DARPA Wants to Override Evolution to Make Immortal Synthetic Organisms

800px-DARPA_LogoBy Jeremy Hsu for PopSci:

Death-resistant synthetic beings? Don’t worry, there’s a genetically encoded kill-switch

It’s been a long time since a Pentagon project from the DARPA labs truly evoked a “WTF DARPA?!” response, but our collective jaw dropped when we saw the details on a project known as BioDesign. DARPA hopes to dispense with evolutionary randomness and assemble biological creatures, genetically programmed to live indefinitely and presumably do whatever their human masters want. And, Wired’s Danger Room reports, when there’s the inevitable problem of said creatures going haywire or realizing that they’re intelligent and have feelings, there’s a planned self-destruct genetic code that could be triggered.

Unsurprisingly, molecular biologists have weighed in with huge caveats and raised fingers of objection. First, they say that DARPA has the wrong idea about hoping to overcome evolution’s supposed randomness, and that evolution really represents a super-efficient design algorithm. Then there’s the problem of guaranteeing immortal life for any biological creature in the first place — just look here and here at some really smart people who have yet to find that fountain of youth.

DARPA has also committed just a piddling $6 million out of next year’s budget toward BioDesign. But it will also put $20 million toward a new synthetic biology program and give $7.5 million for speeding up the analysis and editing of cellular genomes. We’re pretty sure that means the Pentagon agency hasn’t considered a future where police “blade runners” help violently “retire” escaped lab replicants of humans…

[continues at PopSci]

4 Comments on "DARPA Wants to Override Evolution to Make Immortal Synthetic Organisms"

  1. Word Eater | Feb 7, 2010 at 9:03 pm |

    Haven't they seen “Mimic?”

  2. laughingman | Feb 20, 2010 at 9:39 pm |

    This just shows the mentality of the people working for DARPA, if this information is correct; as if they think themselves to be progressing to the workmanship, intellectual ability, and accomplishment of gods. So DARPA decides to put out millions of dollars for grabs, to see who has the promise of cheating death. First ones to cheat death get rich and the military takes the research and uses it for war. Who wants to cheat death for DARPA??? You can be a god, be rich, and prove yourself to be smarter than nature. Sounds like a reason to get up in the morning! This is progress!

  3. A Bad Joke | Aug 21, 2010 at 8:47 pm |

    Cylons? Yes, lets make some Cylons. Nothing to see here, nothing could go wrong.

  4. A Bad Joke | Aug 21, 2010 at 3:47 pm |

    Cylons? Yes, lets make some Cylons. Nothing to see here, nothing could go wrong.

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