Friday, March 03, 2006

Shark droids?

Is it ethical to stick electrodes into animals brains to make them carry out our whims? Sharks Apparently anything is ethical if it could potentially lead to the discovery of new treatments for diseases and other negative heath conditions. We know DARPA for being the agency that created ARPANET, the first node of the Internet, but recently they've been experimenting with creating a kind of marine zombie. They implant electrodes into the brains of a spiny dogfish and use a radio transmitter to stimulate either the right or left side of the brain responsible for the sense of smell. The dogfish responds by turning in that direction, hoping for some food. Just like a remote control boat, but better!
The Pentagon is funding research into neural implants with the ultimate hope of turning sharks into "stealth spies" capable of gliding undetected through the ocean.

British weekly New Scientist has published the research, which builds on experimental work to control animals by implanting tiny electrodes in their brain that are then stimulated to induce a behavioural response.

"The Pentagon hopes to exploit sharks' natural ability to glide quietly through the water, sense delicate electrical gradients and follow chemical trails," says the report.

"By remotely guiding the sharks' movements they hope to transform the animals into stealth spies, perhaps capable of following vessels without being spotted." (ABC).
Why build expensive underwater robots to do dangerous things like recovering landmines from the ocean floor when we can just use a remote control to get an octopus or something to do it for us? What's more, if the world's sharks and other marine nasties are busy chasing enemy vessels and performing other chores for the USA armed forces then at least they won't be biting legs off of swimmers at Bondi or attacking surfers on the West Coast.

Image courtesy of Mark Rosenstein
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Blogger Dima said...

Today sharks, tomorrow...? People?

March 04, 2006 3:31 am  
Anonymous jair said...

I'd love one of those! Err, a shark-droid, I mean. Well, actually...

But seriously, you're allowed to do this, but you're not allowed to manipulate DNA in plants to make them more tolerant to adverse conditions?

March 06, 2006 2:27 pm  
Blogger Lisa said...

I went through precisely the same though process, Jair :)

Dima's point is even more on the money though. If this is successfully trialled with sharks then there is bound to be a human test done out of view of ethics approvals and human rights observances.

Suddenly the sci-fi future seems closer than ever.

March 06, 2006 3:44 pm  
Anonymous jair said...

Could be fun having droid pets. A cat-droid could be extremely interesting. Have a read of Spares by Michael Marshall Smith (an author that should be read by everyone anyway), and you'll see where I'm going with this (and where the cats are going).

Of course people-droids will be attempted out of view of ethics commitees. Everything always is - if you've thought it, it's probably likely that someone's either done it or is planning to do it. And if you were going to do it, you may as well go the whole hog and use a clone. Fines in this country are paltry ;) Could anyone get me one of the electronic units? I can get everything else...

March 07, 2006 10:43 am  
Blogger Chad Smith said...

Why dont we just attach frikkin' "Lazers" to their frikkin' heads and be done with it? That's what Dr. Evil would do.

April 03, 2006 2:19 pm  
Anonymous dr. evil said...

good idea! what exactly would be the purpose of the lazers though?

July 11, 2006 6:37 pm  

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