October 14, 2011

The Second Digital Revolution

Image by dullhunk
DNA provides a great distinction between data and medium. While our DNA (the medium) dies with us, our genes (the data) can be passed  down to our posterity. In fact, some of our genes may be billions of years old. This immortality of genes stems from the fact that they are digital. Genes happen to be encoded in DNA, but they are just base-4 information.

Up until very recently, human beings only created analog artifacts. A painting lasts only as long as the canvas (or the cave) it was painted on. They can be reproduced, but  only imperfectly and at great expense.

Books are one step closer to being digital. The English alphabet is, in a sense, a base-26 code. The problem with books is that it is difficult to replicate them.

With computers, we have created a system like DNA - digital information plus a way to replicate that information quickly and faithfully. The first time that sort of system came into being, the output was all of the life on earth. It will be interesting to see what the results are of this second digital revolution.

1 comment:

Kedra said...

Really interesting, Jeremy. I like it!