You are the next Hard Drive
Before we dive into the full gist of DNA digital storage, why don’t we run through one quick analogy?
Did you know that most of the notable brand names and social media companies you are familiar with, e.g. Facebook and Instagram, generate an estimate of 1,200 petabytes?
Now, imagine trying to fit all that data into a 2GB flash drive. It sounds absurd, doesn’t it?
Well, it is. It’s like trying to fit a whale into your pocket. The storage space is just way too small for the load of content you’re trying to squeeze inside it.
But it’s the risk of the currently available storage provisions becoming obsolete that is leading to such an “absurd” line of thought.
With the way technology is rapidly evolving, the permanency of the already existing gadgets we know has no guarantee.
Very soon, we might have to move on to newer/better devices and do away with the old.
Because the truth is that this trend will never stop. There will always be a need to invent something better.
One day, flash drives, floppy disks, hard drives, you name it, will become “old news”.
Because they have flaws.
As much as they are good for doing what they were invented for, they are still a far way from satisfying our insatiable technological desires.
And because with any technical malfunction, all your data can be put at a great loss-risk.
So, this brings about the question of if there is an alternative way to store data without ever having to worry that you could, one day, lose it.
Well, there might just be.
DNA digital storage.
Don’t clean your eyes. You read us right.
The countless amount of DNA strands you carry inside your body might just play a part in the future of data storage.
And the reason is because:
- DNA is stable and can be preserved without any extra packaging.
Even without any serious preservation.
When you compare this to already existing means of data storage we have, DNA can retain data for tens of thousands of years without dying out.
Most of the old data in the world can last for a number of trying years, after which they wear out. And most times, they’re forgotten in archives where they can’t be so easily accessed.
- They are far removed from technical errors that can lead to major loss of data.
One of the core ideas behind this new development is that living organisms have proven to store close to 200 petabytes of data.
In just one small DNA gram.
So, in case you need mental visuals to understand this, that’s roughly 50 rice grains you can hold in the palm of one hand.
Now, if you were to spread out that much data in your 2GB flash, we’re talking about trying to hold 500,000 of that same flash drive.
In one hand!
Do you now see why the possibility of DNA digital storage is not so bad a possibility to explore?
Especially when you put into consideration the fact that there isn’t even a known compact device in existence, right now, that can contain or hold petabytes of data.
- Managing petabytes of data in physical storage will be a tough task.
This is particularly because data keeps growing. Literally.
Just look up how much data there is in the world today. The figures will almost drive you crazy.
And not just talking about size, but in nature, as well. So, if you do eventually manage to trap that much load of data into one single device, in a hypothetical situation, the performance of that device will be highly at stake.
That device would need to share the burden load with other devices, so that it can function properly.
And when you pore over these facts carefully, DNA digital storage starts to look so much more promising, and less ridiculous.
How can DNA store digital data?
Our computers and us are not that different. There is proof that the organic cells in our bodies are actually not that different from the electronic interworking of a computer.
A computer encodes information in numbers “1 and 0”. These special numbers are its official language.
So, they are the reason why the computer can understand, as well as interpret, the commands we instruct it with.
Us humans, on the other hand, those “1s and 0s” are more of a bunch of proteins that exist within our cells. Instead of numbers, they’re encoded or grouped in letters, when you study them closely.
So to answer your long awaiting curiosity of how DNA digital storage can be be possible, experts on the issue claim that humans can mimic the electronic workings of a computer.
They think there’s a form of “encoding-decoding” method that we can use to convert digital data to fit into DNA storage. In turn, we can reconvert it back to it’s original state.
And one of the first things to consider for the successful storage of digital data in DNA is density and durability.
So basically, this means that the DNA will be able to withhold large amounts of such data in small sizes. And somehow, it will be able to preserve the data for a very long time.
But not to sugar-coat it any further than it needs to be, there are downsides to this, of course.
But they are far more riskable, when compared to the current storage means we have.
What does this mean for the future?
Well, DNA digital storage does bring into focus a far, yet impending, issue. That data storage will eventually become as big a problem as climate change.
As if we don’t already have enough problems.
Everyone in the world has become invested in the world of data, whether they know it or not, way before we even knew what it meant.
To lose it all now would be catastrophic for the world.
Our DNA might just be the only solution to saving everything.
Irene is a Freelance Writer who helps professionals and startups build an audience with original content online. She has written over +30 tech articles, and other types, and is backed up by over 2 years worth of experience. She loves reading and listening to music, while she’s not tapping furiously on her laptop.