How DARPA Has Changed Pop Culture
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, has been very active lately. Just a few months ago, TechCrunch reported that DARPA has been able to get its Humanoid Robot to walk on its own, which is pretty wild. Established in 1958, it is likely the organization that has been a big influence on all of the upcoming references in this article – except for Batman, who first appeared in 1939, but the article also addresses when DARPA has perhaps taken some queues from pop culture, itself.
DARPA uses many different fields of science, from biology to physics and many other fields, to advance the American military. Their goal is preventing tactical surprises from the enemy compromising our national security and to create our own tactical surprises, in return.
You may not know it, but the principals and machinery of DARPA is very present in popular culture. Marvel, be it the comics or the movies, from the measures that agency S.H.I.E.L.D. takes to the astonishing creations of Tony Stark, focus on utilizing new technology and meshing different scientific concepts in order to defend innocent people and create new defensive strategies. Raytheon has also developed the XOS 2, which is an exoskeleton that enhances a soldier’s strength enough to lift 200 pounds, just like Iron Man.
How about Batman? Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne are pretty similar. Both rich, both orphans, and looking to protect those who can’t for themselves with their time and money.
A big difference the two titans is that Batman’s suit doesn’t run out of power. Batman’s suit, crafted from new-age materials to protect him and make him do things like fly from roof top to roof top, may be a cheaper solution than giving all soldiers an XOS 2. We even see life imitating art, since DARPA is processing a suit through the Warrior Web program, and the suit’s functions sound an awful lot like Batman’s.
If you’ve ever heard of the film “Wanted,” you may remember Angelina Jolie’s performance or a rare cuss word from Morgan Freeman, and bullets curved mentally by the shooters. At least the bullets notion isn’t as odd as we might think, even though this real life example doesn’t involve telekinesis. DARPA’s program EXACTO (Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordinance) involved a better sighting technology and self-guided .50-caliber ammunition. There has also been a long running Internet debate that there are, or are not, curving bullets in the video game Call of Duty, but it looks like DARPA’s EXACTO program might be ready before the Call of Duty debate is settled.
The Oculus Rift is a good example of DARPA using a tool of pop culture to better their techniques. As reported from TechCrunch last year, DARPA was using Oculus Rift, a virtual reality 3D headset for personal gaming, to get more insight into hacking. Game on?
From “The Six Million Dollar Man” to “RoboCop,” these are examples in pop culture of humans being rehabilitated by machines incorporated into their anatomy by government agencies. DARPA is well aware that they have resources sought after by those who would like to pursue this life-changing technology. They have even taken efforts such as giving Harvard a grant to develop robotic tech for those with disabilities.
Let’s finally take into account the “Terminator” movies, beginning with the story-telling route of a government who relies too much on technology and it ends up taking over. Perhaps an underhanded dig at DARPA and alike government machineries, but in these movies, man always ends up taking control back of its creations, in one form or another.
In the new installment of the series out in July, it appears that John Connor has done the unthinkable to meld his body with the very technology that they are fighting against after Judgement Day. Could this be the unexpected element of surprise mankind needed to survive? Or is it “hasta la vista, humanity”?