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DARPA’S Tiny Guardians in the Form of Microchips
B. J. Murphy   Sep 14, 2015   Serious Wonder  

In the second decade of the 21st century, crime has fully embraced the age of advanced technology. To address these futurist crimes, we have to consider combating them, fire with fire. In other words, using advanced technology to counter-balance the level of power criminals could possibly attain at the opportunity of the technological age. Which is why DARPA is stepping up its game in terms of chip making.

One of the largest crimes to emerge in this century is counterfeiting electronics. As resources become more abundant, the means of access substantially increase. To counter these increasingly open-source crimes, DARPA has begun development of tiny semiconductor chiplets known as “dielets,” which will be affixed to virtually any object you can think of.

“We are on track to build the world’s smallest highly integrated computer chip. If we succeed, then an untrained operator at any place along the supply chain will be able to interrogate the authenticity of any component used by the Defense Department or in the commercial sector, and get high-confidence results back immediately, on site, securely and essentially for free.” – Kerry Bernstein, DARPA Program Manager

Engineered by the minds of DARPA’s Supply Chain Hardware Integrity of Electronics Defense (SHIELD) program, these dielets can be observed in the provided image above. This gives you a really good visual understanding as to their size. On the left, you’ll notice a tiny dielet placed on the tip of Abraham Lincoln’s nose on a U.S. penny. To the right, you’ll noticed three similar dielets sitting comfortably in the eye of a needle.

At the moment, these dielets are nothing more than duds. Though in the future, DARPA’s SHIELD envision these dielets to essentially become “Lilliputian electronic tamper-watching sentinels.” They may appear tiny, but they’ll also be attached with around 100,000 transistors, alongside several features and functions, such as two-way radio communication, on-board encryption, energy harvesting, and sensors for tamper-detection.

Future Implications

If successful, these tiny computer chips will safeguard any and all electronics from being counterfeited. That is the goal of DARPA, after all. However, if anyone were to detect these dielets and have nefarious motives, there is also the possibility of reverse-engineering them. As a result, a whole new black market of re-purposed dielets will stream across society, used for any number of reasons. One hopes the on-board encryption of these dielets will live up to usefulness. If not, who’s going to safeguard the anti-electronic counterfeiting chips from being counterfeited themselves?

Photo Credit: DARPA

B. J. Murphy
B.J. Murphy is a Technoprogressive Transhumanist activist within the East Coast region of the U.S. He's worked with the asteroid mining company Planetary Resources as a member of their Planetary Community Vanguard, helping campaign funding for the ARKYD 100 Space Telescope, an open-source means of space exploration. He is a Writer, Editor, and Social Media Manager for and runs his own blog called The Proactionary Transhumanist. He's a co-author of both Longevitize!: Essays on the Science, Philosophy & Politics of Longevity and The Future of Business: Critical Insights On a Rapidly Changing World From 60 Futurists.

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