Not Your Typical Bug Report

Not Your Typical Bug Report
March 09 10:00 2011 Print This Article

Surfing the web this morning, I came across a rather unusual software bug (pictured right). It seems the mad scientists over at DARPA have engineered a “hybrid cybernetic organism” – a fancy way of saying “remote-controlled insects.”

It’s all part of their Hybrid Insect Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems project (catchy name), which aims to use insects for military purposes. Killer beetles. Brilliant.

You can read all about it in The Sidney Morning Herald, but here’s a quick summary:

…[scientists] have reached the point where they can remotely control a beetle (they settled on the heavy-lift, five-centimeter Mecynorrhina torquata) to take off, turn right, turn left and land. They are working on finer controls that will allow much more complex flight paths in three dimensions.

Beeswax is used to hold the anesthetized beetles in place while small holes are pierced in the cuticle on their head and underneath their wings. Steel-wire electrodes, already soldered onto an electronic control board, are then threaded through the holes to the required depth in the brain. The board, including a tiny computer that runs control software, a radio receiver, an antenna and a battery, is strapped to the back of the beetle like a backpack and the bug is ready to be flown.

Given the project is funded by DARPA, the researchers are under some pressure to come up with ”cybernetic organisms” that will eventually have military applications and they have a way to go yet. The implications are both scary and fascinating. Kamikaze insects carrying nerve gas into enemy tanks? A bug on the wall that is also bugging your room, can follow you around, let people know where you are and, if need be, kill you? Eventually the technology could even lead to remote control of higher animals, including humans.

I’ll let others deal with the moral and ethical implications of killer beetles knocking about, but I want to make sure this bug does not go unnoticed. So, with the advice I received from the Crash Course by Santhosh Tuppad & Pradeep Soundararajan, I’m going to file a brief Bug Report for the record. Here goes:

  • Title: Remote Controlled Beetles Out To Kill Us All
  • Bug Type: Beetle, functional
  • Frequency: One in a few hundred trillion (I hope)
  • Severity: High
  • Environment: Earth
  • Action performed: Tried to kill a beetle using a shoe and paper towel as weapons
  • Expected Result: Squished beetle, a mild shriek from the Mrs., getting on with the day, etc.
  • Actual Result: Nerve gas attack

Like I said, not your typical bug report…


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Nataliia Vasylyna
Nataliia Vasylyna

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