Perhaps you’ve seen headlines like these. Fascinating, huh? And they’re all true – but only to a point and one that obscures something far more important. The process by which Sony’s new game console is going to help fight disease has been around for years and this very moment (or rather, when you finish this article) you can become a part of this effort making use not of something you almost certainly don’t have but rather something you do have – your PC.
The process involves something called “distributed computing” and relies on “borrowing” CPU cycles that aren’t currently being used. Even when your machine isn’t “sleeping” or “hibernating,” most of your CPU is idle. My computer and its CPU date back to the late Triassic period; Yet with numerous functions going on I’m currently less than 10 percent of my CPU. (Hit “control-al-delete” on a Windows system and then click on “performance” to see how much you’re using.)
If you can play solitaire on your machine, you can help cure Alzheimer’s. Further, no matter how thin your Internet pipeline, including dial-up, your PC will send all the computations it makes so it’s not even noticeable.
Link up enough CPUs, using a bit of non-invasive software provided by receiving company, and you’ve built a monster supercomputer.
Further, the biotech industry can easily use every bit of that power, considering that merely figuring out how a single protein folds can take a year on today’s fastest supercomputers, and there are an estimated 500,000 to a million proteins in the human body. At the same time, figuring out how those proteins work could be the key to curing or treating an incredible array of diseases to the extent they have any genetic component –and probably most illnesses do.
Ultimately a powerful-enough computer will substitute for the entire human immune system. Then “diseases” and potential “treatments” can be inserted as code. Testing procedures that begin in Petri dishes, proceed to animals, and then take five years or longer in humans could theoretically be performed in seconds..
Michael Fumento is a, journalist, and attorney specializing in science and health issues as well as author of BioEvolution: How Biotechnology is Changing Our World .
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