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Data Storage Hardware

How To Store Your Data For 1 Million Years 110

Whiteox writes with Fast Company's article about Robert Grass and his team, which is exploring how to use DNA as a data storage mechanism, along with others working on truly long-term storage. Both commercial interests and academic researchers are interested in protecting data not just for years or decades, but for multi-century stretches, right out into the millions. From the article: The idea of storing information on DNA traces back to a Soviet lab in the 1960s, but the first successful implementation wasn't achieved until 2012, when biologist George Church and his colleagues announced in the journal Science that they had encoded one of Church's books in DNA. More recently, reports the New Yorker, the artist Joe Davis, now in residence at Church's lab, has announced plans to encode bits of Wikipedia into a particularly old strain of apple, so that he can create "a living, literal tree of knowledge. "Impressive," writes Whiteox, "but I wonder if our future selves can make life from our archived data?"
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How To Store Your Data For 1 Million Years

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  • Where animals instinctual behaviors come from?

    • Where animals instinctual behaviors come from?

      Wikipedia in their genes?

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        Hopefully the backup includes Encyclopedia Dramatica.

        1.2 million years from now... Excited scientists huddle over the display monitor. A new paper has been released, one based on data from the Ancient Knowledge. The study appears on the screen, "A Treatise on 'Poop is Coming Out Now.'" Life will never be the same...

  • ...which states that this has already happened.

    Our _past_ selves created life from the archived data....

  • Ask these folks... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by garyisabusyguy ( 732330 ) on Friday June 05, 2015 @07:49PM (#49853235) []

    DNA mutates when alive and degrades when dead, there have to be other options

    • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Friday June 05, 2015 @07:52PM (#49853263) Homepage

      Yeah, the idea of using DNA to 'store' information for multi millennial time frames seems weird. The stuff mutates and degrades.

      OTOH, if your storing Brittney Spears and Justin Bieber, this might well be a feature, not a bug.

      • And how the hell could you fix the spelling errors?


      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        Store a data for a million years, how about finding some spare planets, say a couple of hundred to store the computers to store a million years worth of data. The whole egoistic arrogance that future generations, already pretty pissed off by the state of the planet we left them give a crap about the bulk of the data being produced today. They will of course want to revile those most responsible, be able to look upon them and curse, try to see the evil in their eyes that they would leave a planet in that st

      • So the Kardashians my represent some alien's long-ago attempt to communicate with us?

    • by koan ( 80826 )

      DNA is surprisingly robust, in any case portions of our own DNA are very, very old, and still the same.

      • by sshir ( 623215 )
        Only parts that are vital for the organism are preserved (more or less). Everything else is trashed or/and cut out completely.
        • by koan ( 80826 )

          You have portions of your DNA that is likely to be 45,000 years old or more, rather the "same as" Homo sapiens from 45K years ago.

      • If a segment of DNS is critical to our survival than I'm sure it can survive quite long without any mutation. But some arbitrary strand of DNA with no relevance to its host organism's survival can and will mutate freely.

        • by koan ( 80826 )

          How does it know what's "critical" to our survival?
          It would also depend on where you put the data, what section.

          DNA is well-suited for biological information storage. The DNA backbone is resistant to cleavage, and both strands of the double-stranded structure store the same biological information. Biological information is replicated as the two strands are separated. A significant portion of DNA (more than 98% for humans) is non-coding, meaning that these sections do not serve as patterns for protein sequences.

          Plus there's always "error correction" and redundancy.

          • How does it know what's "critical" to our survival?[......]

            "It" doesn't need to know. If it's not there, that gene can't get passed on, as the organism doesn't survive.

    • by Nehmo ( 757404 )
      Correct. It seems DNA will correct it'self by eventually dumping unnecessary data. What's not needed to be fit has no reason to be selected by the environment. Plus, what's to guarantee the species with the DNA will survive?

      To keep the data indefinitely, you could easily put the storage medium in a stable orbit around the sun or something. It would survive, but I'm not sure if anybody would ever read it.

    • I already solved it. []

    • First: Our DNA contains a lot of "useless" information, which is not used or changed. Nobody knows what it does, maybe it just lost the sequence on the active part of the DNA, which activates it.

      Second: Don't think of the DNA as a pure data store. Think of it as an program. Then write a program, which reencodes itself into each new instance in a robust manner. Your child may have mutated the data, but its organism reads the data and reconstruct it from some redundancy and writes unmutated data into the DNA

  • by Irate Engineer ( 2814313 ) on Friday June 05, 2015 @07:59PM (#49853311)

    1) Put our collective knowledge into edible form and grow it on trees.

    2) Put them in the Forbidden Garden for security, with stern warnings against eating the apples.

    3) Adam and Eve wonder what the apples over in there yonder trees taste like.

    4) *CRUNCH* *MUNCH* *SLURP* Mmmm...would be good baked in a nice crust with some cinnamon and sugar...

    5) Bake-off and Pie eating contest!!

    6) Angry lord of the orchard evicts Adam and Eve

    7) Perpetual guilt and ignorance ensue.

    This sounds like the makings of a good book, especially if one could work in some nudity action between Adam and Eve.

  • by Spy Handler ( 822350 ) on Friday June 05, 2015 @08:08PM (#49853371) Homepage Journal

    They're having a hard time trying to restore from 8,000 year old backups (wooly mammoth).... 1 million is way beyond DNA specifications.

    Carbon crystal storage is probably most likely to meet 1 million year MTBF requirement

  • Please, PLEASE encode windows in a fungus, that way can see how monstrous it truly is, whether Xp evolves in 7 (Mother Nature would skip Vista), and study real, live, organic networking.
  • Virus (Score:5, Funny)

    by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Friday June 05, 2015 @08:20PM (#49853453) Homepage Journal

    Just wait until their system gets infected with a virus!

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Friday June 05, 2015 @08:46PM (#49853615)

    I have an Apple IIci they can use.

  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Friday June 05, 2015 @08:47PM (#49853619) Homepage

    I just want to send foreward to my grandkids Audio, Video, and photos in digital form. photos I can get printed, but video and audio has no formats that will last that long. we were lucky and had simple records to carry audio forward 100 years, and film lasted a while but is already falling apart.

    Honestly Digital is going to cause a dark age. Very few people can read 9 track EBCDIC tapes from the 60's, who the hell is going to have a USB slot in 2065? even if my archival storage sandisk memory vault actually does last the 50-100 years it claims it's data retention is.

    • It's an analog world.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Have you seen photographs from 40 years ago? Not in some art collection kept under careful low lighting in a controlled atmosphere, but in a book in someone's attic? They're fucked. The colour is messed up, the details are starting to go, and don't touch them because they may start to physically fall apart.

      So what a serious archivist does, someone who wants to preserve information, not just collect endless cobwebbed boxes they must never open, is they copy. Make backups onto new media periodically. The grea

      • by allo ( 1728082 )

        The next generation will not hear the sound of their childhood.
        The recorders will have uploaded it to the cloud and make it hard to download it, to sell more ads on the cloud pages. The company will finally have been bankrupt or just stopped providing the service. The parents will either not have any access or the option to backup, which they did not use or understand.

        "Offline" devices may have the data, which is locked via some DRM scheme to prevent the competition to use the data in their devices. The key

    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Saturday June 06, 2015 @01:57AM (#49854723) Homepage Journal

      Forty years is easy, if you don't insist on instant-access convenience. Print your data onto low acid paper and store in a fireproof cabinet. Either (a) people will still be using computers in 40 years, in which case they'll no doubt have scanners and OCR OR civilization as we know it will have collapsed and boy will you be glad you have hard copy.

      As for a million years, I think the DNA idea is terrible. While there have been instances of DNA as old as 700,000 years being sequenced, the horse bone used to sequence that genome was recovered from ancient permafrost -- almost ideal conditions. If there is unexpected warmth, water or air exposure, then your DNA molecules will start to get manky fast.

      But we can look to dinosaurs for the answer. What we have of them is mineralized bone. I've personally helped a paleontologist reconstruct a triceratops skull, so I've seen it up close. You can still see the pattern of veins preserved on the surface of the frill. So some kind of engraved mineral might be the way to go. Encoding data on noble metal plates or synthetic gems would seem more promising.

      • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

        What I do have to aim for is brain dead easy use. The average computer user has went down in education dramatically, so if you extrapolate that out it will be even worse in 40 years.

        The chances that a normal person in the future that will understand what the 25 reams of paper in that box are for, because the top pages that explain it will disappear, are very very slim.

        I actually am looking at getting some 45rpm records made and including a fold up record player where you have to spin the record by your fi

  • by meglon ( 1001833 ) on Friday June 05, 2015 @08:55PM (#49853671)
    The obvious answer is storing it in Twinkies.
  • I wonder if this could one day lead to a form of genetic memory containing all the basic knowledge that a person would normally receive in school through the first few years of college... if given to an entire population we could rid ourselves of the need to study for many years to become proficient at basic concepts... perhaps allowing the human race to evolve into something greater.

    • by narcc ( 412956 )

      What strange confusion of ideas has lead you to consider such a ridiculous notion?

      • What strange confusion of ideas has lead you to consider such a ridiculous notion?

        My money's on marijuana.

  • Already done, stones and a hamer!

  • by manu0601 ( 2221348 ) on Friday June 05, 2015 @09:21PM (#49853785)

    After looking at TFA, it looks less stupid to me than it did at once.

    Indeed DNA changes very easily, mutations and viruses are common. But here they want to store DNA at temperature where biological interaction does not happen anymore. We are left with just mutations from radiation and replication errors, but that may be covered by DNA built-in repair systems. Hence perhaps it makes sense after all.

  • Nobody's going to need your data in 1 million years, considering that by then humanity will have been extinct for about 999,900 years.

  • Some real science has been done on DNA data storage as relates to evidence of panspermia []. The theory goes that if intelligent life deliberately seeded the universe it may have used DNA or RNA sequences that could be decoded into a message. So far science's tendency toward conservatism [] has prevented anyone from coming out and saying it but I think available evidence [] is more than sufficient reason for optimism and intense study.
  • Og just paint Ogwina and deer on cave wall. Or carve in stone. Og find carving in stone always works.
  • Post it on Facebook.

    What? Everyone's always talking about how once your give your information to Facebook they'll keep it a million years.

  • Signal your data to space in many directions, later invent faster travelling then light and collect your data.
  • Maybe we should try to read the apples that we have already and see if there is any knowledge already in them? It would suck if they already were imbedded by the ancient astronauts with the secrets of FTL drives, cancer cures, the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything, etc... and we overwrote them with Bieber.
  • I wonder if he'll just store some of the core data?
  • Who needs it.

"Oh my! An `inflammatory attitude' in alt.flame? Never heard of such a thing..." -- Allen Gwinn, allen@sulaco.Sigma.COM