Biotech: future of digital storage is plant DNA
If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.– Marcus Tullius Cicero
Now the garden can be the library. Researchers at the University Medical Centre Maribor, Slovenia have encoded digital information into plant DNA. So what? you might ask. Oh; it is wild: in a box of seeds, you could have all knowledge on the planet encoded. Everything! Lasting for centuries; millennia!
Using the basic four code units of DNA as binaries (00 into A, 10 into C, 01 into G, 11 into T) the scientists wrote a little “Hello World”-program – in Python, actually – and inserted the modified DNA into a nicotiana plant. Picking a leaf, they could decode it, and see that the plant had perfectly replicated the little program. The plant would pass this DNA on to its seedlings, and the knowledge would be replicated for as long as the life form has growing conditions. Or it could be stored in seeds. Some seeds can survive thousands of years.. It blows my mind, really.
Of course, one of the things DNA do, is to mutate and change; and so the plant life could of course end up slightly altering the digital code.
But everything considered: plants have almost endless redundancy, and the hardware we use to store stuff on now has a lifetime of a few years; a decade at most. The resources, raw materials that goes into one Google serverfarm is insane.
You could have a forest of knowledge, an endless storage centre. Imagine the impact – digital server centres then becomes farms: forests of real trees. You could eat Beethoven, your sunflowers could show you movies, the herb garden could be your library. Sharing saplings, shoots and seeds will be a sharing of knowledge, any park and greenery a library.
It is not only poetic; it would have a gigantic, practical impact on the environment. Oh, dear science: make it happen!
Check out the scientist blog here.