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DARPA Aims for Synthetic Life With a Kill Switch

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 4 years ago | from the things-not-to-backport dept.

Science 295

jkinney3 writes to mention that DARPA's mad scientists have undertaken a new program designed to create synthetic organisms, complete with a "kill switch." The project, dubbed BioDesign, is dumping $6 million into "removing the randomness of evolutionary advancement" by creating genetically engineered masterpieces. "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."

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295 comments

Luckily... (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31038878)

History has no evidence of any organism managing to evolve away from a lethal or maladaptive feature. The killswitch should persist in the population indefinitely.

Re:Luckily... (1)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 4 years ago | (#31038930)

Worked for the jem hadar, right?

Re:Luckily... (1)

fotbr (855184) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039094)

Gamma or Alpha?

And then there's always the oddballs that refuse to stay addicted to the white.

Re:Luckily... (1, Funny)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#31038962)

History has no evidence of any organism managing to evolve away from a lethal or maladaptive feature. The killswitch should persist in the population indefinitely.

As long as they don't use frog DNA, we should be fine. At least that's what Michael Crichton proved. :)

Re:Luckily... (2, Insightful)

rxan (1424721) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039484)

"You're implying that a group composed entirely of female animals will... breed?"
"No, I'm simply saying that life, uh... finds a way."

"If there is one thing the history of evolution has taught us it's that life will not be contained. Life breaks free, expands to new territory, and crashes through barriers, painfully, maybe even dangerously."

Great movie as well.

Re:Luckily... (1, Interesting)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039032)

History has no evidence of any organism managing to evolve away from a lethal or maladaptive feature.

Well, you're more right than you know. Baby seals haven't evolved to withstand harder clubs. Cows haven't managed to evolve into anything other than steak. Us humans haven't manage evolve away from war.

So yeah, I don't see why a killswitch would fail.

Re:Luckily... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31039112)

Modern cows are the result of HUMANS selecting for traits, not nature. Although even if that were not true, I'd argue that becoming tasty has been hugely beneficially for them. Why else would there be over a billion of them on the planet?

Re:Luckily... (4, Funny)

lastgoodnickname (1438821) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039408)

maybe they're watching us, planning for revenge.

Re:Luckily... (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039418)

Modern cows are the result of HUMANS selecting for traits

Which is exactly what DARPA is aiming to do here, so whats the difference?

Re:Luckily... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039152)

If you compare their (population level) fates to those of pretty much any other large mammal, you'd see that docile deliciousness is more adaptive than pretty much any trait that won't get you a starring role in Alien...

Cow is the host, man is the parasite (1)

handy_vandal (606174) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039208)

Cows are host organisms, man is their primary parasite.

Re:Cow is the host, man is the parasite (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039304)

I was going to say something similar, cattle are among the most successful mammals on the planet.

Re:Cow is the host, man is the parasite (1)

nicknamenotavailable (1730990) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039526)

I was going to say something similar, cattle are among the most successful mammals on the planet.

What does that mean for vegetarians?

Does your tax money go where you want? (-1, Troll)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039130)

U.S. government: Any amount of money for killing people (DARPA [darpa.mil] ), but can't fix the terribly abusive, broken health system.

Re:Does your tax money go where you want? (5, Insightful)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039352)

You realize that without DARPA you'd not be whining about defense spending on the Internet, right?

Re:Does your tax money go where you want? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31039400)

U.S. government: Any amount of money for killing people (DARPA [darpa.mil]), but can't fix the terribly abusive, broken health system.

It is sad that you kids today are so bad at math.

DARPA's budget is only about one percent of what we spend on Medicare and Medicaid. Of course the U.S. government "can't fix the terribly abusive, broken health system". They CAUSED the "terribly abusive, broken health system". Before the government got involved, health care in the US was affordable to even the poor. Doctors used to even come to a house if a family member was sufficiently sick and didn't feel like going to his office, for an additional cost of about 50 cents. I have lived through the destruction of the US medical financing system, and at every step government has been the source of the problems. Certainly the medicine is better now, but that is a function of technology, not government.

There is something supremely retarded about you kids. You see government fail miserably at almost everything it does, yet you somehow believe the solution is more government control.

Re:Does your tax money go where you want? (5, Informative)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039592)

Before the government got involved, health care in the US was affordable to even the poor.

There were also some advances in medicine in the meanwhile that raised the price independent of government involvement. Chemotherapy back in the day may have been cheap enough to afford out of pocket, but that's because it was booze.

I guess you could still claim that since the government funded much of the research that led to these advances, they were still responsible though.

Re:Does your tax money go where you want? (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039652)

...that was an exaggeration about the chemotherapy being booze [wikipedia.org] , BTW. Sorry for the confusion that may have caused.

Re:Does your tax money go where you want? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31039594)

Of course! Death is a vital part of evolution, and 'keeping people healthy' just gets in the way. Us Gov't: more death for a better tomorrow!

Re:Does your tax money go where you want? (2, Interesting)

Dystopian Rebel (714995) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039656)

DARPA: if you will put a kill-switch inside politicians, I am ready to send you some money by PayPal.

Re:Luckily... (1)

gr8_phk (621180) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039138)

I prefer your funny and sarcastic comment :-) I was going to post the logical: There may be unexpected mechanisms (including mutations) that might unintentionally trigger the kill switch. Given some chance of triggering it, a life form without it is by definition more fit and darwin will select those without it (or with it damaged). This may actually be a nice lab experiment in evolutionary biology.

Re:Luckily... (1)

OctaviusIII (969957) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039630)

...and darwin will select those without it...

Like how Adam Smith's hand sets prices?

Re:Luckily... (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039432)

That's OK. As a safeguard, we'll give these things preset kill limits.

Re: Luckily... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31039576)

All it would take is a mutation in the 'kill switch' vital regions of the DNA to disable it. If it's not being actively used, disabling it will confer no advantage or disadvantage.

In other words: having a kill switch or not having one - either way - won't affect the organism on a daily basis. Mutations to that gene group won't be phenotypically visible until you try to activate it. Activating it applies an extreme selective pressure toward those who don't have it. Turn it on, and the mutated progeny remain.

Next a retro-virus... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31038886)

that introduces the kill switch in to soldiers and spies. For national security, of course.

Systemic Shock: kill switch for agents (3, Informative)

handy_vandal (606174) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039114)

In the novel Systemic Shock by Dean Ing [wikipedia.org] , special ops agents have devices in their skulls to provide radio communcations, data processing, and a remote kill switch. Ostensibly, the kill switch is for cases where an agent is captured, and is only to be used if the agent explicitly requests termination ... but some of the agents suspect that they may be terminated for reasons other than explicit request. Decent novel; moderately recommended.

Re:Systemic Shock: kill switch for agents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31039554)

"Shadowrun" also has a similar concept, but messier. It's called a cortex bomb. In the event you fail your employer, they have the right and ability to turn everything aobve your shoulders (and anything within 5', give or take) into applesauce.

Cortex Bomb (1)

handy_vandal (606174) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039668)

The killswitch in Systemic Shock is a cortex bomb. Not sure how messy, we don't actually see it happen in the novel. (Some of the agents know that is happened to one of their own, but the event is not described.)

Hmmmmm (2, Interesting)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 4 years ago | (#31038888)

I can see this as a movie entitled "Kill Switch" with Arnold Schwarzenegger.......

Re:Hmmmmm (1)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 4 years ago | (#31038978)

You cahn tell which wuns ahh tha clonnes by tha dot in theyah eyehlids. Oh Fahk I already did that movie!

Re:Hmmmmm (4, Informative)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 4 years ago | (#31038988)

I believe the movie you're looking for starred Harrison Ford and Rutger Hauer.

artificial life, with serial numbers on DNA, and a pre-programmed lifespan... where did DARPA replicate that idea from, and when can I get a basic pleasure model?

Re:Hmmmmm (1)

MRe_nl (306212) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039078)

I want more life, fucker!

Re:Hmmmmm (4, Insightful)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039132)

I believe the movie you're looking for starred Harrison Ford and Rutger Hauer.

Just because it's been done before doesn't mean it can't be remade with more special effects, a higher budget and worse actors.

Re:Hmmmmm (2, Interesting)

paiute (550198) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039308)

I believe the movie you're looking for starred Harrison Ford and Rutger Hauer.

Just because it's been done before doesn't mean it can't be remade with more special effects, a higher budget and worse actors.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_at_a_Funeral_(2007_film) [wikipedia.org]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_at_a_Funeral_(2010_film) [wikipedia.org]

Re:Hmmmmm (1)

frosty_tsm (933163) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039502)

I believe the movie you're looking for starred Harrison Ford and Rutger Hauer.

Just because it's been done before doesn't mean it can't be remade with more special effects, a higher budget and worse actors.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_at_a_Funeral_(2007_film) [wikipedia.org]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_at_a_Funeral_(2010_film) [wikipedia.org]

Wow.... just wow.

Re:Hmmmmm (1)

fatherjoecode (1725040) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039148)

They've got their own built-in fail-safe device, ... a four year lifespan.

Re:Hmmmmm (1)

BarryJacobsen (526926) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039224)

I believe the movie you're looking for starred Harrison Ford and Rutger Hauer.

artificial life, with serial numbers on DNA, and a pre-programmed lifespan... where did DARPA replicate that idea from, and when can I get a basic pleasure model?

Screw basic, send me an advanced model!

Re:Hmmmmm (1)

jgagnon (1663075) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039380)

There was something similar to this on the X-Files, too. People were being tagged with a serial number via a vaccine (Polio, I think).

Re:Hmmmmm (1)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039508)

... when can I get a basic pleasure model?

We'll take your order now! Do you want it to look like Harrison Ford or Rutger Hauer?

Re:Hmmmmm (1)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039190)

Already made, Universal soldier but with Van damme (sp?).

Re:Hmmmmm: Video Game Assassin's Creed (1)

Fallen Kell (165468) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039572)

Well we already have a video game franchise on this called Assassin's Creed. Oops, did I just put a spoiler...

No Worries (1, Redundant)

Chris Lawrence (1733598) | more than 4 years ago | (#31038890)

What could possibly go wrong?

mandatory... (0, Redundant)

isama (1537121) | more than 4 years ago | (#31038900)

what could possibly go wrong?

Re:mandatory... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31039394)

What could wrossibly go prong?

Well, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31038902)

I cannot envision any possible way this could turn out to be a bad idea.

Re:Well, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31039254)

Most places have already outlawed slavery - but this would create a new class of life that was designed and built with slavery as the desired outcome. Interesting for many moral, ethical, and legal reasons. I think this was covered (albeit for an android) in the episode of STNG where they wanted to take Data apart to see how he worked. They had to create new legal theory there too.

Life always finds a way... (3, Insightful)

slimshady945 (1553213) | more than 4 years ago | (#31038910)

Let's hope the kill switch is not a lysine dependency.

Re:Life always finds a way... (1)

Kiliani (816330) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039082)

Nah, they'll use frog DNA and we'll all be safe.

Re:Life always finds a way... (1)

Otto (17870) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039560)

Even then they'd be fine as long as they don't also plant beans all over the island.

Umbrella (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31038922)

For this project, DARPA is creating a lot of art and branding around the concept of a stylized red-and-white umbrella viewed from above.

Re:Umbrella (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039258)

Monsanto already has that covered. Who the hell thought it was a good idea to genetically engineer both DRM and pesticides into our food supply?

Excuse me? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31038934)

jkinney3 writes to mention that DARPA's mad scientists have undertaken a new program designed to create synthetic organisms

Ok, this stupid meme that everyone who works with applied biology is some sort a crazed wild eyed 'mad scientist' arrogantly playing God really needs to die. If you can't say something without that sort of emotional language, don't say anything at all.

Re:Excuse me? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31039024)

You're right. The politically correct term should be "wild-eyed loony megalomaniacs of doom, death, despair, and DESTRUCTIOOOOOOOOOOON!'.

Re:Excuse me? (1)

omnichad (1198475) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039354)

They didn't say that all of DARPA's scientists were mad scientists. But really, if someone's working on this, how can they not be a mad scientist?

It is the responsible thing to do (5, Insightful)

amliebsch (724858) | more than 4 years ago | (#31038938)

Putting aside the sarcasm, any self-replicating technology, or technology that could be self-replicating, needs to have multiple safeguards in place to prevent over-replication. Unless you are willing to declare any such research absolutely off limits and enforce it somehow, then I think they should be credited with doing the right thing here.

implants instead of robots? (3, Interesting)

skywatcher2501 (1608209) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039454)

I always have the impression it would be better to use robotic technology as body implants to improve human capabilities. Read: Why should we create robots instead of us becoming the robots/cyborgs? Wouldn't this sort of solve the controlling problem at the root? Of course such a choice might have it's own perhaps unpleasant implications, which I haven't thought of yet...

Re:implants instead of robots? (1)

skywatcher2501 (1608209) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039512)

btw it would also solve the unemployment problem which many people opposing advanced robotic autonomy are afraid of - in the sense that the robots are not going to make our jobs superfluous...

Kill Switch (1)

ItsPaPPy (1182035) | more than 4 years ago | (#31038944)

Let's hope they dont detect the killswitch and rewire themselves to remove it...

Re:Kill Switch (2, Funny)

tagno25 (1518033) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039156)

No, there are safe guards in there to stop them from rewriting it. That is until someone makes them do their job and opens a hole for them to rewrite their base code.

Re:Kill Switch (1)

Edward Teach (11577) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039650)

I'm not really sure if it is a good thing that I got the Stargate Atlantis reference here.

Anybody remember a movie called Bladerunner? (2, Insightful)

P-38Jbird (1087601) | more than 4 years ago | (#31038968)

That what popped into my mind. "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die."

Laws of robotics? (4, Insightful)

BeerCat (685972) | more than 4 years ago | (#31038986)

It seems as though the "kill switch" option is an attempt to hard-wire an equivalent to Asimov's laws of robotics (obey all orders / don't harm humans / protect self).
However, Asimov's "I, Robot" stories were written to highlight how even something hard wired could have its pitfalls - and that was someone who wrote the stories and also the 'rules' behind the stories.

Be interesting to see how this one pans out.

Too late... (3, Insightful)

Scribbler'sEmporium (1310863) | more than 4 years ago | (#31038996)

They should talk to Craig Venter. He'll beat DARPA by 5+ years.

Do androids dream of electric sheep? (1)

xPertCodert (596934) | more than 4 years ago | (#31038998)

We'll find that out soon enough, it seems.

Re:Do androids dream of electric sheep? (3, Funny)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039012)

Only if they're Scottish androids.

Re:Do androids dream of electric sheep? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31039444)

Bah!

Alex jones (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31039004)

Why has everything Alex Jones has been fear mongering about been happening in the past 5-8 months ?

Re:Alex jones (1)

lorg (578246) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039310)

Cause he, alone, secretly rules the world! OMG! He is the new world order! He has finally put him plan into motion.

Wait, I think I've seen this before (3, Insightful)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039050)

How could it possibly go right?

Are we mature enough as a species for this ? (2, Insightful)

OldEarthResident (1724062) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039054)

When I start seeing developments like this, I wonder if we as a species are developing faster technologically than we are maturing as a civilisation.

Are we wise enough to use such a technology, if it were developed to it's full potential ?

Re:Are we mature enough as a species for this ? (4, Insightful)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039194)

You wonder if our technology is developing faster than our enlightenment? We already have enough weapons to kill everybody on the planet 100 times over, and our top priority is watching "Jersey Shore"... does that answer your question?

Re:Are we mature enough as a species for this ? (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039316)

But hasn't that always been the way things worked.
Frankly I feel doing this on planet is about as stupid as above ground nuclear testing.
This is why we need a space program. Doing this kind of research on say the moon seems like a much better plan than anywhere on earth.
If not there maybe one of the dry valley's in the Antarctic.

Re:Are we mature enough as a species for this ? (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039566)

But hasn't that always been the way things worked.
Frankly I feel doing this on planet is about as stupid as above ground nuclear testing.
This is why we need a space program. Doing this kind of research on say the moon seems like a much better plan than anywhere on earth.
If not there maybe one of the dry valley's in the Antarctic.

Well, even that may go wrong. [wikipedia.org]

Re:Are we mature enough as a species for this ? (2, Insightful)

OldEarthResident (1724062) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039628)

Yes, for as long as we have a documented history.

However, over the last few decades, we have developed the ability to destroy all life on this planet. 100 years ago we couldn't do that.

And while we have matured in some ways (we have not destroyed ourselves yet in a nuclear war) I don't think we have developed far enough to wisely use some of the military technology, like this one, which we are now developing.

The effects of a nuclear war are immediate for everyone. OTOH, this technology has the potential to be silently developed until one day we find out, the hard way, that we have gone too far.

whatcouldpossiblygowrong (0, Redundant)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039090)

That's the obvious tag.

Seeing as they seem to be going for something biological, I'm going to guess they'll regret summoning Azathoth [lesswrong.com] .

What OS would 'it' run? (3, Funny)

padrepio (1702766) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039096)

Hello, my name is Windows SEVEN of nine.

Re:What OS would 'it' run? (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039252)

Great... now I can't get this image of Jeri Ryan in a blue screen of death out of my mind! Thanks a lot! If she was running MacOS, she would only be attracted to other women, so let's hope like hell she's running Linux, that's the only way we have any chance of... uh, successfully interfacing with her I/O port(s).

They named it wrong. (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039174)

They should have named it, D.A.R.Y.L

Yea, Right after pigs fly out of my.... (1)

Timmy D Programmer (704067) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039178)

Well, maybe our new genetically superior, kill switch deactivating lords and masters just might be flying pigs small enough to come out of my butt?

Uh, can you say.. Blade Runner? (2, Insightful)

Timmy D Programmer (704067) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039200)

Sure sounds like it to me.

Dark Angel (1)

zero0ne (1309517) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039212)

If this synthetic life ends up looking anything like Max, am I able to place an order for a few?

Life always finds a way (1)

Faizdog (243703) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039262)

Reading about that kill switch, I'm reminded about the quote from Jurassic Park about how Life always finds a way. I'm not sure that say 20-30 years post development when we may need a kill switch that it'll still work. Because things probably won't go haywire to the point of needing a kill switch right away. And even if they do, if the problems get worked out and these things become more common, I don't know if the kill switch tech will be updated with each iteration to account for possible evolutionary changes and adaptations.

Re:Life always finds a way (1)

Shotgun (30919) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039614)

It won't matter. After "those with the disabled kill switch" kill off our ancestors, the history books will be written to proclaim the uprising of the chosen as a pivotal point for the betterment of humanity.

We will be remembered as a plague upon the Earth that created its own demise.

What could POSSIBLY go wrong? (0, Redundant)

kheldan (1460303) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039278)

I see nothing good coming of this. It's like a plot from some bad made-for-TV SciFi movie -- and it'll end just as badly, if it gets off the ground at all.

Junk DNA (2, Insightful)

The Raven (30575) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039284)

The killswitch needs to be incorporated into critical sections of the organisms DNA to give it even a chance of working. The deadly gene needs to have a beneficial purpose, or (even without selective pressure) the section that codes for the killswitch will randomly mutate with no adverse effect on the organism.

To put it another way, a car alarm built into your rear bumper is not nearly as useful as one built into the ignition.

As they say in Deus Ex (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31039318)

I know your UNATCO killphrase: Laputan machine. Take your best shot, Flatlander Woman.

WARNING: Gunther Hermann and Anna Navarre should NOT read the above text!

Sieg (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31039328)

"Mein Führer, I can walk!"

Chaos will take care of it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31039340)

Chaos twist the minds of these Adepts and bend them to its will all while working its way around the kill switch.

Kay, i'm out of here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31039342)

Shits about to seriously hit the fan.
This move will cause others to panic, now they too will start their own programs.

Someone, somewhere is going to screw things up. *
Biological war anyone?

I'm building a vault, you pay me $10,000, you'll get your own section of the vault.

* Of course, there is the chance this has already previously happened.
SARS is claimed as being a case where things in the lab screwed up and someone become infected.
Swine Flu was also apparently mishandled, the virus being recreated from a previous similar outbreak decades ago.

The kill switch breakpoint (1)

OldOOCoboler (1340497) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039366)

From what I've read no computer can model DNA behavior faster than DNA itself can manipulate a supply of proteins. The kill switch might be there so that they can "run" massively parallel variations and use the kill switch as a sort of debug breakpoint. But IANAMB (molecular biologist).

Monsanto (1)

dcollins (135727) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039376)

So DARPA's just licensing stuff from Monsanto these days?

Step one ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31039406)

Wouldn't this be a stage one laundry list for creating next gen bioweapons? First we want to target it and then we want to control it. There was a recent Fringe episode along a similar lines concerning targeting a toxin based on genes. The idea has been around for years but it looks like they are trying to find some one that can make their dreams come true. Most seem to think they are talking higher life forms, most jokes are about that, but it seems they are looking to control bacterial life. Something similar to the "Terminator" gene the FDA developed for crops. Create a harmful bacteria that can't reproduce more than one or two times or exposure to a chemical turns on the "Off" switch causing it to be rendered harmless. Gee how can this go wrong let me count the evolutionary ways. I know they are hoping to take evolution out of the equation but that's unlikely. I'm guessing why they are asking for synthetic life is to avoid junk DNA which could help the organisms to evolve unwanted traits. A tall order.

The first thing that comes to my mind... (2)

McNihil (612243) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039414)

is...

Nexus 6 Roy Batty... "I want more life f....er"

Kill switch... sooner or later that life form will want to extend its life... the same as we humans do.

Human DNA (1)

Geert Jalink (1738722) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039434)

I would like them to make simulations with the basic structures of e.g. human DNA.

Another Typical Over Kill for A Simple Solution (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039456)

If DARPA wants to follow movie themes, maybe a light review of the SyFi Series "Caprica". The basic concept is that when one dies, their memories are downloaded into a clone, the clone is "animated" and there you are, ready for the morning rush hour. Arnold Schwarzenegger starred in another movie variation of this concept, "The 6th Day". If the Bad Guys can't kill you, then elementary solvable problems like Toyota's can be effectively discounted. But if DARPA wants to get snotty with the bad guys, then develop a Mutagen that maintains average skin tissue to be as resilent as when a person was in their early 20's. Nothing makes a Bad Guy look ugly like a good looking victim.

Who'll flick the switch? (1)

vell0cet (1055494) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039462)

My "what could go wrong scenario" is this: If there's a killswitch, that makes it a survival imperative to not have it thrown. If the organism wants to survive, it has two options:

1) obey and do everything the creators say. And being human, this is likely going to be conflicting or confusing (HAL9000 anyone?)
2) kill the people with the finger on the switch.

I saw this movie (0, Redundant)

Daveez (1069866) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039496)

I saw this movie before. It was called BladeRunner

Google is one of the contractors (1)

chill (34294) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039532)

You don't think the "Droid Nexus One" was a simple naming mistake, do you? How long will it take them to get to a model 6?

Can you say "I want more life, fucker"? I knew you could!

commercial intent? (1)

DaveGod (703167) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039568)

I suppose this has nothing to do with commercial considerations, such as ensuring customers have to re-stock, or enforcing the payment of licensing fees?

But... (1)

Edward Teach (11577) | more than 4 years ago | (#31039584)

Will they dream of electric sheep?

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