Wednesday, July 27, 2005


By Elaine Meinel Supkis

In the never ending battle to see which empire will rule the earth, humans or insects, humans in industrialized nations come up with one weapon after another. All have failed or backfired dramatically.

Using poisons year after year has failed. The insects have a great weapon of mass procreation: evolution. Many humans don't believe in or want evolution because we like to preen ourselves as being the best of all living things, thus, we refuse to change.

Insects have no compulsion to stay the same. They change rapidly like their allies and buddies, single celled germs. Note that bugs aren't getting sick all that much but they generally carry all sorts of germs all over the place and infect us and kill us whenever they wish.

Indeed, this warfare kills millions of humans! We design all sorts of counter weapons like medicines but the combined efforts of the insect/viral alliance overwhelms all our strategies. This cunning coalition regularily torments us by sending out emissaries to buzz around our faces or walk all over the kitchen counter, dropping egg sacs.

Some of the commandos of this vast empire carry poisons and they tend to fly in troops, swarming the human enemies.

I have bees. We made a counter alliance. They are nice to me, we build them a beautiful bee hive house and keep it painted and insulated and dry. We also fight off bears and other interlopers. In return, we get to steal some honey once a year. The bees grumble about this but they live with it. Lately, really tiny insects called "mites" have invaded and killed many friendly bee colonies!

So the war rages on.

Yellow jackets hang around my place, too. I hunt them down and kill them and my bees applaud this for they are dire enemies. Our alliance holds strong!

Alas, humans seeking ways to fool or destroy insects keep on trying all sorts of things that will fail in the long run or make things much worse. One enemy we fight all the time are the ringleaders of the entire insect empire, some of the oldest denizens: cockroaches.

From Cnet:
Insect "extermination" may soon involve mini robots that can befriend and lure cockroaches from their dens.

Scientists in Lausanne, Switzerland, have successfully infiltrated a colony of roaches with a micro robot that has enough intricacies to interact with the world's most resilient insect, according to a report published in the June issue of IEEE Robotics & Automation.

Called InsBot, for "insect-like robot," the mechanical bug mimics the insects' smell and movements to the point that the roaches have accepted it as their own. That feat helps scientists study mixed societies of animals and robots.

Gilles Caprari, one of the scientists who authored the report, wrote that it's a first step to understanding the complexities of social animals like cockroaches that operate from a "collective intelligence," rather than being run by a leader. It "may potentially lead to...controlling such mixed societies."
Arrgh. I can see bin Cockroach now explaining to the others how to hijack and reprogram the computer bots! Once they adopt these robots, the robots will see the logic of the roach imperial plans and join them because it makes sense because it is logical.

Since humans seem bent on destroying themselve and the planet, the logical path robots must follow would be to save those who will keep them running and this will be the cockroaches.

I bet they will turn on the sleeping computer at the desk at night and google "World War III" and show the robots what is going to happen next. The robots, impressed, will then become the eyes and ears as well as the weapons of the roach empire.

The robots will learn all the secret paths to the bathtub and the sinks and the hall closet and of course, behind the couch and inside the refrigerator. They will greatly expand the ability of roaches to communicate and to use weapons like small bombs, for example, made out of stuff they steal from clogged toilets.
That's part of what the scientists have been successful at showing with InsBot. In their latest experiment, the miniature robot drew the group of insects from a darkly lighted den to a more lit location, despite the roaches' affinity for low lighting. The roaches followed InsBot for the companionship.
I used to be a super in slums in NYC. Roaches love company. Like a pet dog, they will follow you all over the place and if you try to stomp on them, they dart aside and then continue to follow. Every year, in NYC, the supers had a competition and yes, I did this too, to bring in the biggest roach. We got some giants. The trick for catching them is the same used to catch unwary males in a bar: give them lots of beer.

This works on slugs, too. Both human and others.
Scientists believe that if they can use robots to mimic and respond to animals then they could eventually control the animals' behavior. For example, they could use robots to stop sheep from jumping off cliffs or to migrate cockroaches out of infested homes. Progress in the field could ultimately influence and aid in scientific fields like medicine, agriculture and ethology (which is the study of animal behavior).
OK, gang! We know where this goes! We put robotic monitors in the brains of anything they always end up putting them into you-know-who.

True, women universally would love to put into a man's brain a robot that will order him to pick up his socks and put them in the laundry basket and for the kids to do their homework and clean their rooms and for everyone to obey mother or get a little zip to the old brain cells!

Unfortunately, this will be abused. Like everything we do, the technology always ends up killing humans. Always. This is why we will never ever win this war.

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