Information & Identity?

Hello World!

Branching off from jabong1’s blog, information technology is becoming more and more prevalent in today’s society. We use gigabytes of data in our everyday lives for work, school, and play. You wouldn’t be able to read this very blog if it wasn’t stored on the cloud!  As such, more and more research is being devoted towards optimizing the way we store our information. Being curious, I recently came upon an article barely released just 31 days ago. “700 terabytes of data into a single gram” of DNA; a lot of people have a hard time using up just one terabyte! The very notion of using DNA to store data opens up a whole new world of possibilities.

DNA already serves as a blueprint for living organisms to exist. As such, we all have a different DNA sequence that makes each one of us unique from one another. Would it not be logical then, to utilize DNA towards storing information that make up our identity? The movies we’ve seen, the music we love, the moments we share… people will argue that all our different experiences in being alive makes up a gigantic portion of our identity. It is no surprise people love to share their experiences through social media such as twitter and facebook in order to express their identity and feel alive in the online community. If this data was stored in our DNA (and we had the ability to extract it), it would be simple to share with our friends at school or to start up a conversation with someone whom you are interested in meeting.

Research on DNA data storage could lead to DNA data-extracting-scanner-type-machines in the future.  It will change the way we do things on the day-to-day basis. The idea of scanning your skin at airports, banks, or in place of a driver’s licenses would make things much more convenient and easier for us to do than having to remember to carry around every little piece of important documentation. It also helps with taking attendance in schools and in meetings and could help keep a log of hours spent on certain jobs or activities. Since DNA replicates when cells divide, people will never have to worry about misplacing their important data and information.

An important issue with this, however, is that using DNA to store information may not be very safe and secure. A person could easily get their hands on another’s DNA by obtaining a lock of their hair or a piece of a fingernail. Because every single cell in our body contains a copy of our DNA, we could have millions of DNA strands just lying around our homes or on the streets just waiting to be picked up! On the extreme level, people might do something as extreme as cutting up a corpse to access the individual’s information when he/she was alive (a whole new meaning towards identity theft!!).

Getting to the point, the concept of identity is who we are as individuals. People are “ever-changing and in constant communication with each other,” as Turkle mentions in her article, “Looking Toward Cyberspace: Beyond Grounded Sociology.” Who we are with friends differs from who we are with our families. New ways to make friends and network with people have changed the way we view our relationships. Being anonymous gives people courage to act like a**holes online where they would be looked down upon out in the real world society, acting like hypocrites, or acting like someone they aren’t. However, it also allow us more freedom to express our personal views and opinions on topics of major concern. We laugh, we cry, we are sometimes highly motivated, and other times disappointingly lazy. Putting on a myriad of different faces is just a part of our human nature, and all these different faces make up our identity.

Although it is an amazing concept to be able to use DNA to store a perhaps infinite amount of data occurring in our everyday lives, I, personally, do not believe that it to be plausible to go as far as use DNA to keep information about our identification. Though, it definitely makes the future all the more interesting.

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4 responses to “Information & Identity?

  1. Very interesting points that you brought up! There are so many times throughout my day where I go to tell a friend a funny story that happened to me earlier on and then it ends up sounding extremely lame because it was one of those “you had to be there” moments. How cool would it be if I could just pull up that experience through my DNA to show my friend firsthand what actually happened?

    I can definitely see something like that in the future happening, but like you said, there are many potential problems that could arise. Peoples’ identities would be way more susceptible. I believe crime rate would increase dramatically…there would be DNA of billions of people all just “floating” around. At the same time, though, people could no longer be anonymous. I guess that can be a good or a bad thing, but moreso of a good thing. Like you said, people who act out on the internet, or anywhere for that matter, would not go unnoticed. Overall, I think that fitting data into DNA is a really interesting concept, but incredibly dangerous. A lot of research would have to be done in order to make it safe and protected. Great article!

    -Sammy DiCarlo

  2. “I, personally, do not believe that it to be plausible to go as far as use DNA to keep information about our identification.”

    DNA already has enough information to identify anyone just by virtue of being DNA and unique to each individual, so I’m not sure how this topic would apply to privacy.

    Other things that you need to consider when looking at new information storage technologies: how fast can the data be read? how long does it take to write a bit of data? how long does it take to read a particular memory location?

    DNA synthesis is still expensive compared to sequencing (and reading / writing is slow), so you would probably want to use this technology for long term storage of massive amounts of data, rather than day-to-day use or quick manipulation.

    • When I talked about privacy, I was thinking along the lines of credit card numbers, driver’s license, passport, your ASU sun card, etc. Although I am not an expert, I am sure there are people who keep some really important personal information on their iPhones just because it is more convenient. Why should DNA be any different? (correct me if I misunderstood). I also don’t think it’s plausible to go as far as to use iPhones to keep information about our identification. -.-‘

      I can’t deny it is still in its early stages of development and an expensive piece of technology, but there is a lot of potential for it to be integrated into society. As an analogy, no one had thought that computers and the internet would become so prevalent in everyday life when they were first in development. They were slow, inconvenient, and available only to select members of society, not to mention expensive. I guess what I’m trying to say is that DNA storage might not be anything special now, but may be significant in the future. I should have been more clear about that in my blog.

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