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Big Brother's just a beetle on the wall
October 27, 2009 11:54 AM   Subscribe

Cyborg Spy Beetles are no longer a thing of the future. UC Berkeley (funded by DARPA) has created cyborg beetles guided wirelessly via laptop. These spy beetles were created with the intent of bugging actual conversations, literally acting as the "fly on the wall".

This, surprisingly, doesn't seem to be a hoax. Here's some more detailed info.
posted by scrutiny (56 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
But couldn't the bees smell their implants?

And if you don't have a swarm of sniffer bees scrambled at all times, you frankly deserve to be spied on.
posted by mccarty.tim at 11:57 AM on October 27, 2009


I, for one, welcome our new insect underserfs.
posted by leotrotsky at 11:57 AM on October 27, 2009


And a link to the article in Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience.
posted by scrutiny at 11:58 AM on October 27, 2009


Kill it with fire.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:59 AM on October 27, 2009


What will those clever kids at the UC Berkeley Department of Abominations come up with next?
posted by rusty at 12:02 PM on October 27, 2009 [10 favorites]


Same site: Petman Human Walking Bot

Uncanny valley much?
posted by leotrotsky at 12:02 PM on October 27, 2009


Am I supposed to feel sorry for my own privacy, or am I supposed to feel sorry for the poor little bugs? Who am I supposed to pity here?
posted by infinitywaltz at 12:04 PM on October 27, 2009


Didn't they try doing this with cats once? I think it was actually on the blue.
posted by cimbrog at 12:05 PM on October 27, 2009


Do they shoot lasers out of their eyes? It's not really the future until they shoot lasers out of their eyes.
posted by Kattullus at 12:07 PM on October 27, 2009


Well, I'm just waiting for the nanobugs that fly up your nose and then work their way into your brainstem and cerebellum. They can be used for simple passive neural data recording or they can latch on to the sensory-motor system and control your motions and sensations. The future is a little scary.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:09 PM on October 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


Honestly, I feel bad for the poor struggling, luckless creatures. And for what? I very much respect the science that went into achieving this, but I can't say that I would ever want to meet or know the people who spent all their time making it possible. Ugh.
posted by hermitosis at 12:11 PM on October 27, 2009


I'm pretty sure I would notice a giant beetle with a computer chip stuck to its head flying around the room. Just sayin'.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:12 PM on October 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


That's going to make for one really expensive mess on the bottom of somebody's shoe.
posted by mudpuppie at 12:17 PM on October 27, 2009


The bugs have always been spying on me.

Fuck you, ant.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:19 PM on October 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


So first we drive out nature, then we crowd out nature, then we pollute nature, and now we enslave nature.

I'm not sure if I like the direction of our moral compass.
posted by davejay at 12:20 PM on October 27, 2009


At least they appear to be reasonably large and disgusting, like a real beetle, and thus likely to be seen and destroyed.
posted by bearwife at 12:21 PM on October 27, 2009


Their last creation ended up being a disaster.
posted by glaucon at 12:22 PM on October 27, 2009


Really, the next step is recreating nature
posted by scrutiny at 12:22 PM on October 27, 2009


Reality has finally caught up with Danny Dunn.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 12:22 PM on October 27, 2009


I'm pretty sure I would notice a giant beetle with a computer chip stuck to its head flying around the room. Just sayin'.

This is just a proof of concept. The scary part is in a few years, when this procedure is sufficiently miniaturized and automated that you wouldn't know, either way.

On the other hand, once the global warming tips us over into an era of mass extinctions, it will be much easier for the remaining human survivors to tell they're being spied on, when the spysects are among the last living things we have allowed to buzz around on earth.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:23 PM on October 27, 2009


This is just a proof of concept. The scary part is [...]

The really scary part is that the concept being proven can be used for a) covert survelliance, as well as b) MIND CONTROL!
posted by Sys Rq at 12:28 PM on October 27, 2009


Wow. When you wake up and the first sentence on Metafilter is 'Cyborg Spy Beetles are no longer a thing of the future ', you know its gonna be a good day.
posted by mannequito at 12:29 PM on October 27, 2009


When I see something like this being displayed publicly, I often assume they are showing us this because it's the old, obsolete technology and the newer, improved, versions are already in-use.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:32 PM on October 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Thorzad, the new, improved version is YOU.
posted by Mister Cheese at 12:33 PM on October 27, 2009


P. K. Dick again. (And also an inversion of the same idea, using the bug to insinuate messages into your personal space.)

I swear, people dismiss the guy as a mystic, but in his prime he had more crazy technology ideas in a month than most smart people have in a lifetime. Partial list via Technovelgy.
posted by lodurr at 12:34 PM on October 27, 2009


Actually I guess reality caught up with Danny Dunn back in 2007.

It's interesting reading that 2007 thread, especially all the comments that write off cyborg insects as paranoid conspiracy theory fantasy.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 12:37 PM on October 27, 2009


I ALWAYS KNEW THAT THE BEETLES WERE EVIL
posted by litleozy at 12:40 PM on October 27, 2009


That's okay, I'm doing nothing wrong, so I have nothing to worry about.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 12:41 PM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Holy christ -- that thing is huge. I was going to say that the mosquito-killing laser might be a good defense against spy bugs, but I think these things need some sort of Estes-rocket-powered SAM.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:43 PM on October 27, 2009


On the other hand, once the global warming tips us over into an era of mass extinctions, it will be much easier for the remaining human survivors to tell they're being spied on, when the spysects are among the last living things we have allowed to buzz around on earth.

Whom do you think is going extinct first?

Wow. When you wake up and the first sentence on Metafilter is 'Cyborg Spy Beetles are no longer a thing of the future ', you know its gonna be a good day.
posted by mannequito at 12:29 PM on October 27 [+] [!]


When you wake up at 12:30 in the afternoon, I would think every day is a good day.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:47 PM on October 27, 2009


P. K. Dick again. (And also an inversion of the same idea, using the bug to insinuate messages into your personal space.)

Didn't Vurt do something like that as well, i.e. commercial bugs? Or am I confusing it with Snow Crash?
posted by mrgrimm at 12:49 PM on October 27, 2009


I'm torn between how amazing this is, and how horrible this is.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 12:52 PM on October 27, 2009


Re: The uncaney valley Pet biped walker: I would not like to encounter that, but I would like to have it be the base of the next Segway scooter.
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:57 PM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


climbrog:
Here is the Secret Kitty episode of the Memory Palace. (The Memory Place previously...)

Previously spy cats were discussed on the blue a looong time ago.
posted by Nanukthedog at 12:58 PM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


mrgrimm: Whom do you think is going extinct first?

heh. my brother the entomologist says that the first thing people say to him after they find out he's an entomologist is usually "So I hear insects are gonna take over the world someday!"

To which he invariably answers: "What do you mean 'gonna'?"
posted by lodurr at 1:01 PM on October 27, 2009


This spy technology is going to entertain my cats to no end.
posted by greenland at 1:01 PM on October 27, 2009


Previously spy cats were discussed on the blue a looong time ago.

Thanks, Nanukthedog. That's what I was thinking of.
Wow, was I lurking for that long?
posted by cimbrog at 1:04 PM on October 27, 2009


Modern science brings to everyone what was previously only available to paranoid schizophrenics.
posted by Rhomboid at 1:07 PM on October 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


Cyborg Spy Beetles are no longer a thing of the future.

posted by scrutiny


Eponysterical.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:13 PM on October 27, 2009


My flatmate, who has repeatedly told strangers that the pigeons are spying on us for the government, feels more than a little validated by this.
posted by litleozy at 1:16 PM on October 27, 2009


Previously spy cats...

Like the minions of Krosp I?
posted by lodurr at 1:17 PM on October 27, 2009


No need to do all this fancy tech to hide stuff. Just makes pages of fnord labels. Peel and stick your label on whatever needs to go sub-liminal and presto. Plus fnords have the built in targetless dread factor.
posted by Babblesort at 1:23 PM on October 27, 2009


yes, but if you make a sheet of fnord labels, how do you keep track of where it is so that you can peel and stick them?

and then how do you keep track of the stuff you stuck them to?
posted by lodurr at 1:26 PM on October 27, 2009


Searching nytimes.com for fnord is always good fun.
posted by Kattullus at 1:27 PM on October 27, 2009


What's this about spy cats? Hook a camera on a cat and you'll get pictures like this. [previously]
posted by marxchivist at 1:30 PM on October 27, 2009


Searching nytimes.com for fnord is always good fun.

Wow, it also searches the code in shell scripts used on the site. Like this one.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:48 PM on October 27, 2009


Re: The uncaney valley Pet biped walker: I would not like to encounter that, but I would like to have it be the base of the next Segway scooter.

Skin those legs to look like chicken legs, mount house on top, scale up 300%. Baba Yaga will be possible by 2020. Sexy Baba Yaga will be a Halloween costume by 2021.
posted by explosion at 1:50 PM on October 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure if I like the direction of our moral compass.
posted by davejay at 12:20 PM on October 27 [+] [!]


So would you say we're getting it right (::moves arrow to green portion of compass::) or wrong (::pushes arrow back over to red::)?

Let's ask the answer prancer.
posted by FatherDagon at 2:15 PM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


If that thing flew anywhere near me, I would be flailing about with anything I could find to kill it...like a shoe, a shovel or a chair. Oh god, oh god, oh god, that grosses me out. Those wings, those flailing legs. Aughghhghghghg.

Yes, that thing would be a few pieces of plastic and a spring when I was done with it.
posted by jeanmari at 6:16 PM on October 27, 2009


What a bunch of fucking sadists. You can see the glow of pleasure in the mans face as he idiotically punches the button,

"Beatle on. Beatle off. Beatle on....and off"

Yeah, I get it.

Bonus: You just made some DOD nerds jizz in their pants. That whole research group can fuck off.
posted by kuatto at 9:09 PM on October 27, 2009


Sure, you can consider it creepy and immoral that these people have figured out out to decode the natural signal sent from the beetle brain to the wings, and imitate it well enough to properly use the wings to fly about. But you should know that properly advanced, this is the technology that may eventually allow patients who have lost control of their limbs to re-establish that control. I understand the argument that ends do not justify the means, but that seems to me an entirely unrealistic point of view. The whole natural order (things eating other things) is based on ends justifying the means. We sacrifice animals for our health all the time. How many pigs are sacrificed so each heart surgeon gets to practice before performing on a live human? How many rats have been first given a disease, and then given an experimental cure in order to determine if that cure is effective and/or deadly. From the researchers I've worked with who do similar things, not a one of them does it to inflict pain and all foreseeable avenues are followed to ensure that the animals feel as little pain as possible. Perhaps that glee you see on the scientist's face is not actually sadism, but is in fact pride in having accomplished a difficult task. His happiness arises from seeing a complicated machine decoded. You may argue that this implies certain negative things about his character and the character of other similar scientists - that they see living things as more complicated machines - but I highly doubt any of them pursue this field seeing to intentionally inflict harm on other creatures.
posted by scrutiny at 8:23 AM on October 28, 2009


And so it goes, the incremental march of progress, blending a myriad impulses and endeavors. And for these ambiguities, can no one lay blame, if not praise, at the feet of Science?

Where then are the videos of neophyte surgeons cutting into still living pigs, their faces mirroring the pleasure that is revealed in the murmurs of approval from onlookers.

Where is the sensationalized brutality of institutional animal testing? No fucking sane person, or responsible professor, posts videos of vivisection to YouTube. There are many educational and corporate entities that do this type of research, on monkeys etc, but why do they not publicize it?

Ahh, and so we are back to the margins of good taste, and this is just a bug after all. But as you pointed out, there is a Natural Order which, I believe, encompasses all that is sacred. At the very least, these fuckers should have some respect for the life that they mangle and obliterate. Casual disregard for life is a psychopathic trait.
posted by kuatto at 11:04 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


very well, kuatto: what shall we then do?

... or do you actually have no suggestions in that regard?
posted by lodurr at 11:13 AM on October 28, 2009


What shall we do, indeed! Lay morality to rest, and bury her in the dust of the advancing civilizations. There is nothing to be done, the economics will see to that.

And so the millions flow into millions, the great social institutions heave and strain. And then the situation arises, one that is beyond the pale, and all we can do is lament a world gone stark raving mad: Video-gaming materialists mutilating beetles, grunting with satisfaction, flushed with excitement. What next?

And so the question, what shall we do? But now in negation...now in negation. It's too late for many people and things, and for many there is still yet time. But if this display of madness is what the best and brightest are up to then I say, to hell with them! Keep your madness under wraps, hidden from the light of day. Disabuse yourself of a sense of pride and glory, crafting weapons as such in the entrails of insects. It is a vainglorious pursuit, and in that the seeds of madness.
posted by kuatto at 8:32 PM on October 28, 2009


I see. So you did in fact have no suggestions.
posted by lodurr at 5:11 AM on October 29, 2009


Vernor Vinge warned us! Societies with the technology for ubiquitous surveillance are unstable and fail catastrophically! Well, if they're in the Slow Zone anyway.
posted by grobstein at 10:22 AM on October 29, 2009


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