DARPA does not just use scientific knowledge to create new technologies - it sets itself radically innovative tasks and develops areas of knowledge through which these tasks will be solved. The Agency of Advanced Defense Research Projects DARPA was created in 1958 after the Soviet Union launched Satellite-1 into space. This was a complete surprise to Americans, and the mission of DARPA was to "prevent surprises", as well as technologically ahead of other states. DARPA does not just use scientific knowledge to create new technologies - it sets itself radically innovative tasks and develops areas of knowledge through which these tasks will be solved.
The annual budget of DARPA is $ 3,2 billion, the number of employees does not exceed several hundred. How does this small organization manage to create things like a drone, an M-16 rifle, infrared optics, GPS and the Internet? Anthony J. Tether - Head of DARPA in 2001-2009 - highlights the following reasons for its effectiveness:
1. An interdisciplinary team of world-class employees and performers. DARPA is seeking talent in industry, universities, laboratories, bringing together specialists from theoretical and experimental industries;
2. Outsourcing support staff;
3. The flat non-hierarchical structure ensures free and fast exchange of information;
4. Autonomy and freedom from bureaucratic obstacles;
5. Project orientation. The average project duration is 3-5 years.
Creating a super soldier - a faster, stronger, stronger, more susceptible, resistant to disease and stress - the dream of the military all over the world. DARPA's successes in this area are astounding. Consider her projects in more detail.
Biological adaptation - mechanism and implementation
(Biological Adaptation, Assembly and Manufacturing)
The project is studying the ability of living organisms to adapt to a wide range of external and internal conditions (temperature differences, sleep deprivation) and uses adaptation mechanisms to create new biointeractive recovery materials, both biological and abiotic. In 2009, a mathematical model of a bone fracture was performed and a material was developed that completely repeats the mechanical properties and internal structure of a real bone.
Tendon (left) and bone (right)
In 2009, a mathematical model of a bone fracture was performed and a material was developed that completely repeats the mechanical properties and internal structure of a real bone.
After that, an absorbable liquid glue was created to restore the bone in case of fractures and injuries; it is tested on animals. If a single injection of this glue is sufficient for fast healing of a fracture, it is hoped that with time, other diseases will also be radically simplified.
Nanostructures in biology
(Nanostructure in Biology)
The prefix “nano” means “one billionth part” (for example, seconds or meter), in biology, “nanostructures” means molecules and atoms.
Insect spy equipped with a sensor
On this DARPA project, nanobiological sensors are created for external use and nanomotors for internal use. In the first case, the nanostructures are attached to insect spies (they record information, control the movement); in the second, the futurologist Kurzweil spoke about these nano-robots in the blood when he predicted a complete fusion of man and machine to the 2045 year.
The desired properties of nanostructures (especially proteins), DARPA scientists do not seek experiments under a microscope, and mathematical calculations.
(Human Assisted Neural Devices)
The program develops a theoretical framework for understanding the language of the brain and seeks the answers of neurology, in computational sciences and the science of new materials. Paradoxically, to understand the language of the brain, scientists prefer to encode it.
An artificial neuron is a mathematical function that reproduces in a simplified form the function of the nerve cells of the brain; the input of one artificial neuron is connected to the output of another - the neural networks are obtained. One of the founders of cybernetics, Warren McCulloch (Warren Sturgis McCulloch) half a century ago demonstrated that neural networks (which, in fact, are computer programs) are capable of performing numerical and logical operations; they are considered a type of artificial intelligence.
Neuron - the structural unit of the brain
Usually, lovers of neural networks go the way of increasing the number of neurons in them, DARPA went further - and modeled short-term memory.
In 2010, DARPA worked on deciphering short-term and long-term memory in primates; in 2011, it intends to produce neural interfaces that stimulate and record several channels of nerve activity in the brain.
"Memory code" will allow to restore memory in the damaged brain of a soldier. Who knows, maybe this way of coding and recording a person’s memory will help the people of the future to leave their aging bodies without regret and move into artificial ones - perfect and durable?
Frameless tissue engineering
(Scaffold-Free Tissue Engineering)
Until recently, bio-artificial organs were grown on a three-dimensional framework taken from animals or from a human donor. Karsas was purified from donor cells, seeded with the patient’s stem cells and did not cause rejection in the latter during transplantation.
Mouse embryonic stem cell
When growing organs and tissues within the framework of the “Frameless Tissue Engineering” program, their shape is regulated by a non-contact method, for example, a magnetic field. This allows you to bypass the limitations of frame bioengineering and allows you to simultaneously control various types of cells and tissues. Experiments DARPA implantation of multicellular skeletal muscle, grown without frame method, were successful.
Embryonic stem cell under a microscope
Does this mean that now DARPA has untied hands to grow bio-artificial organs of the most unimaginable species and forms, including those not found in nature? Stay tuned!
Micro-robot origami, folds and unfolds on command
“Programmable matter” develops a new functional form of matter, the particles of which are capable of gathering into three-dimensional objects on command. These objects will have all the properties of their conventional counterparts, as well as be able to independently "understand" to the original components. Programmable matter also has the ability to change its shape, properties (for example, electrical conductivity), color, and much more.
Breakthrough in biological and medical technology
(Breakthrough Biological and Medical Technologies)
The main objective of the program: the use of microsystem technologies (electronics, microfluids, photonics, micromechanics) for a number of achievements - from cell manipulations to means of protection and diagnostics. Microsystem technologies today have reached sufficient maturity and elaboration; DARPA intends to use them to increase the speed of selection, analysis and editing of the cell genome several dozen times.
DNA is a nucleic acid that stores genetic information
The goal of the project is to select only one cell from a large population, to capture it, to make the necessary changes in its DNA, and also, if necessary, to propagate it. The development of a wide range of applications - from protection against biological weapons to understand the nature of malignant tumors.
New knowledge of the interaction of photons with the tissues of the nervous system of mammals will allow creating photon microimplants that allow to restore the sensory and motor function of people with spinal cord injury. Protective hearing aids for soldiers will also be created, which will improve their hearing, drowning out loud shooting sounds. These devices will unprecedentedly reduce the number of cases of deterioration and hearing loss on the battlefield.
The program develops revolutionary materials on a biological basis that can be used in chemical and biological sensors, the production of biofuels, and the neutralization of pollutants. The program is based on the creation of algorithms for biological processes, allowing to create biological systems of unsurpassed complexity.
Stem cell on the skeleton
At 2011, it is planned to create technologies that will allow computers to learn, draw conclusions, apply knowledge gained from previous experience and intelligently respond to things they have never encountered before. New systems will have exceptional reliability, autonomy, self-tuning, will cooperate with the person and not require too frequent intervention from him.
It remains to hope that DARPA will invest in its reasonable computers a program of tolerance towards people who, unlike artificial intelligence, do not always behave rationally and logically.
Computers will acquire the ability to study complex phenomena on the same principle as people do: with the help of special curricula containing concepts of increasing complexity. Successful study of new material will depend on the assimilation of knowledge of the previous level. Training materials, examples, behavior patterns, simulators, links will be used for training. This is extremely important for autonomous military systems, which should not only understand what to do and why, but also imagine in which cases it is more inappropriate to do this.
BigDog mobile robot layout
Advanced technologies of robotics will enable autonomous platforms (an example of an autonomous platform - BigDog) to perceive, understand and model their environment; move in unpredictable, heterogeneous and dangerous terrain; handle objects without human help; make smart decisions according to programmed goals; collaborate with other robots and work in a team. These abilities of mobile robots will help soldiers in a variety of conditions: in the city, on the ground, in the air, in space, under water.
The main tasks of a mobile robot are: independently perform tasks in the interests of a soldier, navigate in space even in the absence of GPS, move around difficult terrain, which may be mountains, partially destroyed or full of debris and debris. The robot is also planned to be trained in behavior in a changeable environment, improving its vision and understanding of the situation; he can even predict the intentions of other moving objects. Clutter and noise do not distract the mobile robot from moving, it always keeps its composure when another robot cuts it on the road.
Test of mobile robots BigDog
Robots capable of running at human speeds, as well as robots with four wheels and two hands (each with five fingers, like humans), have already been created. The robots of the new generation will also have a touch.
The processes occurring in the brain of a living being are modeled and implemented in a “cognitive artifact” (cognitive artifact), the artifact is placed in a robot - a representative of a new generation of autonomous adaptive machines. He will be able to recognize images, adjust his behavior depending on external conditions, and have the ability to learn and learn.
Artificially modeled neural network
In 2009, a million neurons were modeled already, as well as the process of spontaneous formation of neural groups with short-term memory. Created like a bee robot that can read information from the outside world and act in it; the robot was wirelessly connected to a group of computers simulating the nervous system.
In 2010, DARPA has already modeled 1 a million thalamocortical neurons, this type of neuron is located between the thalamus and the cerebral cortex and is responsible for transmitting information from the senses. The task is to improve the model of neural networks and teach them to make decisions based on information about the environment, as well as "internal values".
The task for 2011 year is to create an autonomous robot with a simulation of the nervous system, which will be able to isolate three-dimensional objects from alternating images.
With the sinking of the heart, the author of this material follows the evolution of robots and progress in neural network modeling, as the day is not far off when the combination of these technologies will allow human consciousness to be transferred into the body of the robot (which, with timely repair, for as long as possible).
The project is developing unique non-traditional approaches to protecting soldiers from a wide range of natural and artificially created pathogens. It turned out that the invention of new drugs is less effective in this fight than the means of strengthening the human immune system.
Immunity cells in human intestinal epithelium
Using a mathematical and biochemical approach, researchers have focused on the invention of radically new, fast and inexpensive methods for producing proteins with desired properties, including monoclonal antibodies (this is a type of immune system cells). New technologies will reduce the time of vaccine production from several years (and even, in some cases, decades) to weeks.
Thus, a vaccine against the swine flu epidemic (H1N1) was created in a short time with the help of the apparatus of the artificial immune system of a person.
On the agenda are - survival with the defeat of deadly diseases until immunity is developed, or appropriate treatment is not received, and the need to develop temporary protection against diseases from which a person does not have immunity at all.
The plans for 2011 year - innovative approaches to counter any known, unknown, natural or artificial pathogens, as well as the demonstration that the use of the developed technologies increases the lethal dose of the pathogen 100 times.
This program is developing various means of protecting soldiers from chemical, biological and radiological attacks. One of the successfully proven materials is a self-cleaning polyurethane-based chemical agent. New types of fabrics for chemical protection suits are being developed, in which the body can "breathe" and carry out heat exchange, being behind a chemically impermeable outer shell.
Who knows, it is possible that in suits from such fabrics a person will soon be able to comfortably exist underwater or on other planets?
Adaptable chemical sensors
(Mission-Adaptable Chemical Sensors)
Modern sensors can not yet combine the sensitivity (unit of measurement - the number of particles per trillion) and selectivity (that is, the ability to distinguish between molecules of different types).
This program was aimed at creating a chemical sensor that would circumvent this limitation, while being portable and easy to use. The results exceeded expectations - a sensor was created, the highest sensitivity of which is combined with exceptional selectivity (almost no error when testing on mixtures of different gases).
Chemical sensor that diagnoses lung cancer by breathing
If DARPA also reduces the size of its revolutionary multi-sensor to an atomic level (nanotechnology allows), it will be able to monitor the health status of its owner around the clock. It would be nice if the sensor also ordered visits to the doctor and ordered food via the Internet (in the latter case there is a danger that instead of beer and pizza, he will choose broccoli and orange juice).
Developed soft materials that can move, as well as change the shape and size, of them created robots with the appropriate properties. Lining materials (magnets and spines) for legs and arms are also made from materials that allow 25 feet (over 9 meters) to climb over the wall. It is still unclear how soft robots and new climbing devices will prolong human life, but there is no doubt that they will diversify it and possibly lead to the emergence of new sports, and those who want to save on train tickets and housing will be able to do it, attached to the ceiling.
The area of interest of this program extends to the discovery of biomolecular materials with unique electrical and mechanical properties. New methods of biocatalysis and creation of biosamples for peptides, viruses, filamentous bacteriophages have been studied.
The original surfaces that have customizable properties: texture, hygroscopicity, absorption, reflection / transmission of light are investigated. Hybrid organic-inorganic structures with programmable properties are under development, which will form the basis for creating sensors with high performance, as well as other devices with unique properties.
The vision of people and animals has exceptional capabilities: recognition, classification and study of new objects take only a fraction of a second, while for computers and robots this is so far given with great difficulty. The Neovision-2 program develops an integrated approach to the development of machines' ability to recognize objects, reproducing the structure of the visual pathways in the brain of a mammal.
The aim of the work is to create a cognitive sensor that is able to collect, process, classify and transmit visual information. The algorithm for transmitting visual signals of mammals has already been clarified and a device is being developed that can recognize more than 5% of 90 objects of various categories in 10 seconds.
Further work on the sensor is aimed at reducing its size (it should be comparable with the human visual apparatus), increasing durability and reliability. Ultimately, the sensor should be able to recognize objects of more than 20 of various categories in less than 2 seconds, at a distance of 4 km.
Obviously, DARPA will not stop at this, and the next sensor will already be superior to the human vision abilities.
Non-invasive neuro interface
The program uses the latest advances in neuropsychology, neuroimaging, molecular biology and cognitive sciences to protect the cognitive functions of a soldier who is undergoing daily stress, both physical and mental. Severe conditions on the battlefield worsen abilities so important for a fighter as memory, training, decision-making, multitasking. Thus, a fighter’s ability to respond quickly and adequately drops dramatically.
The long-term effects of this kind of stress, both molecular and behavioral, are still little studied. The neurotechnology program uses the latest developments in related sciences, as well as neurointerface technologies, developing molecular models of the effects of acute and chronic stress on humans and finding ways to protect, support and restore soldier cognitive functions.
At the molecular and genetic levels, DARPA examines the four main types of stress (mental, physical, illness, and sleep deprivation), ways to accurately measure it, and mechanisms for adapting to and inadequate response to stress.
In 2009, the use of neuroscience has reduced the speed of training soldiers in 2 times. Methods are being developed to improve the effectiveness of training, improve attention and memory; neural interfaces should be faster and easier to use.
Biodesign is the use of living systems functionality. Biodesign uses effective ideas of nature, while eliminating the undesirable and accidental consequences of evolutionary development with the help of molecular biology and genetic engineering.
A program with such an innocuous name is studying - no less - a mechanism for transmitting a signal of cell death and ways to silence this signal. In 2011, colonies of regenerating cells will be created that can exist for an unlimited time, the report says; their DNA will contain a special code that protects against fakes, as well as something like a serial number, "like a gun."
I want to believe that Chinese hackers will still be able to crack the protective code of immortal cells, put them on the market in large numbers and make them accessible to everyone.
Reliable neural interface
(Reliable Neural-Interface Technology)
Brain Implant Nano Coating
The program is engaged in the development and deepening of technology that extracts information from the nervous system and transmits it to “devices for increasing degrees of freedom” (degree-of-freedom machines), artificial limbs, for example. Neurointerface is not a new technology, and for many it has managed to cause disappointment that it cannot yet transcend the mechanisms invented by nature. But DARPA is not discouraged, studies the peripheral nervous system, expands the number of channels to increase the amount of information transmitted over the neurointerface, and develops fundamentally new types of these devices. In the 2011 year, it is planned to make a neural interface with one hundred channels, and no more than one should fail in a year.
Immortal cells, editing the genome, artificial organs and tissues, immunity, working without failures, materials with fundamentally new properties, artificial intelligence, conscious robots and programs — one gets the impression that every DARPA project in its own way is approaching a radical extension of human life, in protein whether body or artificial.
Strong, humanlike, immortal - maybe this is how cyborg will look like in 2045?
The rapidly developing modeling of neural networks sets the stage for the transfer of consciousness to another body, and robotics create more and more perfect bodies. Perhaps, mathematicians and physicists will be ahead of biologists, and editing the genome, removing from DNA random, unnecessary and dangerous areas that have accumulated in it during evolution, over time will become as familiar and accessible as going to the hairdresser.
Combining all these technologies together will be like a chain reaction, generating new breakthroughs in science. DARPA has enough knowledge, skills and money to do it. But why does the military need an immortal soldier who will outlive both his commanders and his creators?
An immortal person is a project equal in its idealism to the exploration of space, its fatefulness, perhaps, has no equal at all, and the resources necessary for implementation are insignificant compared to the result.
Aristotle, Hegel and Darwin systematized the knowledge gathered by many generations of their predecessors, which few people remember. Knowledge of chemical elements accumulated over the centuries - Mendeleev summarized them in his famous table and entered history. “If I saw further than others, it was only because I stood on the shoulders of the titans,” Isaac Newton liked to repeat.
Scattered technologies, bringing us closer to immortality, are waiting for someone who brings them together and unites them with a common goal. I would like Russia to do this - a country that is in search of its identity, where, despite everything, the scientific school is still strong and idealists are not translated.