Dna Computing The Future Or The End


Dna Computing, The Future Or The End? Essay, Research Paper

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 Adleman?s 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

Adleman?s 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 Adleman?s

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


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 doesn?t ruin

it by attempting to bring the technology of tomorrow to

today without first understanding the downfalls and

possible out comes of today?s problems. These computers

could be the downfall of the earth?s future or merely one

ma?s 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.

Adleman, Leonard. ?Molecular Computation of Solutions to

Combinatorial Proteins.? Science 11 Nov.


Baum, Eric. ?Building an Associative Memory Vastly Larger

Than the Brain.? Science 28 Apr. 1995:583-87.

Friedman, Yali. Prodigy web site.


Halper, Mark. ?A World of Servers Great and Small.?

Forbes 3 Jun. 1996:122-34.

Kosko, Bart. ?Heaven In a Chip.? Datamation 15 Feb.


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