Thursday, April 17, 2008

Cyberpunk Radio - #103 - MEMS - Machines, Flesh, and the Pentagons Insect Cyborg Army

TIMESTAMP 2008-04-17;

Singularity Index: 0.81;

The Meating of Flesh and Machine;

SkyNet "ground and air" protection and enforcement;

Right now, secret factories are mass producing Cyborg Armies of insects with electronics embedded inside them. They've creating swarms of cyborg moths and flying beetles that can be controlled remotely. The U.S. military fields squadrons of these winged insect/machine hybrids with on-board audio, video or chemical sensors and biowarfare payloads. The cyborg insects conduct surveillance and reconnaissance missions on distant battlefields, in far-off caves, but also closer to home- in most major US cities, transmitting detailed data back to their handlers at U.S. intelligence and military bases.

The Pentagon aims to exponentially increase the paranoia of an already omnipresently surveilled society; any insect fluttering past your window may be a remote-controlled spy, packed with surveillance equipment. Even more frightening is that such creatures could be weaponized, that these cyborg insects might be armed with bioweapons.

For the past 50 years, work by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has led to some of the most spectacularly precision lethal weaponry in the U.S. arsenal: from Hellfire-missile-equipped Predator drones and stealth bombers to the Javelin portable "fire and forget" guided missiles. For decades now, DARPA has been funneling significant sums of money into a very different kind of guided missile project, its Hybrid Insect Micro-Mechanical Systems (HI-MEMS) program. This project has developed tightly coupled machine-insect interfaces by placing micro-mechanical systems inside the insects during the early stages of metamorphosis.- creating cyborg insects.

Technicians grow MEMS and electronics inside the insect pupae. The new tissue forms around the insertions, making the bio-electronic interface long-lasting and reliable." In other words, micro-electronics are inserted at the pupal stage of metamorphosis so that they can be integrated into the insects' bodies as they develop, creating living robots that can be remotely controlled after the insect emerges from its cocoon.

Through the implanted "multiple inserted neural and muscular stimulators, a visual stimulator, a nano assembly and a microcontroller" in a flying beetle, one can modulate the insect's flight starts, stops, throttle/lift, and turning. That is, you can literally drive an actual beetle. Using advanced simplex matrix computer algorithms, fluidic behavior patterns can be used to precisely direct large numbers of these cyborg bugs simultaneously in gigantic swarms of insects.

This project is progressing at an increasingly rapid pace.

Under the rubric of creating a cyborb insect-based “military micro-surveillance system” DARPA's actual long-term goal for the HI-MEMS program has a more sinister goal. They are designing and testing what are essentially robot bombs, that look and act like swarms of bugs and birds, armed with bioweaponary spreading death to the intended targets." Laced with anthrax, botulinum, Ricin, or Tularema, for instance.

Insect cyborgs are easily mass produced. Also, the engineering needed to produce beetles with greater-than-normal size and payload capacity is relatively simple- the thorax can be truncated to reduce its mass and add MEMS components where abdominal segments would have been, during the larval stage. The optimal spots to insert a neural stimulator is behind the eye, in the flight control area of the insect brain, the main flight powering muscle is in the dorsal-thorax, accessed via the neuromuscular ganglion in the peri thorax. Guidance parameters are delivered via global positioning system (GPS).

DARPA’s Pentagon-funded scientists churn out inventions with potentially deadly, implications without ever fully considering -- let alone seeking public or expert comment on -- the future ramifications of new technologies under production.

"The people who build this equipment are always going to say that they're just building tools, that there are legitimate uses for them, and that it isn't their fault if the tools are abused,"

...Can you say "SkyNet"?

adapted from article by Tom Engelhardt