Enter Genecoin. The developers of the mysterious project have proposed storing DNA on the blockchain. Storing DNA with Bitcoin sounds especially odd to people who aren't familiar with Bitcoin's interesting storage capabilities, and it has generated flush press for that reason.
Preserving DNA from generation to generation is an “unreliable” method according to the developers. They're opening the idea, to gauge market interest before they move forward with the project. The developers told Cointelegraph in an email:
“We're helping humans transition into the era of all-data-everything and network fitness.”
Genecoin sends over a kit to sample your DNA, they have the genome in question sequenced, and then store it on the blockchain. It's an expensive process. But if sequencing the genome is within your budget, then storing the genome on the blockchain should be within reach, they said.
“Make a backup with yourself using Bitcoin,” the website reads.
George Church's skeptical take
Harvard professor and geneticist George Church expressed his doubts: “'Preserves your genetic material indefinitely' is an interesting claim,” he said. “The record for storage of non-living DNA is now 700,000 years (as DNA bits, not electronic bits). So ironically, the best way to preserve your electronic bitcoins/blockchains might be to convert them into DNA.”
But the blockchain, Bitcoin's underlying protocol, does boast very useful storage properties. At its core, the technology allows for a global, unalterable record—a new way to link transactions and verify chronology, which can be useful for a variety of things.
“Basically it’s a technology that allows data to be stored in a variety of different places while tracking the relationship between different parties to that data,” Stacey Higginbotham explained.
Many projects are building data storage, like Storj and MaidSafe claiming that Bitcoin could revolutionize data storage in the vein of Dropox. The Internet of Things project mentioned above is another possible use case. In other words, we can see that the project is definitely in the realm of possibility.
What the hell is this thing?
But with testimonials on the website like, “"Wow such genetics. So data. Very forever?” and “Digital immortality... sign me up!” it's hard to say whether it's satire rather than a serious proposition.
Even a serious comment reads like dark satire, “I dream that somehow my grandchildren could meet my grandma. Can this help?”
Additionally, the developers are also prepared if Bitcoin is to be “replaced” by another cryptocurrency with decentralized blockchain crawlers (DBC) in the works, which would “crawl” over the blockchain and spread DNA data to distant chains, kind of like Google crawling over the web to discover new websites. The developers compared their crawlers to birds distributing plant genetic material to disbursed, faraway lands. “Genecoin is inventing new birds for the decentralized digital era,” they said.
But the sci-fi craziness doesn't end there. When I asked about the future of the projects, the developers said, “Encoding blockchains in living organisms is a fun one to think about. We've had that chat. In a biotech sci-fi future, you can start to imagine growing blockchain creatures.” It's some provocative, if not fun, stuff.
It's little wonder the developers want to remain anonymous. But, as the developers said, the choice is partially a nod to Satoshi Nakamoto and they want the spotlight to focus on the project. “We're quite eager to find out what the world thinks about storing DNA in cryptocurrency, and don't want our identities getting in the way,” they said.
Take it all with a grain of salt. But the idea is certainly fun to think about.
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