The robot with the mind of an eel.
April 17, 2001 5:32 PM   Subscribe

The robot with the mind of an eel. Doesn't this scare you just a little bit?
posted by PWA_BadBoy (12 comments total)
yes. yes it does.

it seems to entirely discount the viridian principle: Design for Evil.

also, poor eel.

posted by rebeccablood at 5:46 PM on April 17, 2001

The eel bit is interesting, i would not want dumb robots running around, but i do like the studies being conducted where they are trying to combine organic tissue with silicon chips.
posted by Zool at 6:05 PM on April 17, 2001

I'm not naive enough to believe that the lamprey eel has a rich social life or complex interrelations with it's fellow... uh... creepy-swimmy-crawly things - but it does seem more than a little cruel to remove it's teeny little jellybean brain and hook it up to an all-but-purposeless Swiss Lego-bot.
posted by m.polo at 8:18 PM on April 17, 2001

The intellectual side of my brain finds the concept fascinating. The gooey emotional side that I keep trying to hide can only respond "awww, poor eel." I can't help but imagine existence as a bit of mental "meat" only able to respond to completely meaningless electrical stimuli. I realize that it's "only an eel" and this has much greater ramifications as a field of study, but...*shudder*...
posted by NsJen at 8:34 PM on April 17, 2001

Actually, this doesn't scare me. I think that there could be great advances in taking care of or even repairing people who are disabled because nerves were severed, or they wouldn't have a chance to survive on their own.

Anyone ever read Anne McCaffery's Brainship books? That's where I see this heading.
posted by SpecialK at 8:51 PM on April 17, 2001

What I find disturbing is how such use of animal tissue is compared to falconry or hunting with trained dogs. It's one thing to tame a wild animal and subject it to human servitude. We take this god-like power with the maturity and responsibility of a toddler. Keeping an animal as a pet. Putting it in a cage. Restricting its behavior and controlling such things as breeding, eating habits, shelter, and so forth, that's become tolerant behavior to all but vegan extremists. Enslavement of a human creature is one thing..

It's a far different thing to take a living creature and cut it up into pieces so we can connect it to a robot or a computer chip and shine flashing lights at it just to see what it would do. Treating animal flesh like Playdoh, Lincoln Logs and Lego bricks? This eel thing is perhaps the peak of human insolence and egocentrism.

No wait, I take that back. Recently I saw a TV documentary about xenotransplantation. It alleged that pigs are being cloned, genetically altered and bred for the soul purpose of being used for human organ transplantation. Human physiology naturally rejects organs from other animals, but genetic manipulation of cloned pigs may solve that hurdle. They showed how they hooked a pig heart up to the neck of a monkey, and observed how it died. I'm no animal rights activist, and it takes a bit to shock me or put me off my lunch, but the footage was pretty damn brutal. Whether it's true now or not, it can and probably will be true in the very near future, and THAT's disturbing.

The word inhumane is far too kind comparatively, but human beings have been eating animal flesh for untold millenia. The fact we're now playing with our food, well that's an inevitability, isn't it? People got upset when they found out Mary Kay was spraying perfume into Thumper's eyesockets. Yet this is tolerable behavior? Treating Wilbur and Babe like.. like.. well guinea pigs?

And who's to say humanity won't someday do this with cloned human tissue? If we get good at it with pig tissue, we can just take what we've learned and tinker with human tissue. What if we're someday able to genetically manipulate an embryo to grow everything except a brain? So we effectively grow a human vegetable? Without a brain, it won't notice when people come along and pick out body parts like they would at a car dealership. Or develop a human-like body with a brain equivalent to a docile, trained poodle? Use it for menial labor until your kidneys give out, then just ask it to lay down for a minute...

Far-fetched? Personally, I wouldn't put anything past the human race. *shudder*
posted by ZachsMind at 12:17 AM on April 18, 2001

In Stephen Baxter's Manifold Time, he has squid which are hosts for computer enhancement. Sci-Fi? What Fi?

Can't wait till my friend who's both vegan and a robot enthusiast gets a hold of this!
posted by crasspastor at 12:35 AM on April 18, 2001

I doubt that an eel even has enough consciousness to notice it's had its brain scooped out and plugged into a robot. It doesn't bother me.
posted by kindall at 1:06 AM on April 18, 2001

Has anyone else spotted that the film of Bridget Jones' Diary explicitly takes place in a Brain Holiday Machine? None of the critics seem to have noticed.
posted by Mocata at 9:11 AM on April 18, 2001

Treating animal flesh like Playdoh, Lincoln Logs and Lego bricks?

Right, they just do these things for fun, and the scientific aspects are just pure gravy. God curse our murderous scientists! :::Sigh::: Did you read the article? Which of those particular applications being researched gave you the shudders and precipitated a certain fatalistic despair over the human race? Was it the abhorrent land-mine detection thing or the completely heartless air-quality monitoring?

In my cancer-research job, one of my studies involves a very interesting drug that uses an antibody created by splicing some mouse tissue with some human tissue. Actually, I can't resist the jargon: "[The drug] is a mouse/human chimeric monoclonal antibody . . . produced by a Chinese hamster ovary transfectoma."

Yeah, yeah, poor hamster. But frankly, hey, cancer sucks too. Without animal research, we wouldn't have basic disease inoculation, much less things like, say, heart transplants and chemotherapy.
posted by Skot at 9:35 AM on April 18, 2001

Cool - Lamprey Borg!
posted by Perigee at 11:13 AM on April 18, 2001

i wonder what paroxysms PETA is going to erupt into.

"We're turning the bacteria into microelectronic components to detect different substances," said Sayler. "You can engineer the organisms to eat almost anything."

i can just see the banners now. "self determinism for bacteria! stop the force feeding!"
posted by fuzzygeek at 11:48 AM on April 18, 2001

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