DARPA's Very Expensive, Sci-Fi Projects From the Future

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently announced progress on a pair of characteristically futuristic projects: a computer chip that works like the human brain and a mission to visit a nearby star. Right off the bat, these two pursuits sound pretty far-fetched and incredibly expensive, but that's been the government agency's modus operandi since it was founded during the Cold War in order to develop a response to Russia's Sputnik satellite. Today, DARPA describes itself as "100 geniuses connected by a travel agent" and even though it's technically a part of the Defense Department, it operates sort of like a research and development start-up. A lot of DARPA projects sound like they were pulled out of Isaac Asimov novels, but sometimes science fiction concepts become world-changing innovations. DARPA, after all, did invent the Internet and GPS. But some of the others? Well, they're certainly ambitious:

Cognitive Computing - With DARPA funding, IBM and university researchers have been developing a computer chip that mimics the processes of the human brain. "IBM's so-called cognitive computing chips could one day simulate and emulate the brain's ability to sense, perceive, interact and recognize -- all tasks that humans can currently do much better than computers can," reports Dean Takahashi at VentureBeat.

The 100-Year Starship Study - The name says it all. In a century-long project with NASA, DARPA wants to fund an organization that will build a spaceship that can fly to another star. The $500,000 seed grant will be awarded on November 11, 2011 (11/11/11), and researchers couldn't be more excited about the Star Trek-style mission. "If you want to have a hobby, why can't it be designing an interstellar spacecraft?" said Andreas Tziolas, director of Project Icarus.

Read the full story at The Atlantic Wire.

Presented by

The Atlantic Wire is your authoritative guide to the news and ideas that matter most right now.

What LBJ Really Said About Selma

"It's outrageous what's on TV. It looks like that man is in charge of the country."

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

What LBJ Really Said About Selma

"It's going to go from bad to worse."

Video

Does This Child Need Marijuana?

Inside a family's fight to use marijuana oils to treat epilepsy

Video

A Miniature 1950s Utopia

A reclusive artist built this idealized suburb to grapple with his painful childhood memories.

Video

Why Principals Matter

Nadia Lopez didn't think anybody cared about her school. Then the Internet heard her story.

More in Technology

Just In