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back to article Right royal rumpus over remote-control 'RoboRoach'

The makers of a cockroach electronic "backpack" which allows humans to control the movements of the insect via a mobile phone have unsurprisingly come under fire for what some see as a pseudoscientific way to mistreat animals. Backyard Brains' "RoboRoach" is a $99.99 Kickstarter-funded project, described as "an innovative …

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Cockroaches have a long and proud history...

...of being used in scientific experimentation; their key value being that nobody really cares about them.

For example, four Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches were launched on Bigelow Aerospace's inflatable space station prototype:

http://www.nature.com/news/2006/060807/full/news060807-7.html

Turns out they can survive vacuum for short periods of time, and in low pressure environments will actively pump air into their abdomens, causing them to swell up to one and a half times normal size. Luckily I haven't found any pictures.

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Re: Cockroaches have a long and proud history...

This isn't scientific experimentation though. At best it's a demonstration of a biological process but that seems pretty tenuous to me. It looks like an attempted commercialisation of some of the experiments towards insect-based surveillance that were reported a few years back, but really it's a new expensive way of being a dick with a smartphone.

Who is going to perform the operation?

A kid? Probably not given the need for some money, a smart phone, a steady hand and a concentration span.

A teacher? I doubt this would pass muster from an ethics perspective for school teaching in the UK.

An adult outside of the teaching system? Well anyone who might be interested in this is probably already slow-poisoning their family and neighbours.

Perhaps some researchers somewhere would benefit from this ready-made kit?

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Holmes

Re: Cockroaches have a long and proud history...

> sanding and wiring up a highly reproducible biobot that would eat your festering innards if given half the chance and will dine on your kids once the nuclear fallout has lifted a bit

> ethics perspective butthurt

I think we are getting a bit overboard here.

Or maybe we have insectoid aliens from Zargaz 9 among us who feel a tad miffed where idle curiosity is taking these unruly mammals.

Actually, this experiment has been made some years ago during the Bush Years, where it caused some uproar already but is only now hitting the public. Remember the Bush years when be burnt down habeeb and gave him DU to dine on? HAHAHA!

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Alien

Re: Cockroaches have a long and proud history...

...of being insects.

As far as "consciousness", insects have none. Although alive, insects are little more than programmed robots without free will. Case in point: ants will leave the mound and leave a dotted trail of pheromones in their search for food. If they don't find any, they follow the dotted trail back home. If they do find food they follow the dotted trail and leave a long-solid trail so other ants know to follow it to the munchies.

Now, if you place a line of fire on the trail the ants will follow the trail right into the fire, continuing to follow the fire regardless that a left or right turn will save their little insect lives - because robots don't feel pain.

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Big Brother

<tinfoil hat>

This is something that our Dear Leaders in the UK would be very interested in for near-future crowd control when the general populace finally realises how they're being fooled. No implants necessary; it'll all be done via your Smartphone. Innit.

</tinfoil hat>

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Boffin

Crowd control via smartphone?

Isn't that how the cybermen started out?

... well, the Parallel Earth 'Rise of the Cybermen' version anyway.

Because this icon's the only one that's blue, and so's the Tardis ------------------------------>

(can we have a Dr Who Icon please?)

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Pfff!

I've been after a Star Trek icon for years...

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Crowd control via smartphone?

Already been done by Apple and Google (and also by Microsoft if three is, indeed, a crowd)

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In my mind it's a bit cruel to the cockroach.

Couldn't we use Steve Ballmer / Tony Blair / insert name here, instead?

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Re: In my mind it's a bit cruel to the cockroach.

You couldn't use anyone from Apple, because how to touch the antennae is so critical...

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Re: In my mind it's a bit cruel to the cockroach.

Reptiles don't have antennae.

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Re: In my mind it's a bit cruel to the cockroach.

These people are out of touch, so no.

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Not easy to 'comment'

One the one hand, some might say that the alternative for the cockroach would most likely be to be squashed by a slipper, i.e. killed, so it doesn't matter.

On the other hand, there is a difference between killing a pest and doing things to it which might be seen as showing a lack of respect and humanity to a living thing. It is perhaps not merely what is being done to the insect that is of concern, but also the impact on the mind of the person who is doing it. Since these experiments are not in any way scientific, the real reason for people conducting them, which may include likely varying degrees of sadism, may not be something that should be encouraged.

If many people are enabled or encouraged to conduct such experiments on insects, a small proportion of them might also eventually graduate to bigger subjects.

Doctor Mengele used to conduct vivisection experiments on death camp inmates and could surely have used the argument that they were up for the chop anyway, so it didn't matter - what with the people in question being non-Aryans and thus equivalent to rats and cockroaches in his country's mindset at the time.

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Stop

Re: Not easy to 'comment'

Milgram experiment any-one?

It's all a bit too psychopathic for my liking.

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WTF?

Hmmmm...

Is this even real?

It seems a tad reminiscent of Bonsai Kitten to me.

...Or maybe I've just reached a point in my life where I don't believe anything I read on the internet any more.

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Re: Hmmmm...

"Is this even real?"

Of course not, there's no good business case: At one hundred dollars to walk a roach into the bonfire, you've really got to hate that particular roach.

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Re: Hmmmm...

Health and safety rules will not allow the improper disposal of electronic gear, even if it is bromide and lead free and follows WEEE standards!

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Alien

Possibly?

Is this just a ploy to find the Arquillian prince hiding in Brooklyn?

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Hey kids! Torture can be fun!

Yes, it's about time our young people found something healthy to do, like stabbing and brain-taserting a small creature. See how he jumps when you give him a migraine! Delightful. And not at all backward, depraved, or utterly base.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Hey kids! Torture can be fun!

"And not at all backward, depraved, or utterly base."

Not much different to the activities of youngsters involving ants (or any other insect) and magnifying glasses, surely? And what of fly fishing by people of all ages, where animal behaviour is manipulated by an artificial fly for the purposes of inserting a barbed hook through the roof of the fish's mouth. That's OK because a small proportion of the fish get eaten?

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Re: Hey kids! Torture can be fun!

Yeah, but because of the glue in the kit, it'll only be available to 18+.

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Angel

Re: barbed hook

Not all anglers use barbed hooks. But yes, torture can be fun. Buy a rod licence and give it a try.

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Re: Hey kids! Torture can be fun!

"Youngsters...ants..anglers" etc. etc.

A small child burning an ant doesn't understand what he is doing and is not responsible. The roach device is a different story, where the maiming is carefully engineered and the electro-convulsive control "enjoyed" by the sort of person who will years later end up wearing somebody else's skin and babbling about fava beans.

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Psychopaths

This thought process that experimenting with animals leads to kids becoming psychopaths is based on the research that many psychopaths progressed from torturing animals to torturing humans. But many kids torture animals, especially bugs, at a young age, if allowed to play in the great outdoors. But it doesn't mean that they all become psychopaths. In fact very few do.

Thinking that because of something that a few people do means that it all people should be stopped from doing it is what those of limited intelligence profess as normal. When in reality the extreme and unconventional is that of the progressives who ban everything on the slightest whim.

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Re: Psychopaths

How many people swat flies and kill spiders?

Not justifying this but I do enjoy highlighting the extra 'psychopaths'

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Re: Psychopaths

My moggie must be psychopathic if torturing small animals and insects is the standard. Will kitty progress to torturing ME?

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Re: Psychopaths

I'd like to say that for all my sins (against who?!), one of my friends, and myself, when we were younger created the equivalent of frog hell, we hammered them, cut their brains out, removed limbs etc, I couldn't find it in myself now to hurt a fly, unless they deserved it, and it would take a lot to deserve it....and we did this with no scientific aim - so I can vouch for what you are saying!

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Joke

Re: My moggie must be psychopathic

Of course. What would make you think yours was so exceptional?

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Re: Psychopaths

One might plausibly argue that pre-socialized chldren ARE psychopaths . . .

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Boffin

Fifth Element

Stolen from the film, no? The roach was fitted with a camera and slipped into the President's briefing room. And was then squashed bwah-hah-hah.

Milla Jovovich. Mmm....

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They're COCKROACHES

Kill them all, I say. They're not puppies FFS.

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Unhappy

Where were you "respect for living creatures" people when Bill "Dr Death" Gates is out there trying to eradicate malaria? Poor mosquitos. And poor malaria parasites. Betcha you people wash your hands after going to the toilet too, killing millions upon millions of blameless bacteria!

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It's weird how people look at things. Do I need to start dropping in roach size leaflets warning them they're about to be bombarded with airborne neurotoxins? Should I warn them that the box they just walked through has coated their little feet with UV visible dye and very shortly a crack team of chemical weapons specialists will follow their trail and destroy their civilization?

I tell ya what. I'll give them 48 hours warning next time and give them ample opportunity to fall back. After that they, their children and everyone they know will experience painful death following a period of paralysis delivered by chemicals that many scientists have developed for the specific purpose of total war. Targeted genocide is OK but gluing some electronics to their brains is bad? What a weird world we live in.

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Whenever people gnash their teeth about species being driven to extinction, they never mention smallpox.

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Cyborg Cockroaches?

I think I'm going to need a bigger can of Raid!

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“If it was discovered that a teacher was having students use magnifying glasses to burn ants and then look at their tissue, how would people react?"

I for one would laugh.

Though given my poor human rights record I'm probably not a good example.

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The 'Humane Society University'?

That sounds like the very definition of something that isn't a 'university'. A university is surely where you go to learn and have your views challenged, not where you apply a pre-existing set of values to every circumstance and find that circumstance wanting.

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Devil

Yes!....YES!!....

At last, a cockroach army to do my nefarious bidding!! Go forth and wreak havoc, my minions!!! Oh crap, lost reception. Damn 4G LTE! Wait a seco.....ARGHHHH!!!!!!!!!

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Big Brother

Re: Yes!....YES!!....

Have a desire to simulate becoming a tin pot dictator? There's an app for that...

I wonder if you can network these together and and get your little army of RoboRoaches to march in lock-step formation? With enough of these you could hold a proper Military Day parade (complete with little roach-sized banners with your likeness as "Dear Leader" natch) from the comfort of your living room.

Or at least until the missus catches wind of your shenanigans...

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Happy

Re: Yes!....YES!!....

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe%27s_Apartment

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=joe's+apartment+trailer&FORM=VIRE4#view=detail&mid=18F8F2AA0456C593CE8F18F8F2AA0456C593CE8F

I never watched the movie, but I saw the original short. It's certainly relevant to this thread.

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Thumb Up

Re: Yes!....YES!!....

The original short was great! I didn't see the movie either, I felt its original format was pretty much perfect for the subject matter.

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Re: Yes!....YES!!....

How about Sand Kings?

. . . not insects, but animals with a highly-evolved hive intelligence capable of staging wars between the different colors, and even religion--in the form of worship of their owner. The curator's warning to Simon about the regularity of their feeding,. . .

http://www.epubbud.com/book.php?g=YLX43JVG

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Bug bomb a house and kill thousands of cockroaches painfully, no one says a word. Painlessly wire up one for remote control and everyone loses their freaking minds.

In seriousness there is an ethical concern here, but is it really all that bad in comparison to how we treat cockroaches on a regular basis. While I agree that there's no scientific value to be had here there is some educational value. This can be used to demonstrate in a hands-on way how nerve impulses respond to electricity. To me this doesn't look any different than dissecting a frog in biology class.

Is it something that should be done without careful thought? No, absolutely not. As I said there is an ethical concern here that we must weigh. Personally I don't see this as sadistic, unless of course the ice water bath fails to anesthetize the cockroaches (and given that ice water makes a passable local anesthetic for humans I would imagine it works very well for insects) , but we are tampering with a living being with this thing. That's something to think about.

Basically, I'd neither dismiss nor embrace this as a classroom project lightly.

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"While I agree that there's no scientific value to be had here there is some educational value."

If there's educational value, then there's scientific value. How else are we going to get scientists?

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Joke

The next great fruity product?

The iRoach?

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Happy

Re: The next great fruity product?

Unlikely. The cockroach is a universal format and simply too interoperable with cockroaches from other vendors. Apple wouldn't to mess with.

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Ahh so whats next? where do we mount the Lasers we used to hang on the sharks...

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Why bother with lasers?

Just feed it polonium, and get it to take a shit in the targets sugarbowl.

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Cyber-roaches

At least I now have a reason for downloading the 'How to' for turning my microwave into an EMP rifle!

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