Sharks with freaking laser beams on their heads
Technology is advancing at an unbelievable rate. While we wait for teleporters and more importantly, dehydrated instant pizza, current technology is still evolving fast enough to amaze us. When most people thinks about robotics and mechatronics, they imagine complex, grand machines designed to make everyday life easier. But ultimately, the most complex machine known to mankind is still the human brain.
For years scientists have learned from animals to better their own science, from the engineers who studied spider silk to create stronger structure designs, to the Stanford team of biomechanists who developed wall-climbing, adhesive gloves by analysing geckos. Scientists have now moved to the next step, from trying to replicate the brain and other physical features, to integrating robotics into normal animals.
Now, I know what you’re thinking…
All hail our new overlords.
But seriously, the potential is amazing.
Imagine an earthquake disaster, as seen in Nepal, 2015. Instead of humans risking their lives digging through unstable rubble to find survivors, flies fitted with heat sensors do it for them. With more airline disasters, cybernetic animals could lead the charge in searching for wreckages. From eagles in the sky or dolphins in the oceans, survivors could be found at a faster rate. Where severe weather conditions would normally stop a search, these animals could continue. Able to search through the smallest gaps, highest peaks and harshest conditions, the potential of cyborg animals in search and rescue is amazing.
But it goes further. The most dangerous, unexplored places of the world are now ours to see! Indiana Jones in rat form, exploring the depths of the pyramids where humans simply can’t go. Our deepest oceans like the Mariana Trench, with water pressures too great for submarines to endure, but…fish evolved to withstand those pressures?
Both these things are already a reality!
Researcher from North Carolina State University have already developed what they call “biobots”; cockroaches with implants that respond to sound, designed for finding survivors of emergency situations. Rats linked to computers have been made more intelligent, able to solve mazes (pyramids???) faster than their non-cyborg friends.
Then we have personal defence. I know I’d love a pet labrador/rocket launcher that would protect me from home invasion. Or maybe i want my cat to have human-level intelligence, to communicate with me and tell me if they can really tell the difference between the non-branded canned food and the deluxe kind better than my own peasant lunch…
Of course with great power comes great responsibility. The ethics of using animals in this way is very dense and deserves a blog in its own right. Then there’s the usual of technology being misused. That cockroach is now fitted with a camera, always watching, taking away your right to privacy. A spider under the control of bad guys just became the world’s deadliest assassin. Ultimately, all technology has the potential to be misused. The use of enhanced animals in warfare has already begun, but that doesn’t mean we stop moving forward. The future is exciting! We should embrace it.