Assassin’s Creed in your genes

I’m a big fan of the Assassin’s Creed games, they’re top notch murder simulators. The premise behind them is that the memories of our ancestors are encoded into our DNA which can be read through a special machine; allowing us to relive their lives. The main character’s ancestors were an awfully violent bunch, most of them being part of the guild of assassins who fight injustice. Kind of like Batman, only without the rule about not killing people.

They also don’t put on silly voices

The 6th game in the series is due to be released later this year. With my hard drive filling up, I wondered if I had enough space for this latest installment. This got me thinking: would our genome suffer from the same problem?  How many memories could our DNA store?

The 5 games so far contain 55 GB of data. Fortunately DNA is very small, so loads can be crammed into a small space. A single gram of DNA can contain 2.2 petabytes of data; which is an order of magnitude bigger than the biggest hard drives you can buy today (which are noticeably heavier than a gram). For this reason many people are researching whether DNA-based hard drives are a possibility, and the results are quite promising.

However our genome is also quite small. Our cells don’t have of a gram of DNA in them, they actually have 6 picograms; or 6 trillionths of a gram (no, I’m not going to convert that to imperial for you). This adds up to 2.5 GB of data, which is far from the 55GB needed to store the memories of our assassin ancestors in our DNA.

Whilst researching these facts I stumbled on an old Q & A on the human genome project website, which talked about how difficult it would be to store this wealth of data. Now a 2.5 GB hard drive would be laughed at. How times have changed. Yet this paltry amount of data contains all the genes needed to create you; the most complex thing in the known universe. 2.5 GB of data stored on 3 billion base pairs in 6 picograms of DNA codes for an entire human being.

As amazing as this is, it sadly means we won’t be able to relive our murderous ancestors’ lives.

Which is a real shame

9 thoughts on “Assassin’s Creed in your genes

  1. Ah, but we still have the murderous instincts of our ancestors and that’s the key the game’s appeal.

    • Oh I’m all behind the development of other murder simulators to satisfy these desires. It’s just they won’t be based in reality.

      Which I guess is actually a good thing.

  2. Well there goes Clan of the Cave Bear down the drain. In that book Neanderthals could inherit all sorts of knowledge from their forebears, including their common sign language. Plus they were telepathic. And they were bow-legged, which really stretches credibility to the breaking point…

      • Actually I found the storyline pretty entertaining. I got the impression the author did a certain amount of research (she seems to know a lot about prehistoric mammals) and then filled in the gaps with unabashed fantasy. .

      • Having a good story and being well researched were always how I’d had them described to me too. Granted these were by non-evoanth people, but I’m still worried that telepathy and knowledge inheritance would be considered well researched.

  3. Haha, I love Assassin’s Creed but I’m a bit behind the times. I’m only just coming to finishing Brotherhood so Revelations and AC3 are still experiences I have yet to enjoy.

    I know the science is dodgy but I just go with it because the games are awesome. Good post!

    • I too was playing them a few years late to save money, until I discovered I could get Love Film to post them to me for a few weeks. You’ve still got plenty to look forward to.

      I think the central premise of memories in the genome is untenable, let alone the size requirements of such memories.

  4. Pingback: Great Story Telling in Video Games: Assassin’s Creed Part 1 | Sweat, Tears and Digital Ink

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