Scientists announced on January 23, 2013 that they have successfully converted 739 kilobytes of hard drive data in genetic code. Not only that, but they retrieved the content with 100 percent accuracy!
When one imagines the evolving coexistence of humans and machines, people often let paranoia and technophobia dictate a dystopian future a la George Orwell’s 1984 or, more recently, Cloud Atlas. The latest exploration of this intersection, a process that literally coverts human-made data into DNA, may simultaneously support the dystopian argument and undermine it. For once, humans are contributing to the world of machines!
Researchers gathered a range of culturally relevant data—all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets, an audio recording of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and cleverly and appropriately, James D. Watson and Francis Crick’s original research paper on the double helix structure—and translated the standard binary 1’s and 0’s into the four letters, A, C, G and T, used by scientists to represent DNA nucleotide bases. Reversing the process provided a re-creation of the original data.
Can I convert a family photo album so that my family is literally and figuratively in my DNA?
Yes, yes you could, you clever, meta loving person. But not for a while. As the process currently exists, the high cost prevents the technology from becoming ubiquitous any time soon. Sequencing and synthesizing DNA is very costly (after all, we aren’t comparing DNA like we would with a paternity test; we’re creating it). Researches indicate that “another 100-fold drop in the cost of DNA sequencing, which has already happened in the past decade” may allow your dreams of clever wit to come true.