Remotely Controlled Robotic Cockroaches For Those Hard-To-Spy-Upon Urban Environments

'Iphone sold separately'
Engineers at a Texas university have developed a system to remote control cockroaches via a miniature computer, surgically wired into their nervous systems.  This concept has made it all the way to the DIY circuit:  Backyard Brains sells a kit to create one's own helpless roach robot with a minimum of un-ignorable animal cruelty (compared to previous versions of the kit).

When asked why the fuck anyone would want to remotely control a roach, the engineers stiffened, stared straight ahead, and in a strangely flat monotone they spoke in unison: "'They could be used for search and rescue missions as they can move about in tiny spaces.'"

When I told my friend Aubrey that last part, she rolled her eyes and said, "Yeah, whatever."


Hong Liang, Professor from Texas A&M University, is featured in RT's SoundCloud spot on the roaches, but it is his colleague Ben Epstein that might have more appropriately taken center stage, as he did in Bloomberg's roach report.

The cockroaches were his idea.

A vice president at OpCoast, a defense contractor in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., he has, for the last few years, been rather into the death’s head cockroach, a two-inch-long, glossy brown branch of the species. He has been conducting experiments on them -- to "create wireless networks" -- of which Joseph Mengele would have been, if not proud, certainly not disapproving. 

Intrestingly, the good people at Bloomberg do not feel the need to treat their Gentle Readers as if they are ignorant, gullible, or naïve. Of course, they do not omit the official 'reason' (more of a talking point or cliché sound bite) required of research and development in an effort to shield shadowy investors from the consequences of unwanted public scrutiny. 

In fact, they provide enough detail to inspire the very blog post you read now (and apologies to my few regular readers, for having been scarce of late):
The goal is to use the insects to communicate with people trapped in collapsed buildings, mines, and other areas rescuers can’t easily reach. The insects might also conduct surveillance.
Ah, I knew it! Hence my added emphasis.

Realize: this is just the beginning. What kind of world are we talking about here? Robot cockraches -- and other Micro-Air-Vehicles -- will be conducting surveillance.  Are.  As well as more active missions.  Compare up-and-coming technology spending between the two, search-and-rescue missions vs. surveillance operations: is it really collapsed buildings driving this line of research?

More to my point, why send in a roach

Is not the 'Internet of Things' likely going to be treasure trove enough? One would think the seemingly endless metadata, streaming with our implied consent (did you read that Terms of Service carefully?) from every little electronic device now taken for granted in our day-to-day lives, would be able to provide more than enough details to make it trivial for supercomputers to reconstruct our every move in real time. (Don't believe this?  Check out "Millions of cars tracked across US in 'massive' real-time DEA spy program:
American Civil Liberties Union warns scanning of license plates by Drug Enforcement Agency is building a repository of all drivers’ movements" at The Guardian.)

Ah, but there you have it. The reach of this ubiquitous surveillance does not extend equally into all parts of society. The average American in the upper and so-called middle classes might be hard put to go for any extended period without the, uh, protection of being monitored or recorded...

But this cockroach isn't being engineered for the average American. I suspect it is intended to be deployed somewhere else. Somewhere where the devices are all obsolete, where the technologies out of date or broken, and, most importantly, where the occasional cockroach is much more likely to conduct its business unnoticed.

Government subsidized public housing, for example.

Consider the video below, to which I have referred previously -- only look at its depiction of the urban theatre not as if it were not Iraq or Afghanistan, but instead Harlem, East Oakland, West Philadelphia, the South Bronx maybe, or South Central L.A....





What do you think? Leave a comment, do.

Be seeing you.

Sources
http://on.rt.com/rkdbxp
http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2012-06-28/ben-epsteins-wi-fi-roaches
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2449562/The-app-lets-control-COCKROACH.html

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