For decades, DARPA, the secretive research arm of the Department of Defense, has dreamed of turning soldiers into cyborgs. And now it’s finally happening. The agency has funded projects that involve implanting chips into soldiers’ brains that they hope will enhance performance on the battlefield and repair traumatized brains once the fog of war has lifted.
“Of the 2.5 million Americans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, 300,000 of them came home with traumatic brain injury,” journalist Annie Jacobsen told NPR. “DARPA initiated a series of programs to help cognitive functioning, to repair some of this damage. And those programs center around putting brain chips inside the tissue of the brain.”
In her new book about the history of DARPA, “The Pentagon’s Brain,” Jacobsen writes that scientists are already testing “neuroprosthetics” brain implants, but that despite her multiple appeals to the Defense Department, she was not allowed to interview any of the “brain-wounded warriors.”
However, Defense One, an online magazine that covers the military, reported last year on DARPA’s work on brain chips to treat PTSD, and said that DARPA was not yet in the testing phase. “The military hopes to have a prototype within 5 years and then plans to seek FDA approval,” according to Defense One. When DARPA launched its RAM (Restoring Active Memory) program last year, it projected it would be about four years until researchers were implanting chips in human.