The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are moving forward with a transhumanist vision of the future as they unveil their new Biological Technologies Office (BTO) that will blend biology with machine for the defense of national security.
Building synthetic soldiers, stopping plagues and making humans more advanced through robotics is the focus of this military agency.
The next generation of artificial human brains, robotic aircraft, advanced prosthetics and autonomous computers are just the tip of the iceberg for DARPA.
BTO is tasked with exploring “the increasingly dynamic intersection of biology and the physical sciences” by expanding the efforts of Defense Sciences Office (DSO) and Microsystems Technology Office (MTO).
Arati Prabhakar, director for DARPA told Congress that: “Biology is nature’s ultimate innovator, and any agency that hangs its hat on innovation would be foolish not to look to this master of networked complexity for inspiration and solutions.”
Regarding the development of super soldiers, Prabhakar said: “We had quadriplegic volunteers who agreed to have brain surgery, essentially have a small array placed on the surface of their brains, to pick up these neural signals for motor control, and then to use those to control these new, very sophisticated, robotic, prosthetic arms. In a sense, we’ve opened a door — a connection between the human brain and the rest of the world. You can let your imagination go wild about where that’s going to take us.”
DARPA is working on improving humans by:
- Create the ability to survive blood loss
- Alter the human brain’s ability to recall accurate memories
- Develop technology to enhance the human metabolic system to obtain super-human resilience and immediate recovery from physical injury and disease
- Enhance human vision with cat-like upgrades for seeing in infrared
- Robotic limbs that are controlled via thought
Among the weaponized drones, battlefield robots and cyborg soldiers, DARPA is banking on the idea that the next generation of defense technology will blend natural life with machines; including the manufacturing of biomaterials with regard to living cells, proteins and DNA as a basis for experimentation.
The DARPA Cortical Processor program (CPP) has been given $2.3 million to recreate a neural cortex that can mimic the human brain, respond to stimuli, use sensory receptors and recognize patterns.
The Living Foundries Initiative (LFI) is directed to create “a biologically based manufacturing platform to provide rapid, scalable access to new materials with novel properties” to allow for a “new generation of mechanical, electrical, and optical products.”
The BioDesign program at the BTO will decipher how to best develop synthetic beings that are genetically engineered to be immortal while simultaneously made with a kill switch that can be enacted remotely.
With $19.3 million in taxpayer money, the BTO will “employ system engineering methods in combination with biotechnology and synthetic chemical technology to create novel beneficial attributes. BioDesign mitigates the unpredictability of natural evolutionary advancement primarily by advanced genetic engineering and molecular biology technologies to produce the intended biological effect. This thrust area includes designed molecular responses that increase resistance to cellular death signals and improved computational methods for prediction of function based solely on sequence and structure of proteins produced by synthetic biological systems.”
By taking the knowledge they currently have, Geoff Ling, director of BTO explained: “We are ready to start turning the resulting knowledge into practical tools and capabilities.”