Before a potential drug is tested on humans, it must first undergo animal testing. The problem is, 30 percent of drugs that are used successfully on animals are toxic to humans. Another 60 percent of drugs that that work on animals fail to have any efficacy on humans.
An untold number of drugs that could be toxic or ineffective on animals could actually be helpful to humans, but we have no way of knowing it. Humans and mice, rabbits, dogs, and primates have many things in common, but in the end, we are simply different animals. Which means drug testing on non-human animals has limited value. Fortunately, scientists have come up with a better plan — based on computers.
You are reading this because of an electronic microprocessor. Whether on your phone, tablet, laptop or desktop display, a computer microchip is responsible for the processing, storing and transmitting of all digital data, as it travels at electric speed, including these very words. Since the introduction of the microchip in 1959, computers have been limited to the speed of electrons, but all that is about to change.
When Texas Instruments’ Jack St. Clair Kilby invented the microchip, his design of an electronic integrated circuit depended on the flow of electricity to process and retrieve information. This is still true today, and that is why today’s computers are called electronic computers. But light travels 100 times faster than the electrons in today’s microchips, and thus a theoretical light-based computer, or photonic computer, would render today’s processors obsolete and inefficient.
In early August, the Wisconsin tech company Three Square Market hosted a chip party for its employees. This wasn’t about chips and dips, though. 50 employees — about half the company — agreed to have tiny microchips embedded in their hands in a group implantation event. The volunteers now have these superpowers: By waving their hand over a chip reader, they can purchase food and beverages in the company’s break room, unlock secured doors, and access computers.