The Digital Life

Designing Bio-Inspired Technology

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The Digital Life

The Digital Life

Description: Adventures in design and technology

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Designing Bio-Inspired Technology

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Jon: Welcome to episode 92 of the Digital Life, a show about our adventures in the world of design and technology. I'm your host Jon Follett and with me is founder and co-host Dirk Knemeyer. Dirk: Greetings, Jon. Jon: So today, let's talk a little bit about the realm of bio inspired tech. I think this is such a tremendous area. I think Bill Gates was quoted as saying something like if he were going into tech today he would be going into biotech because that's where all the action is. I'm paraphrasing. Bio inspired technologies are going to be huge in the future and even now we're starting to see some of the fruits of that. I know that the science, design and engineering all come together to create some amazing things. The first item we have to talk about today is the idea of data storage. We have data storage problems now, don't know where to put it all and it's hard to keep it from going bad, frankly. Data storage in a natural repository, which I think is a fascinating use of DNA couple with storage technology. Researchers in Zurich in Switzerland have found a way of encoding 83 kilobytes of information in a DNA strand and apparently, if you have one grand of DNA you've got 455 exabytes or the equivalent of 455 billion gigabytes. That's a lot of ... I don't even know if you call it ... you know, you can't call a hard drive space sort of soft storage space, right? That's a pretty amazing amount. At the same time, it's really not all that stable. They have to find a way to stabilize it overtime, fossilize it maybe. When you think of problem like data storage being solved by all-natural solution like DNA, what are the thoughts that come across your mind, Dirk? Dirk: It touches on so many things. You opened the show talking about biology and the relationship with technology. This is such a great example of that where its really where we're headed across many different evolutions of computing technology, not just storage. But we're going to get more and more into both integration into your biological cells but on also getting lessons from the world of biology outside of just the human animal and incorporating those lessons as we're now able to really understand the world just with increasing crispness and clarity. Nature is the best technology of all. The more that we can learn from it, the more advanced the things that we'll be able to build to extend ourselves will be. The other thing, I think, for listeners of this show that might be particularly relevant is having data storage and DNA is part of what's going to be an increasingly growing trend which is basically interfaceless experiences. If we assume that those path of data storage storing within our own genes basically is optimal, there's no place for user experience in there. There will need to be a user interface, of course, but at that level it will be a system level of here's the physical interface between the being and the computing stuff that shoves the data in. This is a whole category for which there is no need for UX, there is no need for UI, at least in the ways that we think about them and at least in the ways that employ a whole bunch of people currently. Data storage is just one really good example of something that's going to be happening across a wide front, namely that we're heading towards interfaceless experiences. That would be troubling perhaps for the many, many, many, many people who are training up and getting into what is currently a very vibrant user experience job marketplace. Jon: Yeah. I think in a larger sense there is a huge need for bio inspired, you know, we'll call it product design, but it's much more than that. It's what are the human aspects of any of these biotechnologies. What are the ways that relationships are managed and mitigated on the human side because ultimately, it is data that we're going to want to store and retrieve in this particular example.

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NMX and Nab Show, Las Vegas, April 2015