A C T G Shakespeare You and Me

Posted: January 24, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , ,

140px-Descartes-moncornetimagesCAE310B1So are you confused? I ask because I typed the title of this post and typing it, confused me. Let me see. A C T and G are letters and in this case they represent the Nucleic acid bases which make up DNA.
Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is a molecule encoding the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms and many viruses. I always picture DNA as a set of instructions for life, like a biological computer code. When we are born we have this code in our bodies stored in every cell and each line of code tells our body to do different things. Depending on how the bases in the acid have joined for the line that tells our eyes to have color we could be blue eyed or brown.
So that A C T and G are DNA bases and Shakespeare is of course the surname of William Shakespeare and he was the author of some of the greatest plays man has ever known.
As for you and me well you know who you are and I know who I am.
How are all these related? Ahh good question so glad you asked!
You are reading this story on some device connected to the internet. The internet is merely a world wide network of computers. The computers contain code much like DNA except in the case of the computer the code is a sequence of ones and zeros and stored on some type of physical medium, like a magnetic hard drive or an optical disc. I know, I know you are about to succumb to ennui, fall asleep and crack your head on the coffee table, but fear not this is about to get exciting!!
NPR did a story on some British scientists who have stored all of Shakespeare’s sonnets on tiny specks at the bottom of a test tube.
What did they do? Well they took the sonnets and converted them from text to A C T and G bases then the sequence was sent to a lab that synthesised DNA. Yeah labs do that now!! Yeah I agree it is unthinkable. The lab created the DNA and although the story doesn’t say the DNA was most likely stored and created in what scientists call a plasmid which is in laymen terms a tiny cell. The Plasmids were sent back to the scientist and they were tiny specks at the bottom of test tubes. The DNA of Shakespeare was decoded and read back.
Say hello to organic data storage and goodbye to magnetic disk drives, dvds and blu ray discs.

I may be a little bit of a geek but geek part aside this is some big news. I can’t see how one can hear this news and not think about some philosophical questions, like Descartes when he said “Cogito ergo sum” or “I think therefore I am”.
No one knows for certain what this technology will bring to the table but one can be sure that Descartes was onto something with this simple statement.
“But I have convinced myself that there is absolutely nothing in the world, no sky, no earth, no minds, no bodies. Does it now follow that I, too, do not exist? No. If I convinced myself of something [or thought anything at all], then I certainly existed. But there is a deceiver of supreme power and cunning who deliberately and constantly deceives me. In that case, I, too, undoubtedly exist, if he deceives me; and let him deceive me as much as he can, he will never bring it about that I am nothing, so long as I think that I am something. So, after considering everything very thoroughly, I must finally conclude that the proposition, I am, I exist, is necessarily true whenever it is put forward by me or conceived in my mind.” — Descartes (AT VII 25; CSM II 16–17)

As long as a man or woman questions and learns he or she is not nothing. So whatever the change is to the computer we will remain human as long as we question what truly makes us human.


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