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March 06, 2013

The US may lag behind Russia and China in Biomodification for Supersoldiers

Not long from now, the technology could exist to routinely enhance — and undermine — people’s minds and bodies using a wide range of chemical, neurological, genetic and behavioral techniques.

* Greater strength and endurance.
* Enhanced thinking.
* Better teamwork.
* New classes of genetic weaponry, able to subvert DNA.

According to the futurists at the U.S. National Intelligence Council, by 2030, “neuro-enhancements could provide superior memory recall or speed of thought. Brain-machine interfaces could provide ‘superhuman‘ abilities, enhancing strength and speed, as well as providing functions not previously available.”

Soldiers may be able to eat grass, communicate telepathically, resist stress, climb walls like a lizard, and much more. Impossible? We only need to look at nature for proofs of concept. For instance, dolphins don't sleep (or they'd drown); Alaskan sled-dogs can run for days without rest or food; bats navigate with echolocation; and goats will eat pretty much anything. Find out how they work, and maybe we can replicate that in humans.

Andrew Herr is a leading researcher into biomodification. Andrew Herr says, "The U.S. is still likely to move more slowly on biomods than say, China or Russia. “Other countries are probably much more likely to take advantage of these [technologies]. The question will be how they do it.”

NOTE - China has a large scale study of the genetic basis of super-intelligence.

Steve Rogers before becoming Captain America

Ivan Danko



By 2008 DARPA had all but abandoned Metabolic Dominance. Herr began his work the next year, studying and advocating biomods for an alphabet soup of military and intelligence clients. In effect, Herr helped pick up the pieces from Darpa’s initial, failed effort.

In 2009 Andrew Herr was assigned to a Pentagon-funded project aimed at understanding “unit cohesion.” That is, what makes one group of soldiers keep fighting through hunger, thirst, exhaustion, confusion, and the deaths of comrades. Unit cohesion has won and lost conflicts since the beginning of warfare, but it was still poorly understood.

For his unit cohesion study, Herr interviewed Army infantrymen, Navy submariners and Air Force drone operators. Partway into the two-year study Herr had an epiphany. “The ‘aha’ moment,” Herr tells Danger Room, “was seeing a link between an objective physiological phenomenon — knowing the effects on the body and brain of stress hormones — and how that matched with all the literature on unit cohesion.”

In other words, Herr had a vision of the stress hormones that our glands pump into our bloodstreams in life-or-death situations, and, in turn, impact the behavior of trained combat units. Tracing this physiological blueprint for combat effectiveness, Herr realized it could be altered biologically. “All of sudden the Matrix made sense,” Herr says, referencing the secret world of the eponymous 1999 sci-fi film.

The military could select troops and their officers for their unique, inborn ability to cope with stress. Or it could directly tweak a soldier’s body functions — re-balancing the normal hormonal cocktail so the soldier doesn’t panic, doesn’t retreat and keeps on fighting, even when the odds are against him and any normal person would just give up.

Specific enhancement methods Herr studied include: focused diet and exercise regimens; injections of the stress-inhibiting brain molecule neuropeptide Y; electroshock-style Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation to boost thinking; and gene therapy for enhancing a whole host of body functions by literally altering a person’s DNA with viruses or chemicals.

And in February the British Royal Society identified four small-scale DARPA biomodification efforts focusing on stress-reduction and neurological enhancement, plus an obscure Air Force program aimed at the “exploitation of external stimulant technology” to enable airmen “to receive and process greater amounts of operationally relevant information.” That’s generally understood to mean drugs.

Herr says defense planners are discussing a comprehensive strategy to unite these programs and coordinate growing military investment in modification technologies. “What I’ve been working on is trying to support and guide that discussion.” To that end, he has briefed the Defense Science Board, a panel of the Pentagon’s top technology advisers.

A comprehensive biomods strategy would get the Pentagon back to the same conceptual point it was at a decade ago at the launch of Metabolic Dominance — and prove that U.S. military leaders are serious about preparing for the coming era of mutant warfare.

After three years at Scitor, this fall Herr struck out on his own with an ambitious plan to advance the biomods field. He started two companies: one, a research firm called Helicase; the other, a sort of personal consultancy called Cognitrition that Herr says will offer clients advice on “enhancing cognitive performance through nutrition and day-to-day activity.”

That’s right: Herr wants to help people develop their own potential powers. If he’s correct about the future of bio-weaponry, his clients will be just slightly ahead of the curve in the coming mutant age.

BACKGROUND
Nextbigfuture looked at the DARPA $3 billion Metabolically Dominant Soldier program back in 2008

George Church Will look to Human Genetic outliers and Transgenic sources to improve Humans George Church, a pioneer in synthetic biology and genomics, is talking about radically altering the genes of humans for improved health, enhanced capabilities and life extension. He is not just just looking at centenarian and supercentenarian (110 years and older humans) genes but transgenic genes. Tortoises live to 180-260 years, bowhead whales up to 210 years, the bi-valve mollusk up to 405 years (but in freezing water).

Some people already have the following mutations -
* Rare double mutants in the myostatin gene have more lean muscle and less body fat
* those with the LRP5 gene have extra strong bones (like the real version of the Bruce Willis movie Unbreakable character
* Those with the PCSK5 gene have 88 percent lower coronary disease
* Those with double CCR5 genes are HIV resistant
* Those with double FUT2 are resistant to stomach flu

George Church is a giant in gene sequencing, synthetic biology and DNA science. In the October, 2012 Discover Magazine, George Church teases with some ideas he has for achieving physical immortality (indeterminant lifespans) via Synthetic biology.

George's idea is to bring in sections of DNA from exotic organisms or genes that are rare for humans to enable all people to have desired genetic capabilities. He describes capabilities such as immunity to all viruses and cellular immunity to radiation and creating immunity to diseases.

Besides myostatin inhibition for lean muscle, there is also rare genes for very strong - nearly unbreakable bones, genes for lower heart disease risks.



SOURCE - Wired, The Atlantic, Nextbigfuture, Discover Magazine, Youtube

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