DNA data storage could solve a big problem
7:06

DNA data storage could solve a big problem

Tech Industry
We have a problem we need to talk about. There are too many cat videos. Well, it's more than that. We have too many baby photos, too many tweets, Google docs, videos, GIFs, networks, journals, logs, reports, trackers. We as humans are producing a crazy amount of data. At this pace we are generating more data Then we have the capacity to store on hard drives, and that's why right now for much of our digital archives, we are still relying on magnetic tape. Yes, the same kind of tech we used for VHS and casettes. Tape takes up space and it can start to go bad after 10 years and needs to be replaced. Anyone got a pencil? But science found a new way to store our information on synthetic, made in a lab DNA, the same DNA that makes up the building blocks of life, and it can last hundreds of thousands of years. Not to mention, it takes up a whole lot less space. I am Bridget Carey, let's break it down [MUSIC] Go To illustrate this concept I shall use a jelly bean. This jelly bean weighs about three grams, but say you have three grams worth of DNA. Scientists compact 600,000,000 million gigabytes of data in something that wheezes as much as this jelly bean. That means you could just store all the world data in a swimming pool of jelly beans and if you think that's pretty sweet it gets better, there's a company that already figure it out how to turn this into a business. It is using DNA to store Bitcoin passwords. [MUSIC] So, what is in this vial exactly? It is a 12-word passphrase that would give access to a cryptocurrency wallet. So, inside a little drop of liquid is a cryptocurrency wallet Key. Correct. I spoke to Vishel Boyan. He's the co-founder and CEO of a startup called Carver. The way he sees it, the safest place to store the key that unlocks your digital money is inside a drop of DNA. Is what's in this vial the same thing that is in, In our DNA. It's synthetic DNA, so it's not from a human or anything, but it is identical. Sure, you could be a boring person and write down your Bitcoin information on a piece of paper. Or save it on a computer file. But think of how fast technology changes. What if you store information on thumb drive But 20 years from now no one is using thumb drives. I found this floppy disk in my parents house. It was mine when I was a kid. But what if I saved something important on it. Will I ever find a way to see what's in this historic treasured memory? Or maybe it's just some old middle school homework, I really don't know. Technology changes but DNA will always be around. It's durable and can last thousand of years in a cold, dry place. I feel I can damage this, it is fragile? No, you're good. Yeah, like how well can DNA be stored? Like you can go like that, you can shake it around like it's good. DNA is the only thing that won't ever become obsolete. Sequencing technology is getting faster and cheaper just every couple of years and so and it's always relevant as long as we're alive DNA will always be a relevant medium. But about that whole cost thing. Making synthetic DNA for data is not cheap. Cover cutomers pay $1000 to get this done and that's just for a really little bit of data. To me I think to pay the $1000 to do this is that absolutely worth it as insurance policy on my car and hold things in where I think they could be in the future. Nate is one of Carver's customers. I met him in his apartment on the first day he got his DNA data in the mail, which he keeps in the freezer. For him, the DNA is a backup to his backup in case something happens to the computer he stored it on. And if that day comes, he'll need to send it to a lab to read the DNA sequence. It's the final insurance policy and the last line of defense in case the other solutions fail. Am I holding your retirement plan? Maybe I should give this back to you [LAUGH]. [LAUGH] I hope you are. That's the goal that one day this will be the retirement plan. Carverr says it has 28 clients so far, and in time you may see competitors pop up with different storage ideas. While this may sound very new and very, I don't know, bizarre, I think this is going to be. And especially over the next 5 years, 10 years, this is going to be a lot more commonplace. Then people think. So how does data a bunch of ones and zeros get turned into DNA? The concept is pretty simple. Let's start with the DNA rungs of a strand are made up of four nucletide bases. Abbreviated to be A, T, C and G. So you can simply translate the binary into the language of the four DNA letters. A can equal 00, T is 01, C is 10 and G is 11. So your string of zeros and ones is now DNA code. And the lab prints out the chemicals to stitch it altogether as synthetic DNA. I spoke with one of the scientists that mastered this method. Dina Zielinski. It's just like any other data. We can read, copy, and write DNA now, so it's not as, it's not as crazy as it sounds. Zielinkski co-authored a paper on how to do it, and in the research successfully store other files into DNA. Including one of the first films ever made, an 1896 French short black and white film of the arrival of a train. It was only 50 seconds long. We also included an old operating system and an Amazon gift card, which has been spent. I feel like I always have to say that so people don't get too excited. In total her team put two megabytes og data on DNA and the prodess cost seven grand so DNA storage is too expenssive now to be practical .Putting the family photo album on DNA will have toi wait. And another downside, it takes time to access your files, you may have to wait a day or two for a lab to read it and converted all back to data. But even so, the potential is pretty cool also there's one question in all of this that was on my mind. If data can be turned into DNA can we store data in ourselves, inside the DNA that lives inside of us. That's probably the most common question actually. I mean the answer is yes, we could do it, but theres still a lot about our own DNA that we don't know. And it's a lot safer to just store it in a tube in a refrigerator or freezer somewhere. So right now we're only at the bitcoin in your freezer stage of this technology, but hey. Thumb drives as actual thumbs? Not recommended, but still in the realm of possibility. Way to go science. [MUSIC]

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