?  Will people get “DNA storage” tattoos as a way to make some extra cash?  Or worse, will we begin cloning mindless beings to simply act as data storage units?  Or maybe we could find a way to make cats useful.

In any case, this gives new meaning to the term: “thumb drive.”


One thought on “Thumb Drive: DNA to be used for data backups

  1. In the original article, they talk about DNA “synthesis”, so they’re going to make it from scratch from individual bits (nucleotides) 🙂
    (otherwise they couldn’t write whatever information they wanted to into it)
    No donors needed! ^_^
    [cats rejoicing] XD

    (it’s also to be stored dry, as the article says; probably in tiny containers the way itty bitty flash drives are; but “thumb drive” is still cute! x3 )


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