The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

ORGANIC COMPUTING
Think of computer hardware, and you think of metal-and-plastic boxes full of wires and chips, the parts mostly non-moving but still distinctly mechanical. Don't expect your grandkids (or great-grandkids) to have that image of computers. By the time they reach adulthood, the structure of computational devices could more closely mirror biological cellular constructs, doing their input-analysis-output functions along the same lines that DNA manages the building blocks of life.

Fascinating, fascinating stuff. Much of it over my head. It's incredible to think of the parallels between two seemingly different scientific fields: Biology and computers/mathematics. The genesis of this new field shows the merits of drawing ideas from areas outside your established expertise, as Leonard Adleman did when he started reading Molecular Biology of the Gene.

I do wonder about how controllable this wetware technology is. As the article points out, biological functions can be as unpredictable as anything else in nature, with cancer being the most obvious example. If the aim is indeed to "someday inject tiny computers into humans to zap viruses, fix good cells gone bad and otherwise keep us healthy", then I hope they don't unwittingly create whole new problems to replace the solved ones.