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Thread: Immortal ‘Synthetic Organisms,’ Molecular Kill-Switch Included

  1. #1

    Default Immortal ‘Synthetic Organisms,’ Molecular Kill-Switch Included

    Pentagon Looks to Breed Immortal ‘Synthetic Organisms,’ Molecular Kill-Switch Included






    The Pentagon’s mad science arm may have come up with its most radical project yet. Darpa is looking to re-write the laws of evolution to the military’s advantage, creating “synthetic organisms” that can live forever — or can be killed with the flick of a molecular switch.
    As part of its budget for the next year, Darpa is investing $6 million into a project called BioDesign, with the goal of eliminating “the randomness of natural evolutionary advancement.” The plan would assemble the latest bio-tech knowledge to come up with living, breathing creatures that are genetically engineered to “produce the intended biological effect.” Darpa wants the organisms to be fortified with molecules that bolster cell resistance to death, so that the lab-monsters can “ultimately be programmed to live indefinitely.”
    Of course, Darpa’s got to prevent the super-species from being swayed to do enemy work — so they’ll encode loyalty right into DNA, by developing genetically programmed locks to create “tamper proof” cells. Plus, the synthetic organism will be traceable, using some kind of DNA manipulation, “similar to a serial number on a handgun.” And if that doesn’t work, don’t worry. In case Darpa’s plan somehow goes horribly awry, they’re also tossing in a last-resort, genetically-coded kill switch:
    Develop strategies to create a synthetic organism “self-destruct” option to be implemented upon nefarious removal of organism.
    The project comes as Darpa also plans to throw $20 million into a new synthetic biology program, and $7.5 million into “increasing by several decades the speed with which we sequence, analyze and functionally edit cellular genomes.”
    Of course, Darpa’s up against some vexing, fundamental laws of nature — not to mention bioethics — as they embark on the lab beast program. First, they might want to rethink the idea of evolution as a random series of events, says NYU biology professor David Fitch. “Evolution by selection is nota random process at all, and is actually a hugely efficient design algorithm used extensively in computation and engineering,” he e-mails Danger Room.
    Even if Darpa manages to overcome the inherent intelligence of evolutionary processes, overcoming inevitable death can be tricky. Just ask all the other research teams who’ve made stabs at it, trying everything from cell starvation to hormone treatments. Gene therapy, where artificial genes are inserted into an organism to boost cell life, are the latest and greatest in life-extension science, but they’ve only been proven to extend lifespan by 20 percent in rats.
    But suppose gene therapy makes major strides, and Darpa does manage to get the evolutionary science right. They’ll also have a major ethical hurdle to jump. Synthetic biology researchers are already facing the same questions, as a 2009 summary from the Synthetic Biology Project reports:
    The concern that humans might be overreaching when we create organisms that never before existed can be a safety concern, but it also returns us to disagreements about what is our proper role in the natural world (a debate largely about non-physical harms or harms to well-being).
    Even expert molecular geneticists don’t know what to make of the project. Either that, or they’re scared Darpa might sic a bio-bot on them. “I would love to comment, but unfortunately Darpa has installed a kill switch in me,” one unnamed expert tells Danger Room.


    Tags: Bizarro, DarpaWatch, Science!


    Read More http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010...#ixzz0egvMldHr
    "Where is the intersection between the world's deep hunger and your deep gladness?"

  2. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ed Jewett View Post
    Pentagon Looks to Breed Immortal ‘Synthetic Organisms,’ Molecular Kill-Switch Included






    The Pentagon’s mad science arm may have come up with its most radical project yet. Darpa is looking to re-write the laws of evolution to the military’s advantage, creating “synthetic organisms” that can live forever — or can be killed with the flick of a molecular switch.
    As part of its budget for the next year, Darpa is investing $6 million into a project called BioDesign, with the goal of eliminating “the randomness of natural evolutionary advancement.” The plan would assemble the latest bio-tech knowledge to come up with living, breathing creatures that are genetically engineered to “produce the intended biological effect.” Darpa wants the organisms to be fortified with molecules that bolster cell resistance to death, so that the lab-monsters can “ultimately be programmed to live indefinitely.”
    Of course, Darpa’s got to prevent the super-species from being swayed to do enemy work — so they’ll encode loyalty right into DNA, by developing genetically programmed locks to create “tamper proof” cells. Plus, the synthetic organism will be traceable, using some kind of DNA manipulation, “similar to a serial number on a handgun.” And if that doesn’t work, don’t worry. In case Darpa’s plan somehow goes horribly awry, they’re also tossing in a last-resort, genetically-coded kill switch:
    Develop strategies to create a synthetic organism “self-destruct” option to be implemented upon nefarious removal of organism.
    The project comes as Darpa also plans to throw $20 million into a new synthetic biology program, and $7.5 million into “increasing by several decades the speed with which we sequence, analyze and functionally edit cellular genomes.”
    Of course, Darpa’s up against some vexing, fundamental laws of nature — not to mention bioethics — as they embark on the lab beast program. First, they might want to rethink the idea of evolution as a random series of events, says NYU biology professor David Fitch. “Evolution by selection is nota random process at all, and is actually a hugely efficient design algorithm used extensively in computation and engineering,” he e-mails Danger Room.
    Even if Darpa manages to overcome the inherent intelligence of evolutionary processes, overcoming inevitable death can be tricky. Just ask all the other research teams who’ve made stabs at it, trying everything from cell starvation to hormone treatments. Gene therapy, where artificial genes are inserted into an organism to boost cell life, are the latest and greatest in life-extension science, but they’ve only been proven to extend lifespan by 20 percent in rats.
    But suppose gene therapy makes major strides, and Darpa does manage to get the evolutionary science right. They’ll also have a major ethical hurdle to jump. Synthetic biology researchers are already facing the same questions, as a 2009 summary from the Synthetic Biology Project reports:
    The concern that humans might be overreaching when we create organisms that never before existed can be a safety concern, but it also returns us to disagreements about what is our proper role in the natural world (a debate largely about non-physical harms or harms to well-being).
    Even expert molecular geneticists don’t know what to make of the project. Either that, or they’re scared Darpa might sic a bio-bot on them. “I would love to comment, but unfortunately Darpa has installed a kill switch in me,” one unnamed expert tells Danger Room.


    Tags: Bizarro, DarpaWatch, Science!


    Read More http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010...#ixzz0egvMldHr
    I used to read lots of science fiction, but why bother...the real science (sic) news now is stranger and more sinister still!
    Don't worry - I'm sure it will be used for the most benign of purposes....like......hmmmm...I can't think of any potential benign purposes....and DARPA doesn't 'do' benign....oh well....:joyman:
    “If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

  3. #3

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    The very first DARPA project was to clone Dr. Mengele.

    "Where is the intersection between the world's deep hunger and your deep gladness?"

  4. #4

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    I had a very surreal experience once when, while involved as a 'subject matter expert' for a military simulation contractor -- an rhizome of the Bolt, Beranek and Newman 'Desert Storm'/TRADOC simulators -- which was tasked with developing a virtual tabletop exercise system to teach civilian emergency managers how to respond to an outbreak of mad cow disease -- then changed to avian influenza.

    Our group represented the software development sub-contractor for a lead contractor working for TSWG. When the project was canned [breakthrough interruptus], we won an opportunity to make a 'desperate plea presentation' to allow our piece of the contract to survive. The meeting was set at a small distant 'closet' within the overall structure somewhere in what is colloquially known as 'the Crystal Palace' with TSWG reps and the #2 vet from the USDA.

    When we arrived for the meeting, we were sequestered first in an outer foyer and required to sign in, show identification, leave all personal/corporate/unapproved items with the receptionist [laptops, cell phones, anything electronic], sent through a mini-TSA-like screening wand/patdown and then escorted by a staff-person through a double-locked door, down a hall to a double-locked conference room that I'd guess was also sound-sealed, covertly miked and possibly filmed. The meeting was uneventful, our objective unsecured, except for the interest shown by the USDA doc in my built-in game design mechanism by which responders could be shown how to communicate and deduce more effectively to ascertain the nature of the source, fomites and vectors more readily, and for the berating I got in the car on the way back to BWI from my boss.

    Post 9/11, the ride near the Pentagon and the Potomac [for some reason, I envisioned an aircraft carrier anchored there] was equally spooky.
    "Where is the intersection between the world's deep hunger and your deep gladness?"

  5. #5

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    My God, what will these mad mil-phrenics think of next? Talk about a void in their moral and ethical value systems.
    The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge.
    Carl Jung - Aion (1951). CW 9, Part II: P.14

  6. #6

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    I just now pressed the final button to order those Jungian recommended books; maybe the answer will be in there. Speak to me in late March, if they don't activate my kill-switch first.
    "Where is the intersection between the world's deep hunger and your deep gladness?"

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