Cockroaches are pesky insects that nobody in their right mind likes. They are good at survival, after all, they have outlived dinosaurs and maybe one day they will outlive humans. But now, humans are trying to turn these sturdy insects into half-machines or cyborgs.
Yes, you read that right. The Elon Musk-fronted Neuralink, human-cyborg may be a far cry, but in the meantime, scientists are also exploring the idea of a remote-controlled cockroach. It's not a new idea. In 2012, researchers from North Carolina State University in the US experimented with remote control roaches.
So, what's new? A new study was published on Monday, September 5, in the journal npj Flexible Electronics, by Japanese researchers, who revealed that they have developed a system to remotely control the legs of the insect. The research was led by scientists from the Center for Emergent Matter Science, RIKEN in Japan.
The researchers are using the Madagascar hissing cockroach for the experiment.
How does the system work? The system is nothing but a tiny 'backpack' wired into the cockroach's nervous system. One press of a button sends a shock to the roach's nervous system via the backpack making it move in a direction.
Unlike previous experiments, the latest backpack is made with an ultrathin and flexible solar cell that doesn't hinder the cockroach's movement. And the solar cell ensures that there is ample battery life and a cyborg insect, suddenly doesn't go out of control.
Why? The biggest question about this weird experiment is, why do we need it? Why do we need cyborg cockroaches? Scientists say the cyborg cockroaches can be used for urban search and rescue operations following a natural disaster - getting into places where humans cannot go.
If successfully developed, it can also be used for surveillance and/or spying activities. The 2016 film Miss Sloane portrays the possibility of using a robot cockroach for surveillance for political purposes.
The possibilities of cyborg cockroaches are varied and many.
What about the cockroaches? There are unanswered questions about whether the system inflicts pain on the insects and whether the insects feel the pain. But there is still little known about insect consciousness.
Do you think you are ready for a world filled with robot cockroaches? Will you be able to know the difference?