In news that would make even the most world-weary reader wince, Darpa has made the decision to go ahead on research that will, according to them, result in new organisms that don’t age or get diseases to be used for war. Thanks to Darpa’s $6 million dollar program, it seems a new type of organism will be created that may stunt even the concept of alien life. Evolution, it seems, is about to change.
Biodesign, a project intended to result in a new type of organism that doesn’t age, is the name of the program Darpa has set up to take over the natural course of evolution. And in addition to that, each organism would have a “kill switch” that shut its life force down if the enemy got a hold of it. From a purely military perspective it seems like the ultimate soldier. Imagine a creature that is programmed to feel no pain, never question orders, and come fresh out of the cloning tube it was hatched from already pre-programmed with an instinctual knowledge of all forms of weaponry, tactics, language, medicine, interrogation, and saluting the right way. Such a creature would require no training, and many generals would find it far easier to sacrifice a hundred thousand of them to take over a small area of land. And of course the ethical concerns of what they were would be measured in dollars, rather than the tears of loved ones. Such creatures could be made to even look like war machines, replacing the typical human features with monstrous ones designed to strike fear into the hearts and minds of the enemy. With no question that such a creature was not human, even less attention would be paid to them by tax payers and humanitarian organizations.
But if we don’t know what a soul is, how can we be sure we can create a complex organism that doesn’t have one? With memory comes an understanding of the world around us. And regardless of whether the heart pumps blood or something new scientists develop that’s better than blood, many philosophers say a soul is not something created but something earned through experience. How would you program a war machine to interact with other humans? Would it be merely cold and calculating, or would it in time actually become evil? Such a force may in time decide not to serve humanity, but rather to become its master. Hence the “kill switch” expected to be installed as this research progresses. Ethical considerations aside for the kill switch, it’s a solution that works only in a vacuum. Evolution is the process by which survivors of one generation pass on survivable traits to the next. So what would happen if two of these creatures were not installed with the kill switch and had offspring? The trait would be removed within one generation. It’s easy to imagine that the greatest opponent mankind may ever face, could be a result of a creation by its own hand. Evolution, most certainly, is about to change.