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Engineered virus which hacks & controls brain: Do you mind?

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on August 4, 2012


Photo from wordlesstech.com

Photo from wordlesstech.com

Today, an average computer user cannot even keep the machine secured. So what will the world look like when hacking your mind becomes as easy as infecting your machine with a computer virus?

Human knowledge on DNA nanotechnology and bio-molecular computing increases exponentially with every passing year. Thus, protecting your own brain from security breaches could become the highest priority challenge of the 21st century.

Synthetic biology is becoming one of the most powerful forms of technology in the world. But many people fear that scientists’ games with the genetics of life forms could spin out of control and open the door to a new age of bio-hacking and bio-terrorism.

Natural living viruses and bacteria are not only making people sick, they also control the behavior and condition of the hosts, though without any malice. But the consequences of getting exposed to an artificially-created virus could be much more serious than a headache or a fever.

“Synthetic biology will lead to new forms of bioterrorism,” security expert Marc Goodman told the Daily Mail. “Bio-crime today is akin to computer crime in the early ’80s.”

Viruses and bacteria are manipulating the chemicals inside the human body and, by programming them to send the right agents into the brain, the bio-programmer potentially can take control over the victim’s behavior.

We are seeing the opening stages of the synthetic biology industry. Some basic tasks like decoding, insertion and excision of parts of the DNA, and relatively successful attempts of cloning is pretty much everything that modern science can carry through.

But in the ’80s, computer science technology was actually at the same level of maturity. At that time no one could really believe that 20 years later any person would have a greater power over the computer  – and not only the one that belongs to him – than the best present-day programmers.

Cells are living computers and DNA is a programming language that can be used to control and influence life forms, believes Andrew Hessel of Singularity University, on NASA’s research campus.

“Synthetic biology – the writing of life,” Hessel says. “It’s growing fast. It will grow faster than computer technologies.”

Programming the DNA, however, is more of a speculation at this point. There is no development environment or any frameworks to manipulate the cell. Just like in computer programming, a set of basic instructions and codes has to be developed before an average coder could perform some task of greater complexity.

The industry is developing rapidly and the future of DNA programming seems bright. But drawing parallels with computer science, it would be better for humankind to recognize the problem of “malicious bio-programmers” with all possible seriousness and proactively develop defensive and counter-offensive methods.

@RT

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