Sriram Kosuri — Encoding Stories and Big Data In DNA
According to current estimates, by 2015 the digital universe as we know it will contain some 50 zettabytes of information, the equivalent of about a billion present-day computer hard drives. And yet while our collective human archive of stories and information is expanding exponentially, our capacity to preserve those stories, digitally or otherwise, is starting to flat-line. The people charged with rescuing that accumulated knowledge from oblivion may, in the end, be bioengineers like Sri Kosuri. Earlier this year, Kosuri and a team of Harvard synthetic-biology researchers successfully encoded the contents of an entire digital book—words, images, Java files, and more—in about a milligram of living DNA, having converted the ones and zeroes of the book’s digitized content into nucleic-acid sequences that were printed on a glass slide. The feat represents a quantum leap in data storage, the implications of which are still being understood. “DNA happens to be a very good source of information storage, and it has been for billions of years,” says Dr. Kosuri. “DNA is super-compact, and we know that DNA stays stable for hundreds of thousands of years.” In the future, Dr. Kosuri points out in this eye-opening film, the challenge of storytellers won’t necessarily be how to preserve what they create, but rather how to keep it from getting lost forever amid the clutter.