We can program a computer to do anything. What if we had the same power over the molecules of our bodies? Let’s imagine how this could change our lives.
For example… this version of the scenario .
Adam and Eve meet at a party. She likes him. Her sniffer ring can sense Adam’s biomolecules floating in the air between them. One of them triggers a warning. Eve forwards the warning to Adam’s phone.
Back home, Adam files a bug report with his internet slash health provider. The bug report contains his biological ID and the DNA code received by the warning message.
The bug report is opened.
The ID and DNA code are converted to a digital chemistry. Technical staff manipulate this chemistry, as hackers about to debug a program in Neuromancer style.
“still he’d see the matrix in his sleep, bright lattices of logic unfolding across that colorless void”
William Gibson, Neuromancer
Things like making lists, just, fold up inside themselves. Come out the other way around. Crazy things.”
Pseudo — William Gibson
They find a digital molecule which solves Adam’s problem. A medicine. They convert the solution back to a DNA code which they send to Adam’s router.
The router can turn DNA code back into real biomolecules. Why? It’s a Venter 9000 digital-to-biological converter. Version one looks like this .
Is a bit larger than a router, for the moment. But, in few years, the 9000 version will be in everybody’s home.
The router emits these biomolecules into Adam’s bedroom. They enter the body and so the bug report is solved, the medicine is delivered and Adam is in perfect health again.
Can we really do this?
I think so, there are 3 steps to make.
Step 1. Build a digital chemistry which we can program. In a digital chemistry data and programs are all graph like structures, digital molecules which “fold up inside themselves and come out the other way around” only they do it randomly, like in real chemistry.
We would create and manipulate digital molecules as if we write programs made from a very few elementary bricks. Then we could simulate their behaviour on a computer, to be sure they work right.
Step 2. Use Nature to simulate this digital chemistry. There’s no computer as powerful as Nature, let’s use it. Find a digital-to-biological dictionary from the elementary bricks of the digital chemistry to real biomolecular bricks.
Step 3. Build digital-to-biological converters and biological-to-digital sensors. Craig Venter gave us the first generic DBC converter. Sensors as performant as Eve’s sniffer ring, as a part of the Internet of Things, are possible.
OK, so the program is simple. Let’s do it right away!
Well, I’m not a chemist, I’m a mathematician and I built a digital chemistry which does work like real chemistry. It is indeed inspired from stuff related to Lisp and Haskell (but goes in wild directions). Is called chemlambda , is an Open Science project and I hope it can be used in reality.
Molecules in chemlambda are graphs made by colored nodes and links between them. The chemical reactions are done by enzymes rewiring small patterns in these graphs.
Chemlambda is Turing universal, meaning that you can translate any computer program into one of these molecules and execute it via random digital chemical reactions.
In my simulations I used things like the Ackermann function or the factorial, but think: any program! You could do anything with the Nature’s computer.
More general, going far outside the small world of computer programs interesting for the neighbourhood programmer, you could design molecules from first principles.
Instead of shooting in the dark by doing many experiments with real world molecules, kind of like a barbarian who finds new uses for the tiny things discovered in a clock workshop, instead of this you could design what you need, then turn it into reality.
Colonize Mars? Deposit all Netflix shows in lichen spores?
Some frightening, of course.
But: understand life at molecular level? What a worthy goal. This may (or may not) help.
If the step 2 is realized, here’s the bottleneck.
I am very willing to try the step 2 of the program. I think this can be done by a combination of clever searches in available chemical databases and collaborative work.
After all, chemlambda it’s an Open Science project. Means that it may scale, with chance.
 Digital-to-biological converter for on-demand production of biologics, Kent S Boles, Krishna Kannan, John Gill, Martina Felderman, Heather Gouvis, Bolyn Hubby, Kurt I Kamrud, J Craig Venter and Daniel G Gibson
see also Motherboard article https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/59zj9b/craig-venters-digital-to-biological-converter-is-real
 The chemlambda repository README is the entry point to the project.
 Internet of Smells, http://telegra.ph/Internet-of-Smells-04-26