A Q&A in Nature this week highlights Canadian poet Christian Bök’s plans to write poetry into the genetic code of bacteria. The project, dubbed Xenotext, was inspired by a previous feat of genetic engineering in which microorganisms were made to carry the tune of Disney’s “It’s a Small World (After All)” in their DNA.
Bök describes how the poem will be encoded:
The poem can be most easily encoded by assigning a short, unique sequence of nucleotides to each letter of the alphabet, as Wong has done. But I want my poem to cause the organism to make a protein in response–a protein that also encodes a poem. I am striving to engineer a life form that becomes a durable archive for storing a poem, and a machine for writing a poem–a poem that can survive forever.
He also describes his hopes for future generations to find the poem:
My project is analogous to building a pyramid and then leaving undecipherable hieroglyphs all over it: later civilizations may not understand the language, but its presence will testify to the enduring legacy of our own civilization. An alien readership hundreds of thousands of years from now might recognize that such tampering with an organism constitutes evidence of an advanced intelligence trying to communicate.
This new data poisoning tool lets artists fight back against generative AI
The tool, called Nightshade, messes up training data in ways that could cause serious damage to image-generating AI models.
The Biggest Questions: What is death?
New neuroscience is challenging our understanding of the dying process—bringing opportunities for the living.
Rogue superintelligence and merging with machines: Inside the mind of OpenAI’s chief scientist
An exclusive conversation with Ilya Sutskever on his fears for the future of AI and why they’ve made him change the focus of his life’s work.
How to fix the internet
If we want online discourse to improve, we need to move beyond the big platforms.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.