Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Black Budget and Killer Microbes

51 Billion Dollars

$51 Billion.  That's how much of the United States budget isn't reported to taxpayers goes to secret military projects.  It's more than the entire military of most other countries.  It's also only the amount we know about.  There could be billions more funneled into black projects that we don't even know about.  This is just the amount that comes from tallying up the list of classified codenames that appear in the official budget.  Names like "Chalk Eagle", "Retract Maple", "Link Plumeria", "Retract Elm", and "Cobra Judy", names that have no meaning outside the walls of the pentagon.  There could easily be billions more that is siphoned from other programs or explained as an "inaccuracy" in the  federal budgeting process.

So where does this money go to?

Well that's the million 51 billion dollar question.  Of course some of it goes  to traditional covert military projects - R&D for new weapons technology, training for special ops forces.  What's concerning is the cut DARPA gets. 

DARPA, the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, is the absolute bleeding edge of military technology.  Just look at one of their recent "official" projects: binoculars that tap into soldier's brainwaves.  Another one of  their projects, which is far more conscerning, aims to "eliminate the randomness of natural evolutionary advancement" by creating a "synthetic organism" with a "self-destruct option".  While some expect this synthetic species to be roughly anthropomorphic, I believe a much  more likely explanation - and more terrifying - is that it's going to be a bacterial strain.

DARPA has always been a few steps of mainstream science, but never that far ahead.  An artificial species as complex as a human would be incredibly difficult.  An artificial bacterial strain would be simply weponizing an already available technology.  The "self-destruct" function could release toxins in response to an external cue, meaning the bacteria  could reside dormant in a person for years until activated by DARPA.

Is this so far-fetched?  Really, the only difficult part would be making the bacteria respond to the external cue.  It would be easy to make the bacteria contain a toxin, and it would be easy to make it released when the bacterial cell was destroyed.  Radio waves are able to penetrate the human body, so the bacteria could be made to react to a specific frequency combination.  Biological systems already exist that can do this, it would just be a matter of putting everything in the same place.

The government could easily put this bacteria in our water supply, or even the water supplies of enemy nations.  With this microbe, they wouldn't need a bomber to eradicate an entire city, they would only need to hack a radio tower to kill every infected individual within hundreds of miles.  It would essential bring cyber-warfare to the physical world.

We need to be careful.