Nightmares & bugs & horrors, oh my!

(Via Ezra Klein)

This the most terrifying thing since the giant snakes roaming the South. Actually, it is worse.

Much, much, much worse:

Right now, researchers are already growing insects with electronics inside them. They’re creating cyborg moths and flying beetles that can be remotely controlled. One day, the U.S. military may field squadrons of winged insect/machine hybrids with on-board audio, video or chemical sensors. These cyborg insects could conduct surveillance and reconnaissance missions on distant battlefields, in far-off caves, or maybe even in cities closer to home, and transmit detailed data back to their handlers at U.S. military bases.

Weaponized or not, moths are hardly the only cyborg insects that may fly, creep, or crawl into the military’s future arsenal. Scientists from Arizona State Universityand elsewhere, working under a grant from the Office of Naval Research and DARPA, “are rearing beetle species at various oxygen levels to attempt to produce beetles with greater-than-normal size and payload capacity.” Earlier this year, some of the same scientists published an articleon their DARPA-funded research titled “A Cyborg Beetle: Insect Flight Control Through an Implantable, Tetherless Microsystem.” They explained that, by implanting “multiple inserted neural and muscular stimulators, a visual stimulator, a polyimide assembly and a microcontroller” in a 2 centimeter long, 1-2 gram green June beetle, they were “capable of modulating [the insect’s] flight starts, stops, throttle/lift, and turning.” They could, that is, drive an actual beetle. However, unlike the June bug you might find on a porch screen or in a garden, these sported on-board electronics powered by cochlear implant batteries.

Cyborg insects are only the latest additions to the U.S. military’s menagerie. As defense tech-expert Noah Shachtman of Wiredmagazine’s Danger Room blog has reported, DARPA projects have equipped rats with electronic equipment and remotely controlled sharks, while the military has utilized all sorts of animals, from bomb-detecting honeybees and “chickens used as early-warning sensors for chemical attacks” to guard dogs and dolphins trained to hunt mines. Additionally, he notes, the DoD’s emphasis on the natural world has led to robots that resemble dogs, monkeys that control robotic limbs with their minds, and numerous other projects inspired by nature.

There is so much wrong with this animal-testing-gone-amok-death-machines that I can not even begin to articulate it.

As much as I love sci-fi, I never actually wanted to live in Frank Herbert’s science fiction nightmare.

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