Join 3,374 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


What's the worst that can happen?
February 8, 2010 2:03 PM   Subscribe

'As part of its budget for the next year [pdf], DARPA is investing $6 million into a project called BioDesign, with the goal of eliminating "the randomness of natural evolutionary advancement."' Via Futurismic

I was relieved to see that Danger Room included the following (emphasis mine):
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.
posted by brundlefly (35 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Where do I volunteer?
posted by Panjandrum at 2:07 PM on February 8, 2010


Well I don't see what the harm is.
posted by Mister_A at 2:08 PM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well I don't see what the harm is.

This will make a terrific epitaph for our species' tombstone.
posted by Think_Long at 2:11 PM on February 8, 2010 [7 favorites]


I just wish that DARPA would start developing neurological linked mice that function far more intelligently than an individual mouse, because we're going to need this parallelization for humans eventually.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:13 PM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Since the Awakening has failed to manifest, I expect the Pentagon to get to work on replicating everything we're missing out on, post-haste. Starting with enormous, sentient, web-surfing dragons.
posted by Caduceus at 2:14 PM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Evolution by selection is not a random process at all,

Well no one ever said it was. Evolution is the non-random selection of random mutations.

DARPA is investing in making "tamper proof" cells which will not mutate - randomly or otherwise.
posted by three blind mice at 2:17 PM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child are going to have a ball with this one.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:17 PM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Huh. I think they covered this Extinction Event in Eugenics 101.
If only they could be trusted to only use this tech for engineered beasties.
posted by LD Feral at 2:26 PM on February 8, 2010


Well it's not like the next generation of soldiers are going to make themselves. Also, this will save big-time on VA appropriations.
posted by bonehead at 2:27 PM on February 8, 2010


Thank god the pentagon can't get much done with $6 million.
posted by justkevin at 2:29 PM on February 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Programs like this inevitably lead to someone screaming "SOON THE UNIVERSE WILL BE MINE!"
posted by The Whelk at 2:36 PM on February 8, 2010


MALCOLM: But again, how do you know they're all female? Does someone go into the park and, uh... lift up the dinosaurs' skirts?

WU: No, we control their chromosomes. It's really not that difficult. It just takes an extra chromosome developed at the right hormonal stage to make them male. We simply deny them that.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 2:38 PM on February 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


There is no way that this doesn't end with sentient psychic-octopus armies in power armor crushing the remnants of the pathetic human resistance forces.

But then, I say that about pretty much everything. I just sort of view it as a forgone conclusion at this point.
posted by quin at 2:39 PM on February 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


Could it be that all the Christian Fundamentalists the Bush administration stacked the military's leadership with have decided to make Intelligent Design a reality?
posted by acb at 2:42 PM on February 8, 2010


I've seen this all over the internet.

Show me the proposal and not the breathless summary-for-headlines and the fap fap fapping of the Wired fanboy sub-bio-literate doomsayers, and then we can have a discussion.

This is a terrible FPP (along with all the other wankery posted about this) - the science equivalent of linking to a pronouncement by the Daily Telegraph about immigrants.
posted by lalochezia at 2:49 PM on February 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


Show me the proposal and not the breathless summary-for-headlines and the fap fap fapping of the Wired fanboy sub-bio-literate doomsayers, and then we can have a discussion.

Yeah; based on what they have written in the budget, it just looks like DARPA is looking to fund some synthetic biology research. Which makes sense; synthetic biology is pretty hot right now.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:53 PM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


If taxpayers can spend trillions on bailing out rich bankers, we can throw a few bucks at DARPA to get Samuel L. Jackson eaten by a self-aware, geometrically-learning shark.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:55 PM on February 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


I just wish that DARPA would start developing neurological linked mice that function far more intelligently than an individual mouse

Cranium Rats?
posted by adamdschneider at 3:05 PM on February 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


Thank god the pentagon can't get much done with $6 million.

I call bullSHIT, justkevin. For $6 million we could formulate the RFP process for the design specs for the starboard wheelbay (including specs for fore and aft light nacelles) for the latest super secret Jet Fighter And Bringer Of Terror To The Enemy. For a few million more we could publicize what a great job we did too, but we won't be doing that, because, well, you know, it's all secret and whatnot. So you really have no idea what you're talking about because we're not allowed to tell you how good we are at our jobs.
posted by Sk4n at 3:11 PM on February 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I would join this DARPA initiative, but they'd probably just make me the janitor.
posted by Kabanos at 3:21 PM on February 8, 2010


There's not really much to do with this. Human beings are already evolutionarily perfect.
posted by koeselitz at 3:27 PM on February 8, 2010


I think the military application is biological weapons that won't mutate spontaneously and screw whatever defense you have built into them.
posted by TheJoven at 3:31 PM on February 8, 2010


I think the military application is biological weapons that won't mutate spontaneously and screw whatever defense you have built into them.

The United States does not have an arsenal of biological weapons, and is obliged by treaty (the Biological Weapons Convention of 1972) not to develop, produce, or stockpile them.

If this were an illegal initiative to build biological weapons, it is unlikely that it would have been listed as a line item of an unclassified, publicly available budget.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:37 PM on February 8, 2010


It's pronounced "Fronk-en-steen"!
posted by ooga_booga at 3:59 PM on February 8, 2010


Thank god the pentagon can't get much done with $6 million.

If they're going to do something scary, it won't be a publicly budgeted project, so the $6 million isn't really relevant.
posted by doctor_negative at 4:02 PM on February 8, 2010


DARPA is investing in making "tamper proof" cells which will not mutate - randomly or otherwise.

Aw! But that takes all the scary out of it!
posted by statolith at 4:22 PM on February 8, 2010


Look, I hate me some military like The Best of Liberals.

That said, ain't too many places aside from DARPA laying down the Benjamin's for bleeding edge basic science nowadays. I give you: the trickle-down theory of Science. Or something something cephalopod apocalypse.
posted by digitalprimate at 4:41 PM on February 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


The United States does not have an arsenal of biological weapons, and is obliged by treaty (the Biological Weapons Convention of 1972) not to develop, produce, or stockpile them.

Weaponized anthrax spores that came out of Fort Detrick, Maryland after the attacks of 2001 put a big, open question mark on that.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:43 PM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Since the Awakening has failed to manifest

Christmas Eve of next year, man. Patience.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:12 PM on February 8, 2010


Which one of these do you think they're going for?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fictional_diseases
posted by edguardo at 5:25 PM on February 8, 2010


The United States does not have an arsenal of biological weapons, and is obliged by treaty (the Biological Weapons Convention of 1972) not to develop, produce, or stockpile them.

The USA fully respects its International Treaties while it eats its hamburgers.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:49 PM on February 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


Ooh I like hamburgers. And mass murder! Mostly hamburgers though.
posted by Mister_A at 6:52 PM on February 8, 2010


So you're saying that this is an unclassified program to build biological weapons?

Alright.

This is a pretty crap discussion.
posted by mr_roboto at 7:16 PM on February 8, 2010


Dear DARPA:
Pull the rotor and clean the inside of your centrifuge. I've got five year old keyboards that aren't that nasty and I'm just using those to snark on the internet, not rewrite the laws of evolution.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:23 PM on February 8, 2010


More seriously, where the hell did that thing in wired come from? The best parts of the article are the scientific equivalent of, "We're going to make a magic unicorn that will fart golden glitter and piss rainbows." Most of their goals are going to be in direct conflict with one another or with the fundamental nature of life. I mean what the hell does "fortified with molecules that bolster cell resistance to death" even mean in a cyclical system?

For a more realistic evaluation of where we are, I still think the talk I posted two years ago is probably a better evaluation than the "We are Mighty Cold Warriors" nonsense DARPA is spewing.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:50 PM on February 8, 2010


« Older Came across this video today and thought I'd share...  |  The screen test offers a disor... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments