Shark cyborgs, wasp cyborgs…doesn’t DARPA watch SciFi movies?

You know you’ve seen this one: A normal animal is given a robot brain by well-meaning scientists. The scientists promise everyone they have complete control of the situation. Then the lead scientist gets eaten when the creature escapes and TRIES TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD. All right, maybe that was just a Pinky and the Brain episode, but still, shouldn’t the Defense Department heed the warnings of generations of science fiction writers? Souping up animals with robotic parts is never a good idea. Yet, there it is: the Defense Department wants to make remote controlled sharks.

Here’s why: Sharks have an excellent sense of smell, and they can follow changes in electro-magnetic radiation in the water. Therefore, they’re ideally suited for following missile submarines around underwater (I do love the leaps of logic, don’t you?). The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has already figured out how to implant complicated circuits into the sharks’ brains. The next step is to take “behavioral control” of the shark itself. I imagine grad students playing shark water polo during off hours.

As if radio-controlled sharks weren’t enough, they also want behavioral control of wasps. DARPA has a request for proposals that asks researchers to embed a microcircuit in a pupa wasp. After the wasp metamorphoses into an adult, the chip will still be in there. Then the chip will connect to the muscles of the wasp, enabling people to control the bug from a computer. The project description includes another one of those marvelous leaps in logic:

“The animal world has provided mankind with locomotion over millennia. For example, we have used horses and elephants for locomotion in wars and conducting commerce. Birds have been used for sending covert messages, and to detect gases in coal mines, a life-saving technique for coal miners. More recently, olfactory training of bees has been used to locate mines and weapons of mass destruction. The HI-MEMS program is aimed to develop technology that provides more control over insect locomotion, just as saddles and horseshoes are needed for horse locomotion control.”

So, the chip is just like a saddle. Right. I’ll remember to yell “Whoa, there, little fellas” when I’m being attacked by amped up wasps the military was confident it could contain.

Oh, and of course, this is a blatant excuse to repost one of Miriam’s and my favorite YouTube clips, a cautionary tale against mucking about with shark brains.

[both tips thanks to Technovelogy]


2 Responses to Shark cyborgs, wasp cyborgs…doesn’t DARPA watch SciFi movies?

  1. jebyrnes says:

    Well, we already do have robolobsters. Somehow I don’t think that they obey the three laws of robotics.

    (I still wonder if they eat robotic mussels, though)

  2. Wow that is a solid Thread i liked it, was really exiting to learned about it.

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