DNA Computing, The Future or the End? The future of computers is in the hands of the next century. The evolution of the Computer Age has become a part of everyday life, and as time proceeds, people are depending more and more on computer technology. From controlling a small wrist watch to the largest super-computers that can calculated the center of the universe, computers are essential for everyone in modern societies. Even most societies outside of the civilized world are not immune to computer technology because they do not have to own a computer to be effected by one. Many cultures, and their futures are subjects to the computer age without even being aware of it.
Most anything that has been produced, one way or another, is controlled, scanned, processed, or moved around by some type of computer to manufacture that product for availability in the market. When a consumer goes to purchase these products, their currency will be stored in a cash register that will most likely be a type of computer. The availability of computers has changed, and is changing everything we once knew. There are faster ways of being discovered to manufacture goods or control traffic of those goods everyday. A quicker and better equipped computer would complete a task in minutes when in the past the simple task-procedure may have taken weeks, months, or even years to accomplish manually.
One of the most recent and fascinating discoveries was a DNA based computer. Just as we create mathematical computers, computers affect our biological lives. The connection of the two may have finally been conceived. Despite their respective complexities, biological and mathematical operations have some similarities: The very complex structure of a living being is the result of applying simple operations to initial information encoded in a DNA sequence; All complex math problems can be reduced to simple addition and subtraction(Friedman).
Incredibly, information is stored in actual strands of DNA. This discovery will revolutionize the future of computers. With the rate of technology the human race has acquired in this century, this new type of DNA technology could make computers of many types smaller than most people could imagine. A compact disk with the DNA encoding could have ten times the storing capabilities as a any CD produced in the world today. This new technology also uses nerve type impulses which greatly accelerate the speed of stored information to be utilized by the computer.
It is possible, that every computer we come in contact with will be revolutionized by this newly found resource in technology and this could create unheard of amounts of information storage space on even a simple PC. This discovery could create more room to expand and introduce increased functions to satisfy customer needs to the fullest extent (Halper 122). The mere idea of DNA based computing became known about only a few years ago on November 11, 1994, when Leonard Adleman published an article of the subject in the acclaimed weekly journal, Science. The article described: Molecular Computation of Solutions of Combinatorial Problems, was Adlemans documentation of the first successful though small-scale attempt at designing a DNA based computer.
Some critics believe that this context would be a fluke and expected Adleman would fail. To their surprise, they later found a great possibility that this new technology could easily be reproduced. However it will be after the end of the twentieth century before the bulk of the possibilities can be learned about DNA computing. DNA computing is just over three years old, and for this reason, it is too early for either great optimism or great pessimism about the technology. Early computers such as ENIAC filled entire rooms, and had to be programmed by punch cards. Since that time, computers have since become much smaller and easier to use.
DNA computers will become more common for solving very complex problems; Just as DNA cloning and sequencing were once manual tasks, DNA computers will now become automated. The first model, of small scale, could restore memory and calculate twice as fast as the worlds leading super-computer, for a very economical price. Thus creating endless possibilities of the use of DNA computing for big business, government and many other types of organizations (Baum 583). Once the bulk of its possibilities have been studied and learned the dawn of DNA based computers would cause the super-computers of tomorrow to be able to handle far more tasks and information than the computers of today.
Computers today can only handle a few thousand tasks or operations at the same time, whereas DNA based computers will have the capabilities to perform billions of functions simultaneously. This new technology will have the impact on present day computers as the light-bulb had on the oil lantern. Adleman explains his view of how the technology works along these lines: For the same reasons that DNA was presumably selected for living organisms as a genetic material, its stability and predictability in reactions, DNA strings can also be used to encode information for mathematical systems. A single flask might hold 10 to the 19th power to 10 to the 20th power, strands of DNA, each encoding a string of data in its sequence of Nucleotides.
This data can be manipulated in various ways by the techniques of molecular biology. It undergoes combining strands, splitting them, at well-defined points, copying the extracted strands with a given nucleotide sequence, and so on. Then those simultaneous chemical reactions are harnessed to possibly produce a device that performs millions of times as many operations per second as a state-of-the-art supercomputer(Adleman 1021). If Adleman is correct then this expansion on technology could be as influential as the invention of the automobile. Every computer in existence would become obsolete, and a machine as minute as a calculator would be as effective as a present PC. Such a compact size of an operating system, and the availability to use such a system, this technology would create an entirely new aspect on our standard of living.
Theoretically a business could use a DNA based computer as small as a calculator which would handle every operation better than the whole disk operating system (DOS) they may be presently using. There is an enormous amount of information which has not yet been researched. Many errors are certain to exist in any type of technology as it is researched and developed. Error control is achieved mainly through logical operations, such as running all DNA samples showing positive results a second time to reduce false positives. Some molecular proposals, such as using DNA with a peptide backbone for stability, have also been recommended(Friedman).
The one main question with DNA based computing is whether the possibilities already existing will become what it is hoped to become. Yet if the correct steps are taken and what Adleman has developed holds true, then the world will be a different place in a matter of a few short years. However if Adlemans ideas fail they will need a great deal of additional technology to revise them. So far, most indications of this technologies success appear promising, but there is no indication of the exact time it will take to develop this technology. It could take years or even decades to reach a higher use of Adlemans ideas.
Therefore his ideas have a long time and much research to make or break themselves, but the research is definitely a worthwhile study though not enough is presently known about the relative aspects of attaining such a technology. There is only speculation at this point. However science and technology must ask what if, and thus the future is an endless pot of possibilities. Considering all things possible, this design could effect many aspects of human existence.
For instance with DNA based computing it would be possible to create a wristwatch that could call home or organize a daily planner. We may even find ourselves playing futuristic video game systems more powerful and capable to perform tasks than ever before, with games of more detail and depth than the human eye can perceive. With this technology we may someday carry cellular phones small enough to fit in a wallet or carrying a hand held PC with more capabilities than the best present day home computers. In addition to the direct benefits of using DNA computers for performing complex computations, some of the operations of DNA computers already have, and perceivably more will be used in molecular and biochemical research(Friedman). It could affect the medical world by creating the possibility of a prosthetic limb that can move and feel by being linked to the human nervous system.
DNA based computing would advance the possibilities of Prosthetic eyes for the blind that can see and move by also being connected to the nervous system(Kosko 96-97). An even more interesting possibility is a type of robotics immune system, that could be implemented into the bloodstream. Once it is inside the body it would be capable of fighting off any infections within milli-seconds. This could create cures of mass multitudes of many presently incurable diseases. Yet with the possibilities of technological advancement comes the risk of technological destruction.
Even computers themselves are somewhat susceptible to computer viruses. If the robot immune system were to be affected with a functional viruses while or before it is injected into a subject, human life could be at stake. The future is endless as long as mankind doesnt ruin it by attempting to bring the technology of tomorrow to today without first understanding the downfalls and possible out comes of todays problems. These computers could be the downfall of the earths future or merely one mas failure. Yet if the new technology is researched and developed at a cautious rate, then DNA based computing may take wings and soar high in the 21st century.
Then again it may be the slow bus into the 22nd century. Only the future will be able to confirm the premonitions for what is to become of the computer world. Works Cited Adleman, Leonard. Molecular Computation of Solutions to Combinatorial Proteins. Science 11 Nov.
1994:1021-25. Baum, Eric. Building an Associative Memory Vastly Larger Than the Brain. Science 28 Apr. 1995:583-87.
Friedman, Yali. Prodigy web site. http://www./[emailprotected].com. Halper, Mark.
A World of Servers Great and Small. Forbes 3 Jun. 1996:122-34. Kosko, Bart. Heaven In a Chip.
Datamation 15 Feb. 1994:96-99. Computers and Internet