Science fiction writers can be eerily good at predicting the future, especially when it comes to the technology we’ll be using someday. Jules Verne was especially prescient, imagining electric submarines and tasers long before their time. Now, though, science has turned the tables on those writers; It’s found a way to store books on DNA.
The book in question is a 53,000-word draft (in HTML) co-authored by the research team’s leader. It includes 11 images as well, but the size of the file is nothing compared to what DNA storage can really do. As The Guardian notes, one gram of DNA ?can store up to 455bn gigabytes: the contents of more than 100bn DVDs, making it the ultimate in compact storage media.?
And DNA has more than size going for it as a storage medium. It’s easy to copy and ?is often still readable after thousands of years in non-ideal conditions.? The technology’s in its early stages, but the potential makes e-books suddenly seem primitive by comparison.
So what does this mean for readers? Well, It’s not hard to imagine the day when we won’t need our Kindles or Kobos anymore. Humans can’t connect to the cloud (yet), but science may find a way for us to ?download? DNA books into our own bodies.
In the prototype, the DNA book is printed onto a glass chip by an inkjet printer. Perhaps people will soon be sporting a tiny rectangular port on their forearms, a place where it would be easy to slip a miniature DNA copy of The Hunger Games. The book ports could even be custom designed to look like small tattoos, or be updated to follow fashion trends.
It may seem far-fetched, but if you had told someone in the 1950s that their grandkids would be able to record videos on hand-held phones and transmit those images instantly to someone halfway around the world, people would have said it was impossible. Today, even toddlers sit and play with their parents? tablets and apps.
Will we ever completely do away with the paper book? I don’t think so, and I don’t think we should. There are benefits to different types of reading, depending on the purpose. Reading Shakespeare is a very different experience than skimming an instruction manual for software. We absorb the information differently and we retain it differently, and that variety helps keep our minds nimble.
It’s too soon to tell whether DNA books will become mainstream. The research is still in its early days. But if you want to know how you’ll be reading tomorrow, you might want to put down that romance and pick up the latest in science fiction.
S.D. Livingston is the author of several books, including the new suspense novel Kings of Providence. Visit her website for information on her writing (and for more musings on the literary world!).