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

– Our hubris will be the ruin of us yet.   And we wonder why the SETI folks haven’t picked up any signals from other civilizations out among the stars.

– I think it is because in almost all cases, when animals evolve to the point where we are, with generalized intelligence, they  shoot themselves in the head by messing with stuff they shouldn’t have.  Stuff that then gets away from them and kills them.

– A year or two ago, I Blogged about Craig Venter’s attempts to create a bacteria from scratch.

– Then, more recently, I’ve posted several times about the risks of nanotechnology.  See these: and

– Now today, I see that the U.S.’s Pentagon is going to breed immortal lifeforms but that no one should worry – because they’re going to put a ‘kill switch’ in also.

– Has no one read Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle and his prescient story about Ice-9?

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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.

– More…

– Hat tip to Cryptogon for this story.

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