04 December 2007

Return of the Grobyc

Just three months ago, we introduced the "grobyc". Scientists are enlarging the grobyc idea, using moth brains to control robots.
Charles Higgins, an associate professor at the University of Arizona, has built a robot that is guided by the brain and eyes of a moth. Higgins told Computerworld that he basically straps a hawk moth to the robot and then puts electrodes in neurons that deal with sight in the moth's brain. Then the robot responds to what the moth is seeing -- when something approaches the moth, the robot moves out of the way....While the moth is physically attached to the robot at this point, Higgins said he expects that one day only the brain itself will be needed.
ComputerworldWhen we think of a "brain machine interface," or BMI, we generally think about cyborgs--where a biological organism utilises a machine to augment the organisms function. A BMI is implanted into the human brain, which can then control a prosthetic arm, an exoskeleton, or a remote machine.This concept has been demonstrated with monkeys. As BMIs grow smaller, safer, and more reliable, this approach will be used for persons with paralysis due to trauma, CVA, or other cause.

A cyborg does not feel as creepy as a grobyc. Imagine an army of killer robots controlled by crocodile brains. You may ask, "why should I?" Consider: weapons designers of the largest militaries in the world are probably way ahead of you, conceptually. Do you have any desire to consider counter-strategies? Why should an actual human army invade a country when it can send in an army of killer grobycs to do the job for it?

The idea is fraught with ethical concerns--once you begin to scope the future of the concept. Just as biotechnology, nanotechnology, machine intelligence, robotics, energy technologies etc. are all fraught with ethical concerns. Ethicists are apt to be overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the challenges they face. Unless . . . . unless they devise a way to clone themselves . . .

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