Dna Computing, The Future Or The End?

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).

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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

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.


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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