The state continues to protect the financial industry. Noam Chomsky’s comments on “free market fantasy” come to mind:
And the principle of really existing free market theory is: free markets are fine for you, but not for me. That’s, again, near a universal. So you — whoever you may be — you have to learn responsibility, and be subjected to market discipline, it’s good for your character, it’s tough love, and so on, and so forth. But me, I need the nanny State, to protect me from market discipline, so that I’ll be able to rant and rave about the marvels of the free market, while I’m getting properly subsidized and defended by everyone else, through the nanny State. And also, this has to be risk-free. So I’m perfectly willing to make profits, but I don’t want to take risks. If anything goes wrong, you bail me out.
Awesome. Terrifying. Inspiring.
DARPA’s list of programs read like a SciFi novel and often evoke the same reactions. The only difference is that DARPA is producing actually working results.
Several of the amazing posts I’ve put up were funded by DARPA, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In researching a previous post about regenerative medicine (here), I stumbled upon some DARPA stuff (e.g. here) and began to peruse their site. And, wow, was I blown away.
So, here are the RCS Highlights of some of the projects and what they’re about:
- Accelerated Learning - “Accelerated Learning will identify the neural basis of expert performance… ” (First step toward ‘downloading’ information Matrix-style.)
- Antibody Technology Program (ATP)
- Biomimetic Computing - “design a biologically motivated, large-scale neural simulation embodied in a mechanical (robotic) system that is embedded in a physical environment” (e.g. “intelligent robotic animals”)
- Chemical Robots (ChemBots) - “It should.. traverse an arbitrarily shaped opening much smaller than the largest characteristic of the robot itself. Once through the opening, it will reconstitute its size, shape, and functionality and travel again to perform a task using an embedded payload” (Sound crazy? Check out this unrelated video by robotics guru Dennis Hong @ 7:28.)
- Deep Bleeder Acoustic Coagulation (DBAC)
- Engineered Bio-Molecular Nano-Devices and Systems (MOLDICE)
- Fundamental Laws of Biology (FUNBIO)
- Instant Fire Suppression (IFS) - “By using physics techniques rather than combustion chemistry, it may be possible to manipulate and extinguish flames.” (See a recent post of mine here.)
- Low-Cost, Lightweight Portable Photovoltaics
- Negative Index Materials (NIM)
- Nimbus - “Nimbus is a fundamental science program focused on obtaining a comprehensive understanding of the lightning process, its associated emissions (such as x-rays), and its ionospheric components to better protect troops, ordnance, and other military assets.” (Imagine being able to control lightening! They should’ve called this the “Zeus” project.)
- Plasma Sterilization of Wounds and Medical Devices
- Programmable Matter - “a new functional form of matter.. that can reversibly assemble into complex 3D objects upon external command.” (Think, intelligent robotics origami.)
- Protein Design Processes (PDP) - “will enable specification of a desired function and be able to rapidly synthesize a protein that performs that function” (Wow. That is just… ridiculous!)
- Quantum Effects in Biological Environments (QUBE)
- Reorganization and Plasticity to Accelerate Injury Recovery (REPAIR)
- Restorative Encoding Memory Integration Neural Device (REMIND) - “A biomimetic model of the hippocampus could serve as a neural prosthesis for lost cognitive function and memory impairment.” (Think Matrix meets Johny Mnemonic; download skills or instructions or possibly even be able to install and uninstall information from a soldier.)
- Slowing Storing and Processing Light (SLOW LIGHT)
- Surviving Blood Loss (SBL)
- Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics (SYNAPSE)
- Topologically Controlled Lightweight Armor (TCLA)
- Z Man - “enable soldiers to scale vertical walls constructed from typical building materials, without using ropes or ladders.” (Spider-Man! Spider-Man! Does whatever a spider can!… though I guess it should really be “Gecko-Man”.)
Now, I think a lot of the projects have goals which everyone would be happy about, such as those related to human health (e.g. plasma sterilization, averting bloodloss, and even “intelligent” prostheses) or sustainability (e.g. eco-friendly goals involving solar technology). The “issue”, though, is that this research is going to fundamentally change war, on a level on par with the invention of guns - if not moreso. More importantly, this will fundamentally alter humanity and our conceptions of it. For instance, BCI (brain-computer-interfaces) is also being funded heavily by the military and is already creating a new breed of existential and philosophical questions which many, especially transhumanists, are considering. To be clear, this isn’t to say these are necessarily bad things, but we don’t yet know. And while I’m in favor of this type of research (partly because it’s inevitable and because it does have tremendous potential for good), it must be considered at length and monitored appropriately.
So, yea, this is some pretty terrific & terrifying stuff… And this is the stuff they’re telling us about!
It wouldn’t be surprising if they had other projects too top-secret for their user-friendly website. Even still, some of the projects’ descriptions seem to hide their true intent or capabilities. For instance, their site’s discussion of NIM (Negative Index Materials) is barely understandable and makes no mention of its application to invisibility cloaking - which is already well under way with several prototypes having been developed. Or consider the Nimbus project which claims it’s merely to protect soldiers from lightening. I’d be quite surprised if they wanted to limit it to that. Oh, and BCI is also touted as a way to restore perception (e.g. vision) to those injured in battle; and while I’m sure it’ll be used that way, I’m also sure it’ll be used to add all sorts of peripheral devices to soldiers - like eyes in the back of their head, internal infra-red vision, etc.
So, don’t be alarmed but do be amazed; don’t be complacent and do think this stuff over. We’re living in incredible times. Let’s make sure we use our science and technology to build the world we’ll all want to live in… cause the way science is heading, we may have the choice to be here for a very long time!
P.s. For your convenience, here’s a link to all references to DARPA on ScienceDaily.com ; and be sure to check out the links above for more info - some even have photos and progress reports!