The potential of Cyborg Insects

By Alexander Micic

Cyborg Insects

As technology continuously progresses, robotics have been explored further in order to make tasks inconvenient for humans achievable by robots, or possibly even cyborgs. However, society is not at a point where cyborg humans or animals are plausible, or even feasible to create. This, however, means that there are certain miniscule creatures that fit the bill perfectly: insects. Insects have unparalleled maneuverability thanks to their size and anatomy, and scientists have found that through electric stimuli, they can be remote controlled to do complex tasks considered impossible for humans to carry out. These cyborg insects are being considered for use in data collection, locating people or objects lost in natural disasters, or even potential weaponization. Cyborg insects can provide a great service to humans without using up the resources it would take to create actual machines, but the question of whether it is ethical to control other organisms for our own benefit remains ever present.

The actual discovery that insects can be controlled in the way we envision was led by engineers at UC Berkeley and Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University. Their research is enabling new revelations about various muscles located in different insects such as beetles and cockroaches that are in charge of several precise movements. The way these researchers gather this data is by strapping tiny computers and wireless radios onto the backs of giant beetles and recording neuromuscular data as the bugs flew unrestricted. Through this process, “scientists can determine if a muscle known for controlling the folding of wings was also critical to steering. This information was then used to improve the precision of the beetles’ remote-controlled turns” (Yang). What seems to be especially interesting about the prospect of these cyborgs is that each insect has its own unique properties and abilities, which can allow for it to perform different tasks than others. For example, the cockroach can be used to slip into narrow cracks and crevices in order to enter hard to access areas, while beetles can fly in order to relay certain information with radio signals. It is even being considered for certain insects to work together in order to cover each other’s weaknesses. For example, “…in the event of an earthquake, roaches would be directed through the rubble fitted with microphones, picking up cries for help…moths would be fitted with gas sensors checking for poisonous leaks and relaying the cries through radio transmission (Ridgway). With thousands of different types of insects on this planet, each has its own unique trait that can prove useful to humans and millions of different situations.

One of the most interesting fields that is being considered for these cyborg insects is weaponization in order to give our military a much needed edge as our enemies bridge the technological gap. There are several different ideas in place as of right now, but the insects are being considered for use in reconnaissance, spying, scouting, swarming and overwhelming the opponent, or even being used to transport a biological weapon into enemy territory. For example, “…they(cyborgs) have the ability to tell how many people are inside a building and identify who they are before deciding whether to commit soldiers to clear the location” (Maharbiz). The sheer number of possibilities cyborg insects possess in regards to flexibility on the battlefield is sure to give America the upper hand in any sort of battle, especially if we are the first to popularize and mass produce this specific technology. Militarization of these insects will not only strengthen us away from home, but will also help solidify the sturdy defenses we have set up for the American citizens. Cyborg insects can be sent to certain locations or homes of suspicious people in order to eavesdrop and discover information which can prevent dangerous situations from ever occurring. Not only would their investigating be superior to a human’s, they can downright replace humans in certain situations in order to minimize the possibility of a human being injured or possibly even killed. For example, a swarm of cyborgs can be used to suppress a riot rather than having the police beating on citizens with batons, which can also potentially shift hatred away from the police. Using cyborg insects as a militaristic advantage can only lead to a safer America, and can diminish the need for humans to get involved and consequently injured in dangerous battles or situations.

Humanity’s breakthrough into the world of cyborgs will prove incredibly beneficial not only for America, but for the entire world. As we gather more data and find more applications of cyborg technology, these insects will pave the way for even greater creations in the future that can perform incredibly complex tasks. The insects themselves, however, will open up so much of the world that we have been blind to due to our physical limitations. They can end wars that have been dragging on for decades by gathering important intelligence, or by being used as a bioweapon themselves. Through mounted cameras and microphones, cyborgs can locate people in distress or in precarious situations, and potentially save their lives. Cyborg insects will change the face of the Earth, and humanity can only advance with their creation.

Works Cited

  • Ridgway, A. (2014). Like a Cyborg Moth To a Flame. Newsweek Global, 163(12), 46-47.
  • Maharbiz, Michel M., and Hirotaka Sato. "Cyborg beetles." Scientific American 303.6 (2010): 94-99.
  • Yang, Sarah. "Cyborg Beetle Research Allows Free-flight Study of Insects."Berkeley News. UC Berkeley, 16 Mar. 2015.