Book Review: The Pentagon’s Brain by Annie Jacobsen

Courtesy of Little, Brown & Company

The Pentagon’s Brain

By Annie Jacobsen


Imagine a research incubator that steals ideas from sci-fi novels and movies like The Terminator and turns wild theories into technologies far beyond what’s commercially available. We’re talking, of course, about the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the birthplace of spy satellites and a bomb—”an evil thing”—that could wipe out millions. DARPA’s eggheads once even tried to create a literal force field against Soviet warheads; nowadays, envisioning “a mentally and physically superior breed” of warfighters, they tinker with “transhumanism” and cyborg tech. In this fascinating and terrifying account, Annie Jacobsen regales us with the stories behind the agency’s “consequential and sometimes Orwellian” innovations, including autonomous weapons systems—killer robots that could decide, without human intervention, who lives and who dies. As Jacobsen ominously puts it, “DARPA creates, DARPA dominates, and when sent to the battlefield, DARPA destroys.”

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