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Hey, Is That Butterfly Spying On You?
Placeholder Image recently ran excerpts of Emily Anthes’s book “Frankenstein’s Cat: Cuddling Up To Biotech’s Brave New Beasts,” and I may never look at national security the same way again.
Emboldened by breakthroughs in genetic engineering and advances in the miniaturization of microprocessors, receivers and batteries, the U.S. government is seeking to develop animal/machine hybrid versions of flies, moths, beetles, rodents and other critters.
Yes, they’re talking about using cyborg-bugs and robo-rats for surveillance and other military objectives.
Such things can no longer be dismissed as “that crazy science fiction stuff.” We’re marching inexorably toward mass production of tiny spies, and I hope you’re prepared for the way familiar military quotations will be turned on their head:
* “We metamorphosize more before 9 a.m. than most people do all day.”
* “Beware of the military-citronella complex.”
* “The innumerable, the proud, the roach Marines.”
* “I shall return – hopefully before my 48-hour life cycle is up.”
* “No man left behind. His mate will probably want to eat him.”
* “These veterans WON’T be putting their uniforms in mothballs.”
* “Trust but verify –and while you’re at it, grab a dung ball for your troubles.”
* “An army travels on its stomach. Well, DUH.”
* “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their compound eyes.”
* “War is hell – but that porch light...I...I think it’s heaven.”
Animal rights activists and ethicists in general are riled up about the questionable morality of humans manipulating the nervous systems and behaviors of sentient creatures. (“We’re putting our foot down. Oops. Sorry about that politically incorrect phrase.”) Any day now, I’m expecting to see news photos of protesters burning the Black Flag.
It’s especially unsettling to think about the remote control of more complex animals, such as mice. Why can’t we just leave mice to their normal activities, such as dropping anvils on cats’ heads, running a hot iron over a cat’s tail, putting marbles all around a cat’s bed...(Holy Hanna-Barbera! I have GOT to update my research material.)
If researchers progress to mammal customization, the general public will really notice, as the United Nations monitors rogue states for Weapons Of Mass Leg Humping, and opossums are equipped with sensors to evaluate the tire tracks of the enemy.
And disappointed generals will grouse, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him pull the pin of a grenade and blow up the bridge! Opposable hooves! We need opposable hooves!”
Given recent concerns over the prospects of drone airplanes being used domestically against U.S. citizens, expect a wave of paranoia at backyard barbecues. (“Ha ha. No, I never swat mosquitoes. They’re nature’s noblest creature. Say, do you know what would be more fun than a game of horseshoes or cornhole? We could all form a committee and donate every penny we have to see that the president gets elected for life! Testing...testing...”)
I wait with bated breath for all the exciting new military uses of varmints, but I can’t help dreaming of something even more amazing.
What if some visionary individuals in two warring countries simultaneously designed insects that would crawl up on the negotiating table and achieve lasting peace?
I hope I’ve placed a bug in somebody’s ear.
Danny welcomes reader e-mail responses at and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades”. Danny’s’ weekly column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate.