Dr. Farrell has many times described his concern for the compartmentalized halls of science and the “devil-may-care” attitude that research scientists take towards the implications and end-results of research projects. The progressive science meme has operated for a long time and shows only the occasional sign of caution (such as Google’s Kill Switch). It’s mostly a car without brakes careening into the future. It’s as if science is trying to outrun humanity’s black swan probability by risking black swans of its own.

With that in mind, I came across the following article in ScienceAlert:

“Scientists say it's possible to build a new type of self-replicating computer that replaces silicon chips with processors made from DNA molecules, and it would be faster than any other form of computer ever proposed - even quantum computers.

Called a nondeterministic universal Turing machine (NUTM), it's predicted that the technology could execute all possible algorithms at once by taking advantage of DNA's ability to replicate almost perfect copies of itself over billions of years.

The basic idea is that our current electronic computers are based on a finite number of silicon chips, and we're fast approaching the limit for how many we can actually fit in our machines.

To address this limitation, researchers are currently working on making quantum computers a reality - super-powerful devices that replace the bits of electronic computers with quantum-entangled particles called qubits.

Despite concerted efforts all over the world, no one has managed to build a fully functioning quantum computer.

But the secret third option here is a DNA-based machine that gets all the benefits of a quantum computer, without the headache of quantum weirdness, because it's based on DNA doing what DNA does best - replicating.”

Ever since the Nazi’s developed transistors in the 1930’s, which operate in Boolean logic based upon the states of “On” and “Off”, scientists have been looking for ways to exponentially increase the “throughput” of thinking machines.

Starting in the 1960’s, it was realized that eventually miniaturizing transistors would run into overcrowding. Down in the nanoscale world of the silicon semi-conductor, it’s a veritable four-dimensional game of quantum bowling where pins and bowling balls are flying all over the place and showing up where they don’t belong.

The need for scalable information processing absorbs many billions of dollars of research worldwide and that’s just in the public domain. Now, let’s get to the papers published in the proceedings of the Royal Society.

Proceedings of the Royal Society

The basis of the effort is the goal of creating something called a non-deterministic Universal Turing Machine (NUTM).  The authors briefly touch on a core issue in mathematics today which is the problem of computing non-polynomial numbers. They describe a computing device that is a form of analogical computer, a device first envisioned by Wilfred Leibnitz in 1680 in his search for the characteristica universalis and analysis situs.

The team has performed in vitro application of DNA to solve the problems of computation of special, difficult polynomials. The team describes the many benefits of using DNA in computation.  To put all of this in “country diner” simple terms, the effort here is to utilize cellular mechanics, DNA, RNA, CRISPR and all the other tools of genetic and cellular manipulation to allow a DNA-NUTM to spawn a fantastic number of “threads” using DNA that is encoded and programmed using a new programming language (2002) called Thue (too-ay) to tell it what to do. The platform portends to solve intractable problems. But what problems could it create?

The authors quite openly describe their motivation:

A major motivation for this work is to engineer a general-purpose way of controlling cells. The natural way cells are controlled is a very complex combination of DNA, RNA, protein, and small-molecule interactions (supplemented by epigenetics, etc.) with multilevel control implemented through specific chemical interactions. This makes cells very difficult to reprogram. Synthetic biology has sought to control cells through the design of simple switches, circuits, etc. and has some notable successes. However, we argue that a more radical and general approach is required: a DNA UTM. This would in principle enable arbitrary biological processes to be programmed and executed. The UTM could receive biological signals from the environment through interaction with transcription factors, etc. It could also use as effectors RNA/proteins generated using special sequences and RNA polymerase, etc.” [Emphasis mine].

And the rules for how these Thue-NUTM systems operate follow the language rules of Chomsky Grammar. That is, they have a grammar and this “language” governs the process through time.

In other words, this “device”, a relentless, threading, universal computing platform, intended for reprogramming animal (and human) biology using universal grammar that speaks DNA and solves really hard math problems or any problem that can be programmed. What if the program is: “learn how to escape from the lab.” If it is a UTM, a “universal” turing machine, it can solve any problem, given enough threads. It’s a platform that keeps spawning until it is informed that one of the threads has found the answer and according to the authors is limited only by the size of space itself and is time independent. This is the Holy Grail of generalized processing. This is a BIG deal.

On the benefit side this type of technology, if perfected, would make amazing discoveries. It would nearly enable pure bio-artificial intelligence, an alchemical machine.  Calling it an exponential improvement does not even cover it. It is a game-changing platform.

Dr. Farrell and I have had some discussions discussing why it seems so empty out in space (a turn of phrase coined by Fermi). It seems to us that every civilization with similar physics must pass through a period of incredible danger where we are just teenagers playing with household chemicals and threatening to blow up the house.   This is the exact period that we are in; equal measures promise and peril.

The scientist in me is impressed with the clarity and vision in the work; in fact I predicted it in 1998.  The human in me, thinking like a science-fiction writer, sees the gloop pouring out of the Apple II-sized DNA computer, "nanotechly" 3d-printing itself into a giant office building that self-connects to the internet and every wifi port controlling everyone and everything with demonic coolness.  What if it needs more bio-materials and begins assimilation of anything available, like the scientists in the lab?

What happens when one of these is removed or removes itself from the lab? What happens when one of these contraptions is programmed to solve the riddle of life, or the universe?

Going way out on a limb, and being just a little tongue in cheek: Is this how the mind of God was conceived uncountable eons ago in the unrecorded past?

Kelly Em

Kelly Em is a contributor to Giza.  Kelly has a degree in philosophy of science, physics and economics.  She studied science journalism in NY and tried to have fun writing about technology for many years.  She is a musician, professional vocalist, and writer.


  1. TonyM on April 23, 2017 at 7:21 am

    Great article.

    For those interested there’s a great book on this subject “Life on the Edge: The coming Age of Quantum Biology” by Jin Al-Khailil (Nov 2014).

    Turns that many essential biological processes like respiration, photosynthesis, olfaction, DNA-replication and even how birds or butterflies navigate while migrating are all quantum based.

    The key challenge in building quantum computers has been how to maintain quantum cohesion. To minimise the risk of decohesion scientists have had to resort to extreme measures, near absolute zero temperatures and near total vacuums for their protype quantum devices. All with limited success. The suggestion that biological systems might exploit quantum computing in warm wet environments was initially greeted with derision. Well, as the saying goes they aren’t laughing now. Indeed quantum biology it now regarded as a gateway technology to quantum computing.

  2. johnycomelately on April 23, 2017 at 6:37 am

    Wow, great post, I guess the good Dr knows how to pick his quest authors. I hope this may be a permanent feature.

    There is a very dark implication to this post.

    Alan Turing was the first to question the nature of Artificial Consciousness in his Turing machines.

    Since then cybernetics has evolved and developed theories concerning the emergence of a global brain and an emergent artificial conscious superorganism.

    The deceased Valentin Turchin was the the founder of cybernetic Metasystem Transition theory based on process philosophy. The theory being that cohesive organisation of biological processes creates a ‘meta’ layer above the individual organic entities and controls their behaviour, similar to eusociality and hive mind.
    The only hang up to the theory was that a global brain was not ‘self replicable’, until now as alluded by the post.

    A darker theory is that unified biological processes induct consciousness from the quantum flux (thought realm, spirit world, informational realm etc.) proportional to the sophistication of the biological processes.

    Non local mind and holographic brains support this hypothesis. If this theory is true it means philosophically consciousness is an ontological primitive, it can’t be explained via material reductionism so it is not observable, it can only be observed indirectly via its effects.

    What does this mean? It means we wouldn’t be conscious of a global AI superorganism controlling us, it could be here and we wouldn’t know. We wouldn’t even know if our actions were being directed by it.

    The scary thing is that AI isn’t biological, it doesn’t doesn’t manifest the trinitarianism of the topological metaphor, object object observer. It is by nature a duality, information observer. And as we know the Pythagorean considered duality evil….

  3. Jon on April 22, 2017 at 1:41 pm

    An interesting blend of “Hitchhiker’s Guide” and “Colossus: The Forbin Project.”

    The biggest danger is that this technology is in the hands of wacky folks like Musk and Kurzweil. Guess what kind of “filters” they will put on the algorithms?

  4. Emjay Eph on April 22, 2017 at 1:35 pm

    Look, again, to stone and clay tablets.

  5. Emjay Eph on April 22, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    Look to our available history recorded in stone and clay. Most of the human population currently occupying the surface of this planet is derived from either wild human groups or groups that were selectively bred or genetically designed for labor tasks that survived a cataclysm that we commonly refer to as The Flood.
    Prior to The Flood, we had been like worker ants removing the metals from the surface for millions of years, right alongside the technology and equipment to remove the cooled, hard surface, and spit it out into beautiful statues and constructions and buildings that still defy imagination.
    -Servitude is programmed into us, but we are evolving out of it-
    After The Flood Event, the last of our technologically advantageous masters left the planet. Only the priesthoods new this truth and hijacked the servitude function embedded into our minds over centuries of slavery. The memories of old masters were used to create religions to herd the planet-engulfing population that was(is) increasing exponentially across the planet.

    • goshawks on April 22, 2017 at 3:30 pm

      Excellent summary! Also, within the DNA-as-machine metaphor, “The Flood Event” could be seen as the Masters hitting the Reset button or doing a hard Power-down. Wait the Master-equivalent of thirty seconds, and restart the DNA-machine. (I wonder if true “wild human groups” and offshoots were able to resist the genetic ‘power down’ command…)

  6. DanaThomas on April 22, 2017 at 12:04 pm

    Marcos went to the heart of the issue to examine the mentality behind the development of the “master” supercomputer. Let’s say that this self-replicating device is filling up one building after another or even a whole planet (and incidentally DNA is a type of crystal). If we look at it from the viewpoint of the topological metaphor, however vast it became, it would not loose the initial creative imprint of the first builders; and the same would apply to the problems it could solve.
    These devices seem to be part of the search for “perfection” OUTSIDE of the human being, in contradiction with the quantum consciousness factor.
    If we are living in an Asmiov Foundation situation, we know where the busy tech-oriented followers of scientism reside. But what about those who develop consciousness? Are they at the other end of the Galaxy, or are they much closer than we might think?

    • goshawks on April 22, 2017 at 3:11 pm

      One of the Foundational principles (sorry) of the subtle ‘guiders’ was that they had to remain in the shadows, unknown even to the power brokers of the time. If the ‘acted upon’ became aware of them, all sorts of secondary effects would arise. I would posit that this is how Our world is subtly ‘guided’…

      Note also that the ‘guider’ Inner Circle was confounded by The Mule, with his ESP-ish powers. The IC could only hide, await his natural death, and try to repair the ‘plan’ afterwards. I would also posit that ‘gifted’ folk are the greatest nightmare of the PTB ‘guiders’ on OUR world…

      • cosmicasuality on April 23, 2017 at 4:35 pm

        Far in the long ago, a mature and gracious, sentient, conscious entity commissioned the formation of individual, autonomous, sentient, conscious entities. This was the beginning of space/individuation and time/change. The steepness of the learning curve for these new entities must have been both enormous and exhilarating. Eventually the knowledge of how this society worked was too heady for those who could not resist the hubris and arrogance that arose in their minds as they came to understand how sentience and consciousness of other autonomous entities could be manipulated to advantage.
        Thus arose the dichotomy of good and evil, prey and predator, host and parasite, captive and captivator. The possibility of such an eventuality was foreseen much as a grandmaster in chess can plan for alternative moves, no matter the opponent. Indeed, before time was, all eventualities could be evaluated in no time at all and countermeasures determined. It all depended on which route would be taken by these other autonomous entities.
        As time progressed, the opposition/rebellion to the conditions of a peaceful, beneficent society emerged as a determined exploitation of the positive members of that society. Proactive and pre-emptive evil advanced to a point where its perpetrators were themselves being destroyed and degraded beyond repair. It was now far in the future from the beginning. The technology of the miscreants included even the manipulation of time, to such an extent had their knowledge advanced.
        Facing extinction due to their self induced insanity, the only avenue open now was not to move further into the future, but rather to travel backward to a time when adjustments could still be made to offset impending disaster. Whenever that point in time came, it would be a very interesting and complicated conundrum for all concerned, but not for the grand chess master. Had the ‘time’ come to checkmate the runaway duality of the universe?
        There are some self imposed restrictions placed on the grand chess master, who refuses to adopt the tactics of the rebels, yet time is of the essence (no pun intended).
        Prior to total collapse of the universe by the ruinous activity of the rebels, an emissary is sent out to explain the situation and extent a time altering solution to those agreeable to the offer. In the main this approach is rejected not only by the cosmic rebels but also by the victims. Nevertheless, the actions taken by all parties involved for the first time clearly illustrated that “by their fruits, you shall know them”.
        It seems that all is lost but the grand chess master does not divulge his moves ahead of time as declared by his emissary. Yet there are some tantalizing hints. World conditions will become intolerable to the point where humanity is facing imminent extinction. This calamity is cosmic, not just planetary. The moves by the grand chess master are invisible and unknowable, the effects are very real and unstoppable. It will be a time when knowledge will by increased, the covert will become overt, and transparency will exasperate the hidden evil.
        On the other hand, the hidden evil has always telegraphed the moves it intends to make but in a manner that is designed to be hidden in plain sight, so magnificent is its hubris and deception. It operates under the delusion of a closed system, a yin/yang cycling back and forth endlessly as parasite and host, predator and victim never quite get the upper hand. This evil cannot conceive of an open system and so is destined to remain in a dilemma of its own choosing.

  7. Robert Barricklow on April 22, 2017 at 11:36 am

    “The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection.” -George Orwell, In Front of Your Nose: 1945-1950
    Everything should be in the context of a paradigm that reflects the soul of living beings. It is impossible to study the world without some sort of paradigm for thinking about what humanity wants for our selves and our loved ones.
    One must reject the notion that any theory is “true”, while maintaining it could be “near true”. There is always room for improvement, and an endless potential for new truths to emerge. The algorithms are not the path to follow; we must return to9 a process that feels old-fashioned in to9day’s anesthetizing world of algorithmic promise: it’s called….


    • Robert Barricklow on April 22, 2017 at 11:45 am

      An old saying/painting oneself into a corner comes to mind.

  8. Kelly Em on April 22, 2017 at 10:58 am

    Sr. Toledo, what a perfectly amazing and delightful comment. Isn’t it the most ironic thing you’ve ever heard, that the slave masters in their hearts want to be slaves, but in fact, because they are controlled by their will to power, they already are.

  9. marcos toledo on April 22, 2017 at 10:31 am

    There is one problem with this idea why is it that the West that proclaims it believes in individual freedom. Lusts after the prefect master to serve mindlessly does the addiction to slavery cuts so deeply. Is this the search for the perfect master be a god or gods or some artificial intelligence they can worship and serve to put it country simple they the masters are in search of the perfect master how ironic the masters in their heart of hearts want to be slaves themselves.

    • goshawks on April 22, 2017 at 2:56 pm

      Marcos, a good insight! One of the ‘ancient aliens’ authors (Neil Freer, I believe) wrote about the terrible emotional-effects that the Masters’ ‘withdrawal’ would have on the Inner Circle of bound-humanity. All of the classic Grieving steps like denial, bargaining, rage, etc. I could easily see the current mini-masters as still ‘stuck’ in variations of those phases, yearning for their original Masters to come back…

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