When it rains, it pours. And right now it’s pouring Singularity like sweet, hot maple syrup all over the fluffy stack of flapjacks that is humanity.
An editor from the transhumanist magazine H+ sums it all up very nicely with a compilation of recent developments on everything from nanofactories to 3D human tissue printers to plasma fusion. The asymptote is in view.
Meanwhile, American researchers have successful produced an amazing breakthrough in the creation of artificial life. Pre-programmed DNA “software” implanted in a surrogate cell. The cell then reads the new, synthetic DNA, produces the proteins encoded therein and converts the surrogate into the cell species specified by the genetic code. The newly minted cell species then copies itself billions of times – all containing the same synthetically programmed DNA. New life.
“I think they’re going to potentially create a new industrial revolution,” Dr Venter said.
“If we can really get cells to do the production that we want, they could help wean us off oil and reverse some of the damage to the environment by capturing carbon dioxide.”
Simultaneously, we don’t know the risks of launching vast synthetic organisms into the wild. It’s kind of an organic grey goo quandry.
However, we will have the machines on our side! Newly developed transistors allow biological proteins to communicate with to nano-electronic circuits.
First, researchers built the backbone of the transistor out of a carbon nanotube between two electrodes. Next, they insulated the electrodes and covered the nanotube with a mixture of fatty molecules called lipids and proteins. The covering formed a lipid “bilayer” — a double lipid membrane — much like those that make up the outer membranes of biological cells.
The researchers then poured a solution of sodium ions, potassium ions and adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, over the transistor while running a voltage through it. In cells, ATP is the primary source of energy. It fulfilled the same role in the transistor, powering the proteins embedded in the lipid bilayer.
These proteins began working, transferring sodium and potassium ions across the bilayer. The charges from the ions created an electrical field around the transistor, which then changed the ability of the transistor to conduct electricity by as much as 35 percent. The higher the concentration of ATP, the more the conductivity changed.
Getting a biological molecule to control the electric current in a transistor is a first step toward computers that would interface directly with the brain.