Organic computing has been growing behind the scenes for a few years now – computers that are constructed by us – but organic (I promise that, despite the title, this article isn’t about growing computers inside wombs). We’re talking computing power that doesn’t use silicon microprocessors or complementary-metal oxide semi-conductors (not that I can find any that can tell the time, as of yet).
(Organic computers taken a bit far - that woman, standing there? A computer replication. Eureka, Season 3).
I confess I haven’t been following them this whole time – I only recently became aware of them when one of the characters on SyFy’s Eureka put their hands into green goo – and, upon being asked what they were doing, gave a brief explanation of organic computing.
Of course – in the show it was professed that they were dramatically more advanced and better performing than our microchip equivalents – but it would seem that’s far from being the case (unless there really is a town called Eureka somewhere, occupied by scientists and developing ground-breaking technology for the US Department of Defence – of course).
The reality of the sci-fi
In truth – it’s been recorded to be able to read encrypted data off DNA chips, and perform simple arithmetic (made of leech neurons – this one’s been around since 1999 – impressive!). This is a far cry from being used to compute aeronautical aerodynamic projections and processing millions of different solutions to cancer – but it’s a start.
Standard contemporary computers consist of four main ideological categories – software, hardware, input and output, said Ehud Keinan, leading researcher on the DNA reading organic computer. “In contrast to electronic computers, there are computing machines in which all four components are nothing but molecules,” he explained, “for example, all biological systems and even entire living organisms are such computers. Every one of us is a bio molecular computer, a machine in which all four components are molecules that ‘talk’ to one another logically.”
Cheating in maths class with a green piece of goo that you keep in your pocket aside – the potential uses and ramifications are impressive – although incredibly distant from present day achievements. By reading on some other current breakthroughs and contemporary ‘breakthrough science’ – I’ve thought of a few novel applications.
What do you think? Would you trust an organic computer in your body? After all – what if it evolved and took control of your brain away from you?
Ok fine – that’s not really likely.
Are there any ideas for novel implementations of organic computing from you, the reader? Don’t be scared – this is a purely sci-fi endeavour – anything you think of could indeed be possible in the future.