The U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) consistently pursues new technologies on the cutting edge of what is currently possible within the bounds of known science. DARPA gave the world ARPANET, the precursor to the internet, the earliest versions of unmanned vehicles, and even The Aspen Movie Map, a predecessor to Google’s Street View created forty years ago. Given the current trends in engineering and medicine which seek to find ways to hack or alter the human body, it’s natural that DARPA would be on the forefront of bioengineering as well.
DARPA recently issued a statement outlining a new research project called “Biostasis” which intended to essentially ‘freeze’ the human body into a state of suspended animation by slowing down all biological processes at the cellular level. While DARPA intends the technique to be used on the battlefield to save lives, the Biostasis program sounds an awful lot like similar techniques meant to prolong human life indefinitely. Are we inching closer to the age of human immortality thanks to the military industrial complex?
In their press statement, DARPA says the Biostasis program “aims to prevent death following traumatic injury by slowing biochemical reactions inside cells.” Biostasis program manager Tristan McClure-Begley says his researchers hope to achieve this by hacking the cellular ‘machinery’ which control all biological processes in the human body:
At the molecular level, life is a set of continuous biochemical reactions, and a defining characteristic of these reactions is that they need a catalyst to occur at all. Within a cell, these catalysts come in the form of proteins and large molecular machines that transform chemical and kinetic energy into biological processes. Our goal with Biostasis is to control those molecular machines and get them to all slow their roll at about the same rate so that we can slow down the entire system gracefully and avoid adverse consequences when the intervention is reversed or wears off.
When a soldier is severely injured on the battlefield, the Biostasis team claims that this technique could essentially 'freeze' the cells within the soldier's body, keeping her in suspended animation until she can reach a proper medical facility. DARPA hopes to have the technology ready for battlefield use within five years.
This talk of slowing down cellular functions sounds eerily similar to the anti-aging techniques currently being proposed and developed by transhumanists and other futurist thinkers. Some estimates say that we could reach a level of immortality by 2050, even if that immortality comes in the form of a digitized consciousness living forever inside a virtual construct. But hey, who cares? Reality is just caves and shadows all the way down.