back to article Boffins build CYBORG-MOTHRA but not for evil: For search & rescue

Scientists at North Carolina State University in the US have implanted electrodes in a developing moth to closely observe and remotely control the creature's flight. Cyborg moth Cyborg moth takes to the wing In a paper published in the Journal of Visualized Experiments, the lead author Dr Alper Bozkurt, an assistant …

  1. Marketing Hack Silver badge

    Eh, I think the Japanese way of controlling moths is better, but first you have to find two really tiny women who can sing.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I for one welcome our mothy cyborg overlords.

    All hail to the hypnomoth

  3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    "The focus of the research is to slave biological organisms like moths into what the team calls biobots,"

    Should this not be causing outrage? Like swallowing a live goldfish?

    "In the big picture, we want to know whether we can control the movement of moths for use in applications such as search and rescue operations,"

    Yeah, right. Anyone want to bet that the most "valuable" interest comes from the spooks and the military?

    I'm not sure how much use a moth will be in airlifting the victims out of the disaster zone. Unless the disaster is a kicked over antheap.

    1. Muscleguy Silver badge

      A biologist writes: Yeah right, so they are going to have a huge colony of Manduca sexta with a highly automated electrode implantation facility attached just waiting for a suitable disaster? Not the aftermath of a hurricane where the winds still tend to be on the high side, or during tornado season would be my bet.

      A 'distributed aerial network' sounds a neat thing to have, right? But the devil is in the detail.

      Oh, I really, really hope there won't be any of those windy helicopters or fan bladed micro-drones flying through the air while the mini mothra are deployed. It could be carnage out there: drones falling from the sky with hardware bugs.

    2. StephenH

      "I'm not sure how much use a moth will be in airlifting the victims out of the disaster zone."

      Frank Zappa has already demonstrated this principal in his tale of Billy The Mountain" in which the protagonist goes into a telephone booth, covers his body with maple syrup and used the resulting swarm of flies to raise said booth into the sky.

  4. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Remote controlled or not...

    They will still get swatted in my house.

  5. pteranodon

    OF COURSE this research is for developing better emergency response systems. Which is precisely the reason why it's funded by Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) . Sarcasm alert!

    One would think any science writer worth their salt know how to look up the funding sources of the research they cover. Hint: It's in the acknowledgment section of the research paper. :-)

    1. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Sigh, as if no scientist ever saw a big pot of research money and how their research could get them some of that to do that experiment they have always wanted to do.

      The science of immunology has come on in leaps and bounds in recent decades compared to when I was an undergrad. Why? well off the back of all the funding for AIDS research of course. A vast amount of absolutely basic science was done funded by AIDS money. Sure it needed to be done to understand the actions of the virus. But not all of it was strictly necessary, in hindsight.

      Similarly a lot of good basic cellular biology is done in cancer research institutes and groups. Developmental biology (my area) too. Lots of oncogenes play vital roles during embryonic development and to understand their normal function . . .

      Not all research funded by organisation X is absolutely focussed and enslaved to the absolute, iron clad, narrow aims of organisation X.

      After all have humans not been gaming systems for millennia?

      1. Terje
        Black Helicopters

        While what you write is definitely true in general, I feel that in this particular case I have a hard time to see the usefulness of relatively slow moving moths in most disaster situations. On the other hand It comes very naturally for me to think of military and three letter governmental agencies being very interested in small manoeuvrable surveillance drones with long endurance that are virtually undetectable in a natural environment.

  6. Mage Silver badge

    Anyone feel creeped out?

    I mean killing and eating stuff is one thing.

    Training horses, sheep dogs, guide dogs or African cane rats (which are not really rats) is another thing.

    But enslaving creatures as if they are gadgets?

    1. Mtech25

      Re: Anyone feel creeped out?

      Here this nice and completely "normal" hat should stop those pesky thoughts.

  7. Mr C

    ..paved with good intentions..

    Hindsight is always so bloody 20/20 isn't it?

    I mean, its nice to learn to control organisms, starting with moths, for *good* lifesaving intentions, but how long before someone uses it in a bad way? In a way we cannot conceive of now? Say controlling something other than moths?

    This "we can save lifes" pretext is like a get-out-of-jail-free card gone bad

    1. Greggles

      Re: ..paved with good intentions..

      So we are to abandon research that can possibly be used for evil?

      Well I guess we would be much better off without nuclear power as that has been abused. Explosives, nope, to hell with all the good they've done as far as civil engineering and mining. Magnets, the compass is awful handy but we shouldn't know anything about those terrible things lest someone perfect that rail gun technology. Hempen rope, no sir, way too easy to affix a sharp rock to a stick with that evil stuff.

      Technology is not inherently good or bad, it just matters what people wish to do with it. Don’t attack scientists for pushing boundaries and furthering the scope of human understanding, attack dirty politicians who pervert said technology for selfish and stupid ends.

  8. 1Rafayal

    So, I guess that GCHQ will be sending out swarms of cybermoths in the next few years then...

    1. VinceH Silver badge

      They can be annoying enough as it is, and now you have to wonder if they're spying on you as well.

      Erm... I mean moths, of course, not GCHQ, which we already know probably are!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    why is not that article tagged as ROTM.

    It is a important part of enslaving the meat bags with machines

  10. solo

    Taking over

    Hacking the moth would not be that difficult. It seems from video that the OS is Win 7. Just send him a tiff image and you are the next human race overlord.

  11. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

    Disaster in Essex, many dead.

    The only person saved was the one wearing a woolly jumper, all the lycra and shell suited people were left to die.

  12. VinceH Silver badge

    Congratulations to those boffins for developing the first fairground ride designed specifically for moths. It's not much of a ride, but it's a first attempt, after all.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm a red blooded meat eater with no qualms about blowing away small furry animals for food but this feels wrong somehow. I think it's the whole electrodes in the brain thing that is a bit disturbing, it's taking a living thing and making it into a machine. I admit it's easy to accidentally anthropomorphize a bug but at the same time if we go down this road where do we stop?

    1. Greggles

      A possible mind to machine interface allowing those with ruined bodies to communicate with the outside world and quite possibly experience sensations that would be impossible for them today and instead of these ridiculous “ice bucket challenges” actually do something about diseases like ALS or spinal injuries. And of course the enslavement of higher order animals like bomb diffusing dolphins, or recently deceased marines being used as an auxiliary division of zombie soldiers following absolutely any order without the slightest bit of humanity to stop them from massacring whomever is considered politically expendable.

  14. Unep Eurobats

    Thanks Flash

    Combine with this and the swarm will be able to do sky-writing like the bird-men at the end of Flash Gordon.

  15. Sel

    Immoral research avenue

    I am very much pro science, however this is very creepy.

    Researching ways and means of remote controlling a brain with the explicit aim of overriding it's freedom of choice is clearly one of those areas of science that we will come to wish we could un-invent. As we can all see the end of this road leads directly to mind controlling humans.

    1. willi0000000

      Re: Immoral research avenue

      i wouldn't worry too much about the use of implanted electrodes to control behavior when less intrusive methods exist today.  i would estimate that approximately 30% of the population in just about any country can be made to vote a particular way or buy a thing by the simple loud and continuous repetition of a few lies.  these methods seem to work particularly well when used to trigger a fear response to a group of other people who, as a group, never harmed the "victim."

      [here on the left side of the pond that percentage seems much higher in many parts of my country]

  16. Ember

    You are being remote-controlled. Resistence is futile.

    I am not against the prospect of cyberisation, being a longstanding fan of the Cyberpunk RPG franchise, but that system is based on the idea of controling machines with our brains. Having machines controling brains however, especially if those machines are remote controlled and the controlled beings having no say in who exactly is sitting at those controls...Haven't those researchers learned anything from Sci-Fi writing? or from the actual history even? Or are they just so hot for money that they don't give a toss?

    After moths for surveilance of desaster areas (, they will be used for anti-terror and to check that you seperate your recycables correctly), they might think they can remote-control dogs and cats, again (as propagandarised) for desaster response. And don't think they will stop at "only" controlling the brains of "dangerous criminals and terrorists" to "motivate" them into comunity service....

  17. Pat Volk


    I don't think this would work at night, with street lights and bugzappers deployed. Mothra would probably fly into the light at the top of the Luxor Hotel in Vegas nowadays

  18. Chris G Silver badge

    Cyborg Slake Moths

    Where the hell did I leave my thaumaturgic foil hat?

  19. Myvekk

    Next thing you know, they will be trying to build the LEXX!

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019