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Bio-Cryptoeconomy: Nanorobotic DACs for Cell Repair and Enhancement


Melanie Swan
By Melanie Swan
Broader Perspective

Posted: Aug 29, 2016

Blockchains as the new platform for technological innovation invite the creative imagining of applications at both the level of technology use and in the rethinking of economic principles. Some recent developments include optimism about rising Bitcoin prices and the rewards-halving milestone, trepidation about scalability, block size, and the latest hacking scandal of the Ethereum DAO, and fast-paced single ledger adoption by financial institutions.

Beyond excitement over these advances, however, the potential for the deployment of blockchain technology is still wide open across many more sectors and contexts. One speculative imagining for blockchain deployment is the bio-cryptoeconomy. The bio-cryptoeconomy is the idea of harnessing cryptographic principles and economic organizational models, particularly in the form of blockchain-based smart contract DACs (distributed autonomous corporations), to automate large classes of ameliorative processes within the human body. It has long been envisioned that in the farther future, fleets of medical nanorobots might be brought on-board the human body for a variety of pathology resolution and enhancement activities. 

Medical nanorobots is the idea of having tiny robotic machines at the nanoscale roving within the human body to perform a variety of health and enhancement operations. While autonomous nanomachines are not immanent, already nanoparticles are being deployed clinically in the human body for dynamically-controllable drug delivery and other functions. In the farther future, medical nanorobots could be a crucial technology for pathology resolution, health maintenance, and cognitive performance enhancement. Some classes of medical nanorobots that have been designed include respirocytes, clottocytes, vasculoids, and microbivores. Medical nanorobots could perform a variety of biophysical clean-up, maintenance, and augmentation tasks in the body. One such therapy might target the removal of cellular waste, for example, disposing of neural lipofuscin (un-decomposable waste particles remaining in the cell lysosome despite normal break-down processes). Neural waste accumulation is theorized to be an aspect of neurodegenerative pathologies like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. The concept is that medical nanorobots would be like having a fleet of IoT sensors on board the body, coordinated by mass automation, which could be increasingly feasible and secure with blockchain technology. 

One of the most urgent medical nanorobotic applications could be combatting life-threatening pathologies such as cancer and heart disease. Disposable medical nanorobots could be used to deliver and activate drugs in specific locations in the body as nanoparticles do now. An important related application could be to provide targeted electrical stimulus to the heart and brain, for example using ultrasound to dissolve blood clots. Another application could be to have medical nanorobots residing more permanently or for fixed time frames in the body for preventive medicine and general maintenance including cell repair and rejuvenation. It is not unthinkable that eventually there could be a nanorobotic DAC in many cells throughout the body coordinated by bio-crypto technology to undertake a variety of repair and enhancement activities.

The Nano Crypto Quantified Self: Radical Blockchain Health Apps of the Future
The sheer scale of simple repetitive activity across the human body’s roughly 37 trillion cells suggests that a completely new kind of automation mechanism might be required to coordinate cellular nanorobots. Blockchains possess several key properties needed to realize cellular-level nanobotic DACs. Already, blockchains are being investigated in test deployments for the high-load communication coordination of very-large scale IoT sensor networks. The automation of massive fleets of medical nanorobots in the human body could be similarly orchestrated. Further, medical nanorobots suggest a high number of agents and “transactions” where blockchains are easily able to log, track, and monitor any amount of activity from diverse agents. The secure nature of blockchain tracking is also a crucial feature for record-keeping and potential liability assessment in the medical context. For example, bio-cryptographic nano DACs could be used to improve information-gathering and efficacy in clinical trials, and record and transmit information directly regarding safety, adverse events, and side effects. Finally, remuneration as a standard blockchain feature might be useful for personal bio DACs. This could be directly in the case of transactional and payment channel consumption-based pricing. This could also be indirectly in the case of employing economic mechanisms like “pricing” as a points-based system for indicating demand, preference, priority, affinity, and other values. 

Community Payment Channel DACs
One benefit of blockchains and DACs is the vast reach of the technology in automating the coordination of arbitrarily many individual units and levels-of-detail roll-up. For example, in the case of a national treasury’s banknote tracking system, there is registration and tracking at the level of individual notes, series, print runs, location, time, and assignment to various entities at multiple levels. Blockchain ledgers allow on-demand drill-down to inspect the minutest transaction whilst simultaneously accommodating the potential automation of arbitrarily-many levels of activity, all though one Merkle tree validation, and packages of smart contract DACs. For example, the administrative aspects of a country’s entire home mortgage system might be managed in DACs that federate different levels of detail across the industry. Multi-tier automation and coordination in blockchain DACs makes the possibility of very-large scale automation projects more feasible. There is a growing capability to be able to marshal planetary-scale endeavors whether externally in economies, weather systems, and space settlement, or internally in neural activity in brains, preventive medicine, and crypto-nanorobots circulating in the body. A second-order functionality afforded by the automated multi-layer coordination of blockchains is being able to deploy actions to coordinated groups. Community actions as opposed to unitary actions can be the focus of activity. 

Community Payment Channel DACs - Examples
A straightforward example of community payment channel DACs is that many houses on a smart city electrical grid might choose to join the community payment channel for lower-priced electricity and power grid load-balancing. Coordination can be thought at the level of groups or wholes, not just individual parts, even if unified. Community coordination could be a useful mechanism in many contexts such as the cells of the body, the neurons of the brain, IoT sensor networks, and smart city operations. One example could be the ability to view hospital equipment inventories on a state-level or even national-level per smart property tracking blockchains. One benefit of this functionality is the ability to use new methods such as complexity math to orchestrate patterns. The kind of automation currently at stake is not just the simple causality of point-to-point transactions, but rather the complexity of prediction gradients or ecologies of interrelated behavior. Blockchains and payment channels are an unobtrusive yet appropriately granular tool for orchestrating and remunerating these complexities. Nanorobot grids could participate in a community payment channel DAC for resource access and consumption, including micronutrients, small molecules, drugs, and electrical stimulus; and also for purpose-based activities such as cancer-fighting waste remediation. 

Geoethical Bio-congruency of Cryptographic Nano DACs 
Bio-cryptographic nano DACs are not just an innovation with high potential functional use, they are themselves an example of complexity and geoethical nanotechnology whose detail, granularity, and integration suggests a well-formedness that respectfully corresponds to their potential use in the world. Ubiquitous blockchain-based nano-crypto DACs in the body could track, monitor, assess, and intervene more congruently at the level, scale, and scope of local corporeal activity since they themselves are in a form and operational cadence that is similar to that of the human body. This is merely one example of a more general trend in science and technology to have the tool more congruently fit the territory. The focus is to model, understand, monitor, and engage with natural processes in the full bloom of their own complexity and interrelation rather than on simple human-consumable causal models between point-to-point connections, which was the primary scientific method available. 

Advanced applications: Neuro-bio-cryptographic nano DAC apps
Just as humans and machines collaborate on many macro-scale tasks in the physical world now, it is imaginable that nanomachines might collaborate with the human body for many functions in the future. One example of a standard activity for a cell monitor DAC could be working with RNA transcripts; tracking, blocking, producing siRNAs, and RNAis for gene silencing and interference in an extended application of current pharmaceutical efforts. Clearly these cellular transactions would need to be tracked and monitored, including for safety, liability, and remuneration purposes. Neural operations are an obvious venue for bio-cryptographic nano DACs. This could include working with the brain’s 100 billion neurons for the purposes of memory assessment, improvement, and life-logging. Beyond that, it could also include making backup copies, uploading, coordinating brain-computer interface (BCI) cloudmind participations, and automating in-brain information retrieval (personal voice assistants not just externally like Alexa Echo and Google Home but on-board interactive applications; literally voices in one’s head (if so-permissioned)). Nanorobotic DAC applications could use microbiomics as a less-invasive target site from which to provide resourcing applications such as connectivity, secure automated backup, energy replenishment, and drug delivery. 

Self-instantiating Bio-crypto nano DACs
In the farther future, if bio-crypto nanorobots were to be truly autonomous DACs, they would sense a need for their genesis in the “tradenets” of bio-demand within a body, initiate a crowdfunding, begin operation upon its successful completion, and self-retire when there was no longer demand for its operations. The idea here is similar to concept of the self-owned Uber-type car that creates itself per sensing demand on a smart city tradenet grid, self-funds, self-operates, self-maintains, and self-retires. In a body, at the advent of a cancer or pre-cancer, for example per cellular threshold levels for mutational DNA copies being exceeded, there could be a trigger for a self-initiated nano-DAC crowdfunding to support in-cell cancer-extermination. This raises several questions such as the denomination currency of bio-DACs and also how the accountancy validation operation of mining is to occur. There could be different bio-crypto currencies such as micronutrients, small molecules, energy (ATP), electrical charge, and ideas. The obvious bio-currencies would be those already denominated by the body and used in the applications which the nano-DACs would be facilitating. In the smart contract programming, cryptocurrency principles like blocktime temporality (blockchain-based timing specifications) and demurrage (encouragement towards certain kinds of action-taking like full consumption) could be specified to optimize the management and operation of bio-currencies. For example, demurrage principles could be used for the periodic redistribution of brain bio-currencies such as ideas with its precursor neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine (in the enhancement case), and memories with its precursor neurotransmitter acetylcholine (in the dementia repair case). 

Advanced applications: Bio-currencies and Reciprocal bio-mining ecologies
Regarding mining, there would be different classes of security required by bio-nano DACs. Heart and brain operations would seem to be more sensitive, requiring a higher class of crypto-protection, and therefore a more robust mining effort. In general, the bio-mining operation could be architected similar to that of the smarthome IoT network. Interdependent blockchain ecologies could mine for each other, in a congruent participatory decentralized manner, where each ecology has the incentive to both maintain the network by accurately recording the transactions of other parties as their own survival is also at stake, and also to have their own bonafide valid transactions recorded for the same reason. In the smarthome IoT network example, one ecology of nodes can mine, or be the accountant for, another ecology, providing independent yet interdependent secure transaction-logging. The kitchen IoT sensors could log-mine for the bathroom sensors, and vice versa or round robin. Similarly, in the body, one cell ecology could provide the mining operation for another. The neural DACs could log-mine for the cardiac DACs (because they require the same high-grade security, validation, and anti-hacking measures), and the digestive system DACs could mine for the immune system DACs, and so on. Mining would presumably be a mix of internal logging uploaded periodically to external secure storage (storj) as there would be optimized energy-processing constraints governing the on-board processing capabilities of nanorobot DACs. 

Conclusion: broader context of Bio-cyrpto Nano DACs
Beyond Bitcoin and the single-ledger implementations of blockchain technology underway in banking and finance, there is a whole new tier of applications that might be unlocked. The bigger message of blockchain technology’s distributed ledger system and smart contract DACs is that it is a software innovation that might enable a much larger scale of human endeavor in as many domains as applications can be envisioned and implemented. The bio-cryptoeconomy is a new mode of economic life. One speculative example was developed here, in the form of crypto-tracking DACs that could coordinate medical nanorobotic cell operations in the human body. Blockchain functionality is well-suited to very-large scale automation operations with the properties of secure transaction-tracking and flexible payment models that could help to facilitate a far-future deployment of bio-cryptographic nano DACs for both repair and enhancement. 

Presentation slides: 11th Annual Terasem Workshop on Geoethical Nanotechnology: 
Bio-cryptoeconomy: Smart Contract Blockchain-based Bio-Nano Repair DACs


Melanie Swan, MBA, is an Affiliate Scholar of the IEET. Ms. Swan, principal of the MS Futures Group, is a philosopher, science and technology futurist, and options trader.
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