The BBC is now reporting that Pentagon scientists are developing an “army of cyber-insects.” This is a spectacular idea; the only thing I can think of that would be better might be to mount little machine guns on their backs — that way they could strafe us when we come after them with the Bug-B-Gone.
As my regular readers may recall, I’m fairly convinced that the end result of all scientific experimentation will be the development of an unstoppable robot army that will eventually enslave us to do its bidding. I figure our only hope is to unintentionally wipe ourselves out with a genetically engineered super-virus before that happens, leaving the robots to spend their days playing chess and vacuuming.
But since the technology for that is apparently not quite ready, the BBC is now reporting that Pentagon scientists are instead developing an “army of cyber-insects.” This is a spectacular idea; the only thing I can think of that would be better might be to mount little machine guns on their backs — that way they could strafe us when we come after them with the Bug-B-Gone.
Apparently the cyber-bugs would be used to check out explosives and send transmissions, if scientists can get them to work; according to the BBC, a similar project with wasps failed “when they flew off to feed and mate.” Interestingly, the same problem has also kept scientists from developing an effective college student.
The first question the plan raises is whether it would be ethical for scientists to genetically manipulate bugs to do our bidding, although for a bunch of guys prone to feeding rats Sweet ’N Low until they explode, that’s probably not losing them a lot of sleep. But a better question would be whether it’s good for society to be giving special powers to something so creepy. Look at what happened with Rumsfeld.
Maybe I’m biased because I tend to think of insects as the creepiest of all critters — the way I see it, at least snakes and rats can’t fly, at least until the Pentagon gets a hold of them. And I was proven right recently, when a big, brown bug turned up in my house, the type of bug that you can’t help feel would look more appropriate on an Ecuadorian rubber tree than your ceiling fan.
The first time we spotted one, I have to give my wife and kids credit for joining me in simply studying it calmly, with scientific interest. In wasn’t until it took flight in our general direction, its beating wings echoing like a poorly oiled Cessna, that we all ran screaming from the room like we’d just found ourselves in a cloud of fruit bats.
(I eventually found on the Internet that it was a harmless “western conifer seed bug,” which, in addition to being big and nasty-looking, omits a “pungent odor.” Although frankly, so would I if I saw a giant rolled up copy of Entertainment Weekly coming at me.)
Granted, it would be great if we could harness such bug power for use against our enemies, but given our track record I’m not so sure how likely that is. For instance, the same BBC article refers to a plan in World War II to attach bombs to cats and drop them into the ocean near Nazi ships, at which point they’d wrangle themselves onto the ships to get out of the water, and then explode. Unfortunately, the cats tended to lose consciousness in mid-air and drown, defeating the purpose. This is not to mention PETA’s plans to send Pamela Anderson back in time to break their fall with her bosoms.
On the other hand, where would the folks at the Pentagon be if they never engaged in just this kind of creative thinking? For starters, probably in a building with only four sides on it. So if the big brains down there determine that scientifically engineered cyber-insects are the way to overcome our foes, we may as well try it.
I figure at the very least, at some point they should really annoy the robots.
Peter Chianca is a managing editor for GateHouse Media New England. He’s currently recovering from vacation; this column appeared originally in 2006. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/pchianca.