Heart, lungs, and liver, nerves, veins and bones -- the Pentagon wants to digitally recreate every element of a soldier's body, and embed it all on a chip in the soldier's dog tags.Officials at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, claim that sometime in the future this Virtual Soldier program could help battlefield medics make quicker, more accurate diagnoses of combat trauma. And that should help save soldiers' lives.The program's effects wouldn't be limited to those in uniform. Everyone, DARPA managers assert, could one day carry around an electronic copy of his or her anatomy -- maybe as soon as 10 years from now."Every single person in the United States will have an electronic medical record," said Dr. Richard Satava, manager of the Virtual Soldier program and professor of surgery at the University of Washington in Seattle."But it's not going to be written," he said. "It'll be an animated, visual representation, based on our own anatomy, our own physiology. And it will change over time."My Wired News article delves deeper into this new, far-out DARPA project.THERE'S MORE: While privacy advocates are, for the moment, not particularly spooked by the Virtual Soldier effort, Satava sees connections between his program and more controversial DARPA projects, like LifeLog.LifeLog's goal is to capture what a person sees, hears and reads, and in order to create a kind of computerized, surrogate memory. Paired with a holomer, LifeLog would say "not just what did I do, but what was my health," Satava said. "It's part of the infrastructure to make (the LifeLog) program more meaningful."AND MORE: Automakers run crash tests on the desktop before they slam SUVs into the wall; oil companies do mock drilling electronically before dig in the ground. Medicine, on the other hand, still experiments on the living.One of the goals of Satava's Virtual Soldier program is to change that by creating an army of digital test subjects that can be subjected to new drugs, new medical procedures -- even new weapons."You could test reactions to a new vaccine on a million soldiers over a 20-year time in one week," Satava said.AND MORE: Taylor Mudge -- a former combat medic in Vietnam, now a software entrepreneur -- isn't so sure medics will find the Virtual Soldier program helpful."We all look pretty much the same (inside) at that age," he writes. So a picture of a wounded soldier's insides might not be immediately valuable."Once the soldier gets to a hospital this info could be more useful," Mudge adds. Doctors in civilian emergency rooms might also benefit from having their patients' electronic anatomies at the ready.
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