One would not ordinarily think that cockroach abuse would be at the top of the list of ethics concerns, but a new project called RoboRoach is making waves in the neuroscience community.
Insects and mice have long been tested upon in the areas of direct mind control. Cyborg insects in particular have also been tested for their surveillance potential. It’s a strange new world where even remote controlled humans via the Internet is now possible. This obsession with brain research seems to be spreading from the scientific community and typical mad scientist DARPA experimentation right into the open source realm.
The open source nature of science and technology is actually one of the most exciting and empowering aspects of the high-tech world in which we live. However, when it comes to experimentation on living beings, the following story should give us pause and consider how we balance ethics with technological advancement.
When one thinks of the horrors of vivisection — surgery on any living organism with a central nervous system, many times without proper anesthesia — the book The Island of Dr. Moreau serves as the ultimate social commentary about the horrific animal torture that has taken place in the approved halls of establishment science.
We also must keep in mind the backdrop of government human experimentation that has taken place, which serves to highlight the notes of any criminologist who understands that animal abuse and torture very commonly evolves to the human level.
Enter RoboRoach. Who could feel sympathy toward a cockroach? Perhaps this is the perfect place, then, to introduce the concept of open source, mail order brain surgery … for children.
A recent TEDx demonstration of what is officially called RoboRoach #12 can be seen in the video below in their Kickstarter solicitation. The founders of the company Backyard Brains show off their micro-electronics enhanced roach that can be controlled by a mobile device like an iPhone.
Some might have a problem with this type of science being conducted at all even by trained scientists, but Greg Gage and Tim Marzullo would like to go further and release a $99 experimentation kit that offers a blueprint for anyone to create their very own roach zombie. They admit that the kits will be targeted to kids as young as 10, so that they can participate in the “neuro-revolution.” They claim in the video below that there is little to no pain involved in the creation of this remote controlled creature; but, even if true in their case, how could that possibly be ensured in an amateur environment of trial and error?
Here is the “technical” description of what is to be conducted by the would-be neuroscientist when they receive their live roach and electronics in the mail:
The roaches’ movements to the right or left are controlled by electrodes that feed into their antennae and receive signals by remote control—via the Bluetooth signals emitted by smartphones. To attach the device to the insect, students are instructed to douse the insect in ice water to “anesthetize” it, sand a patch of shell on its head so that the superglue and electrodes will stick, and then insert a groundwire into the insect’s thorax. Next, they must carefully trim the insect’s antennae, and insert silver electrodes into them. Ultimately, these wires receive electrical impulses from a circuit affixed to the insect’s back.
Strangely enough, despite the work that is openly being conducted by Obama’s (now temporarily shut down) BRAIN project and Europe’s far more vast billion dollar + brain research upon humans, the RoboRoach kits are sparking the true ethical debate that should have taken place long before the massive amounts of money were donated by taxpayers to the aforementioned projects.
Nevertheless, this marks a new low to target children who are still developing their sense of compassion for the world around them. Their identities can easily be crafted into one where life itself is not to be revered and marveled at, but rather subjugated, dominated and controlled. The merger with our “smart” devices makes this even more concerning.
Is a pet cyborg really the best type of science we can offer our children? I look forward to your comments.