Bio-hacking: the rapidly advancing worlds of the biological sciences

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Once the domain of dystopian science fiction and the blockbuster Hollywood movies that butcher them, a brave new world is emerging on the horizon with exciting and creepy implications alike. From microscopic RFID tags that paint an entire chapter of your life in terms of consumption habits and the implied psychology behind them, tiny insectoid cyborg surveillance drones in the shape of dragonflies to bioengineering viruses targeted specifically for genetic weaknesses in an enemy based on their peculiarities and defects, we are indeed on the cusp of some crazy fucking shit.

“The Diamond Age” by David Musashi Tanimura on deviantart, inspired by a great novel by Neal Stephenson where a neo-Victorian steampunkish society uses nanotechnology to control people with blood-based nanobots.

By way of Catherine Austin Fitts’ Solari blog, I started reading “Hacking the President’s DNA”, an article in the Atlantic about some of the biological advances in this area and how they can be used to modify human biology not in an indirect way like psychology and propaganda have had to do (even combined with electronics) but directly through bioengineering.

When I read about “garage geneticists” from the boingboing/make crowd, I thought, “Oh gee, nothing could go wrong here…” Well, the kinds of biotech being discussed in this article are several orders of magnitude more developed as the author is keen to point out with his comparison to Moore’s Law and chip manufacturing.

This is probably a good time to start investing in bioinformatics, biogenetics and biological sciences in general. Also, in nutrition and dietetics, since this is probably the first line of biological self-defense, just like with the antivirus market and digital self-defense.

Also, don’t use antibacterial soap and antibiotics unless you really have to. Probiotics are good! I might have to semi-crosspost this line of thinking to my nutrition blog.

For starters, while most criminals might think twice about mass slaughter, murder is downright commonplace. In the future, politicians, celebrities, leaders of industry—just about anyone, really—could be vulnerable to attack-by-disease. Even if fatal, many such attacks could go undetected, mistaken for death by natural causes; many others would be difficult to pin on a suspect, especially given the passage of time between exposure and the appearance of symptoms.

Moreover—as we’ll explore in greater detail—these same scientific developments will pave the way, eventually, for an entirely new kind of personal warfare. Imagine inducing extreme paranoia in the CEO of a large corporation so as to gain a business advantage, for example; or—further out in the future—infecting shoppers with the urge to impulse-buy.

700 TB stored on a gram of DNA

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Alexander Higgins brings us the latest in data storage: fitting 700T onto a gram of DNA.

When we sequenced our own DNA back in high school biology class, I had no clue it could be a storage medium for data. Of course, that’s what it already is.

Reminds me of the galaxy-in-a-bauble around the cat’s neck in the movie “The Fifth Element”.

On a related note, I just started reading about epigenetics. Intuitively, I’ve long suspected this to be possible, if only out of wishful thinking. Read-write filesystem for our corporeal vehicles.

For a while I was trying to double-major in CS and genetics. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened had I stuck with it.