Open Source--It's in the Genes

What happens when you release 500,000 human genomes as open source? This. DNA is digital. The three billion chemical bases that make up the human genome encode data not in binary, but in a quaternary system, using four compounds—adenine, cytosine, guanine, thymine—to represent four genetic "digits": A, C, G and T. Although this came as something of a surprise in 1953, when Watson and Crick proposed an A–T and C–G pairing as a "copying mechanism for genetic material" in their famous double helix paper, it's hard to see how hereditary information could have been transmitted efficiently from generation to generation in any other way. As anyone who has made photocopies of photocopies is aware, analog systems are bad at loss-free transmission, unlike digital encodings. Evolution of progressively more complex structures over millions of years would have been much harder, perhaps impossible, had our genetic material been stored in a purely analog form.