Soon bad guys will be able to hack your DNA – now that’s disruptive

DNA hacking
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If you think having your computers hacked is scary, then you ain’t seen nothing yet. If you can edit DNA, you can hack it.

There is a huge amount of interest in DNA at the moment and a lot of people are using home testing kits to find out whether they are Scottish or Italian. Which is fine, except for the fact that some are not that accurate and in some cases cannot tell whether you are a dog or a human (Scottish yes, but human, not sure). This kind of testing is what many in the pharmaceutical industry refer to as entertainment.

Yet in ten years time you will be able to sequence your entire DNA within a week and at a fraction of the cost. This will allow humans to edit their DNA. It will allow us to get incredibly early warning of weaknesses that might be markers for certain diseases and do something about it.

You will, at some point, be able to tailor yourself to be fitter, happier, better than you were before – and healthy.

Meanwhile the world of prosthetics is being overturned with truly remarkable developments. Hugh Herr at MIT is leading a team that has discovered how to make your prosthetic limbs not only work as well as real ones but feel like real ones too. And when prosthetic limbs (not to mention 3D printed hearts) meet the ability to edit and improve your DNA, then you basically have a superhuman, a cross between man and machine.

You also have the ability to edit someone’s DNA in ways that are harmful. You could, theoretically, inject DNA into someone – perhaps many people – and create a bunch of slobbering imbeciles. Or kill them or give them incurable diseases.

As with many things, advances in one area bring risks and advances on the dark side of the street.

DNA hacking will become a thing. Whether it is actually within a decade or longer, DNA security will become a threat and an opportunity that will make having your password stolen seem pedestrian by comparison. (By then, you will probably be wearing your computer anyway and you won’t have quaint things like passwords.)

As computing, prosthetics, pharmaceuticals and brain interfaces become a reality, we will move from being hacked as an inconvenience to being hacked as life-threatening.

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