Creating An Artificial Replica Of Human Collective
By James Donahue
Without admitting that such a natural database of knowledge
exists, a team of computer scientists at Duke University has been attempting to design an ultimate computer program, operating
from DNA bio-nanotechnology, that will have all of the known knowledge of the existing world built into it.
The computer will be appropriately called the “oracle”
because it will be designed to instantly answer questions about any subject on demand.
Such a processor will consist almost entirely of vast numbers
of question-and-answer pairs, said Chris Dwyer, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering. It will eliminate
the current practice of running programs, inputting data and performing computations.
To assist in making such a computer possible, the team is
looking at using the unique molecular recognition properties of DNA and other nucleic acids to assemble vast numbers of electronic
circuits simultaneously. “DNA self-assembly holds the promise of automatically producing trillions of electronic devices,”
Dwyer said. “That’s why we can think about computing every solution to some kinds of problems.” He said
that as the computer is being assembled, the answers will be built right in.
All of this is still just theory, but the Duke University
team believes it may someday be possible to build such a computer.
Dwyer said the problems would include plotting efficient
shipping routes and even solving general problems, storing and retrieving data in the shortest possible time. They also would
involve coaxing strands of DNA into building practical electronic circuits.
The team is hoping to eventually replace the silicon chip
with the DNA molecule, which is believed to offer a wider range of flexibility and speed in future computer technology, according
to a paper published in Computer Magazine by Dwyer, Alvin Lebeck, and Daniel Sorin, associate professors with Dwyer at Duke.
Lebeck said the silicon chip lacks the capacity to store
as much information as would be needed to create an oracle computer. The DNA concept, still in its infancy, is laden with
unresolved challenges but offers exciting new possibilities, he said.
Strangely, utilizing the DNA is suggestive of imitating the
human brain in electronic computer technology. That, in itself, means that humans are rushing closer and closer to either
building an electronic brain that may even advance the capacity of a human, or putting the human into the machine.
It is all part of the exciting new world of nanotechnology.
The researchers are exploring a field known as nanoarchitecture which was invented by Nadrian Seeman in the 1980s. The first
successful DNA nanomachine, a motif that changes its structure in response to input, appeared in 1999.
While wildly suggestive of a science fiction horror story,
the concept of thinking self-replicating machines that take over the world may be closer to reality than anybody might have
That our planet is overheating and quickly running out of
the natural resources necessary to sustain human life in its present form, may force science to turn to putting human brains
into machines as a way of sustaining life in the future.