DARPA Is Working to Create Cyborgs and Meta-Humans – Even if They Won't Admit It

Friday, 12 October 2018 - 1:07PM
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Friday, 12 October 2018 - 1:07PM
DARPA Is Working to Create Cyborgs and Meta-Humans – Even if They Won't Admit It
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Composite from Pixabay
If you thought the announcement of the first air-to-air drone kill or the unveiling of Russia's new bipedal military mech was cause for some Fallout-style meditations on how war is changing, rest assured that DARPA is developing new technologies that rival anything military science fiction (or cyberpunk dystopias) could imagine. You might be thinking of the bipedal robot Atlas (who's been showing off his growing parkour skills), but the reality is that neurotechnology is going to be the next big thing.

According to a new article published by The Atlantic, DARPA's neurotechnology initiatives are ostensibly aimed at helping soldiers recover from debilitating injuries, such paralysis or loss of limbs. A big PR boost came from a highly publicized video of Jan Scheuermann, the owner of a DARPA-developed cybernetic arm, feeding herself chocolate by controlling her arm with only her thoughts. As Justin Sanchez, Director of DARPA's Biological Technologies Office, put it: "The people that we are trying to help should never be imprisoned by their bodies. And today we can design technologies that can help liberate them from that."

But according to an interview with at least one former DARPA employee, the organization is looking to "free the mind from the limitations of even healthy bodies."

This ideas permeates everything DARPA is doing, as exemplified in the writer's talk with Geoff Ling, who works in the Biological Technologies Office. "If a brain can control a robot that looks like a hand, why can't it control a robot that looks like a snake?" asked Ling. "Why can't that brain control a robot that looks like a big mass of Jell-O, able to get around corners and up and down and through things...in my world, with their brain now having a direct interface with that glob, that glob is the embodiment of them. So now they're basically the glob, and they can go do everything a glob can do."

Apart from Jell-O globs, DARPA has plans to start augmenting the human brain and nervous system so that it can learn faster and perform beyond the capabilities of vanilla humans, as well as create programs to re-write soldiers' brains or effectively transfer memories into their minds. The goal seems to be pushing the boundaries of the human body, and the definition of human.

You can read the full article on The Atlantic here.
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