January 7, 2018 | David F. Coppedge

DNA Is the Future of Data Storage

Do you like futuristic thinking? Think ahead to when mankind’s memory may revert to something ancient: DNA.

Today’s server farms will become as obsolete as core memory at the rate data are growing in the information age. Jeremy de Groot thinks that the libraries of the future will be made of DNA.The old old will be the new new.

In his piece on The Conversation, this lecturer at the University of Manchester explains the problem and considers the options.

As a species, we are producing information at a massive rate. The “reading” of the mass of data has led to new predictive models for social interaction. Businesses and governments are scrambling to make use of this data as human beings seem ever more readable, manageable and – possibly – controllable through the comprehension and manipulation of information.

But just how might all this information be stored? At present, we have physical libraries, and physical archives, and bookshelves. The internet itself is “stored” on hard-disk servers around the world, using enormous amounts of power to keep them cool. Online infrastructure is expensive, energy hungry, and vulnerable; its longevity is also limited – see Die Hard 4.0 for a dramatisation of this.

One EMP could make all this data inaccessible and useless. Futurists are coming up with wild ideas for keeping our collective social memories intact: storing it on the moon or Mars, for instance. There is also a great need to reduce the size of data. Perhaps it could be stored on crystals or other forms of nanotechnology.

There is an attractive option that could theoretically survive thousands of years if kept in a cool, dark place: DNA. Nucleic Acid Memory (NAM) is being seriously considered for really-long-term storage that would be futureproof.

DNA is durable and increasingly easy to produce and read. It will keep for thousands of years in the right storage conditions. DNA might be stored anywhere that is dark, dry, cold, and arguably would not take up a great deal of room.

Much of this technology is in its infancy, but developments in nanotechnology and DNA sequencing suggest that we will be seeing the applied results of experimentation and development within years.

Others have estimated that the entire internet could be stored in a shoebox. With all these benefits inspiring engineers, look for computers with DNA as their IO option. And help pass laws to keep your private information away from the controllers.

God had it right from the beginning. You can store 1018 bits in a cubic millimeter of DNA. That’s enough data to write on a stack of DVDs 6 miles high. God even thought of an extra technology humans would do well to emulate: molecular proofreading. Follow the leader: our Creator.

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