Freeman Dyson has been writing for years about an indefinite point in the future when biotech enthusiasts will be, à la their Homebrew Computer Club ancestors, tinkering in their garages, not creating new gadgets but new life forms. DARPA is, unsurprisingly, beating the hobbyists to the punch, as it did with computers and the Internet. From Meghan Neal at Vice:
“Ye sci-fi writers hard up for new material should spend an hour or so perusing the Defense Department’s 2015 budget proposal, especially the section covering the far-out research projects underway at DARPA, where the agency’s mad scientists are working to develop brain-controlled drones, biowarfare, engineer new life forms, and possibly attempt immortality.
If last year was the year of battlefield robots, cyborg soldiers, and weaponized drones, it looks like the next couple years will see the Pentagon gearing up for a deep dive into biotech. DARPA announced today it now has a unit devoted to studying the intersection of biology and engineering, the Biological Technologies Office.
The agency is betting that the next generation of defense tech will be take a cue from natural life, and as such one of the major focuses of the new unit will be on synthetic biology. It’ll ramp up research into manufacturing biomaterials, turning living cells, proteins, and DNA into a sort of genetic factory.
The goal is to create man-made, living supermaterials, prorammed through DNA code, that can be used for next-gen mechanical and electrical products, self-repairing materials, renewable fuels, solar cells, and so on.”