Reading through DARPA’s recent projects list is like skipping through a mash up of science fiction movie plots spawned by a mad scientist on crack in the darkest bowels of Hell.
Controlling a rat’s mind with the Internet. A robotic arm that can complete complex tasks on its own. Shapeshifting human replicas. A robodog that throws cinder blocks with its head. Creating high-tech weapons based on decoding the human fight or flight response. Hacking into a squid’s central nervous system to force it to change its colors. Robots with ‘real’ brains that think like humans do. Death ray lasers. Bio-compatible implantable self-destructing technology that can be inserted into your body, do its thing and disintegrate.
The cyborg above, born out of a project between the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and Boston Dynamics, even sweats to regulate its body temperature.
And we’re supposed to believe this is all good and fine and only for our protection. Move along, nothing to see here.
The agency just got done requesting nearly $3 billion in funding for 2014. The list of totally creepy DARPA projects goes on and on (and on), and every time a new one pops up on the news radar, thoughts of Terminator’s ominously foretold Skynet takeover are hard to keep at bay. Actually, Terminator isn’t so bad by comparison because even though it depicts our total annihilation by self-aware robots, it was just a movie.
DARPA is real life.
Take this latest government research creepfest for instance: DARPA is currently studying oxytocin, a powerful human hormone that acts as a neurotransmitter which Scientific American has referred to as ‘nature’s love glue’. Levels of oxytocin go up when we kiss, for example, and the hormone can make us more sympathetic and open with our feelings. But why is DARPA studying it?
One reason? Propaganda.
According to The Verge, under a project listed on the Federal Business Opportunities website as Narrative Networks, the role of oxytocin in human thought process is being studied in “an effort to enhance public messages from the US military.”
So not just any propaganda — high-tech, chemically enhanced propaganda.
While it’s pretty obvious that government information (and disinformation) has been disseminated through the Hollywood machine for a long time, ostensibly such propaganda was outlawed from being pushed on the American public by the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 and Foreign Relations Authorization Act in 1987.
Recent amendments included in the latest National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), however, do away with these basic surface protections, as Buzzfeed reports:
The new law would give sweeping powers to the government to push television, radio, newspaper, and social media onto the U.S. public. “It removes the protection for Americans,” says a Pentagon official who is concerned about the law. “It removes oversight from the people who want to put out this information. There are no checks and balances. No one knows if the information is accurate, partially accurate, or entirely false.”
It won’t matter if the information is truth, outright lies or something drifting around in that huge grey area in between. The president signed the new NDAA on December 29, 2012; for all intents and purposes, this is all officially ‘legal’ now.
So not only would the government be able to use every outlet available to push BS on the public to make people more accepting of its programs and policies, but with DARPA’s oxytocin study added to the mix, we could be biologically engineered to be more susceptible to those lies.
If they crack this code like they’ve cracked so many others and apply it to society at large, DARPA could literally help the government make us want to believe whatever they tell us to.
Sounds like fun. Orwell would be so proud (and horrified).
DARPA Fun Fact
In 2003, news surfaced that the Pentagon was launching a sweeping new research project called the Embryonic Lifelog Program which aimed to collect every single piece of information available on a person to populate a massive database with the goal to “trace the threads of an individual’s life”. As Wired reported, the project would include, “every e-mail sent or received, every picture taken, every Web page surfed, every phone call made, every TV show watched, every magazine read” in addition to a GPS tracker and biomedical and audio-visual sensors to record everything people said, heard, and saw in addition to their medical information. Supposedly it was canceled after civil liberties advocates complained about, you know, the project’s privacy implications. Supposedly.