Malaria? Just another app on your Mosquito™

Microsoft Research has a new patent that’s sure to get people buzzing. (I had to.)

The patent involves reverse-engineering the dangerous viruses commonly carried by insects and using those same insects to spread “good” or antidotal versions of the virus.

The beauty of this is that the same successful disease vector now becomes preventative. There’s no alteration in the insect’s behavior, but they deliver a virus that is “nonthreatening”– allowing the host to gain immunity. 

mosquitoAnd if there’s anyone that knows how to ensure that people get infected by a virus, it’s Microsoft. (Sorry!)

What’s really interesting is that the patent includes a bunch of genetic programming (though the methods aren’t disclosed) that would help ensure this process works smoothly. The patent features some form of a “termination function”– a killswitch– that results in the “death or reduced viability of the altered parasitic organism”. Also included is an “interface component that facilities delivery of the termination signal and receipt of or delivery of the living body.” Presumably in order to monitor or ensure the success of the antidote.

Mobile software, “in the flesh”

There’s a lot to make of this. For one, it represents a real, tangible step towards genetic programming– and, if all goes well, to the eradication of a lethal disease. But it also represents a shift in how technology is viewed. This is one of the clearest examples yet of what “appculture” ultimately entails. 

What does this have to do with Appculture?

Appculture, for those new to the blog, is the result of the world’s data and services being delivered exclusively through highly individualized, customized and specific access routes. Appculture’s notable advantages over previous methods of information delivery, such as the post, television news or early Web, are its extreme level of specificity and its ability to synthesize a complex, holistic stew of data into a meaningful individual relationship. With this patent, we’re seeing a way for a patient’s own “datastream” to electronically negotiate with a biological entity– and to coordinate and facillitate their own survival.

The possibilities are incredible, and almost impossible to imagine. Think, for example, of one day having your body tell a machine how to make a custom antibiotic, or build DNA-replicate tissues. 

Okay, wow.

One thing is sure: we’re living in an incredible time.

And somehow a device called the Mosquito™ has a fun ring to it, no? :)

Your thoughts

What do you think of this patent? Does it scare you to have genetically-mutated malaria leaping around? Does it excite you that we might one day wipe out diseases along the very vectors that spread them? Does it worry you that Microsoft is doing the “programming”? Or do you think of this as just not a big deal? Let me know in the comments!!

PREVIOUSLY: iPad 3 and the end of buttons

1 Comment

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