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Thread: Controlling Cockroaches with a phone

  1. MilitarySOS Jewel
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    Controlling Cockroaches with a phone

    So, there is a company which has developed an electrode that can be inserted into a cockroach and which then receives electronic impulses sent by a cellphone. I am describing a more tame version of the how this works than the article does. The idea is to teach children about neuroscience. I am horrified that this exists in the marketplace. I put it in debates since others may see the value for science, but I am struggling to even identify a rational justification.

    This is the article Row over US mobile phone 'cockroach backpack' app and here is the company, they have an ethics page if you would like to read their response.

    A US company that has developed an "electronic backpack" that fits onto a cockroach allowing its movements to be controlled by a mobile phone app has defended itself against cruelty claims.

    The Backyard Brains company says that the device is intended to get children to be interested in neuroscience.

    A spokeswoman told the BBC that the device - being formally launched on Saturday - was not a gimmick.

    But critics say that the company's stance is "disingenuous".

    For the "electronic backpack" to work the cockroaches have to be placed in icy water to subdue them before sandpaper is used to remove the waxy coating on the shell of the insect's head.

    An electrode connector and electrodes are then glued on to the insect's body and a needle is used to poke a hole in their thorax in order to insert a wire.

    Their antennae are then cut and electrodes are inserted. A circuit is attached to their backs, and signals are received through a mobile phone app allowing users to control the cockroaches' movements to the left and to the right.

    Animal behaviour scientist Jonathan Balcombe has been quoted on US scientific websites as saying that the insects are harmed in the process.

    "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?" he is quoted as saying.

    Likewise Queen's University philosophy Professor Michael Allen warned that the device will "encourage amateurs to operate invasively on living organisms" and "encourage thinking of complex living organisms as mere machines or tools".

    The Michigan-based company has even received emails saying the the backpack - known as Roboroach - "teaches kids to be psychopaths".
    The mobile phone app that controls the cockroach Roboroach works by controlling the movements of the cockroach through electrodes that connect to a smartphone via Bluetooth.
    Cockroach wearing the 'electronic backpack' Critics say that the "electronic backpack" is cruel and subjects the insects to unnecessary stress.
    Cockroach wearing the 'electronic backpack' To attach the backpack, the insect is immersed into ice water to subdue it. Electrodes are stuck to it using glue and groundwire is inserted into the thorax.
    The backpack as seen alongside a US coin The Roboroach weighs 4.5g and is compatible with most mobile phones. It overrides the insect's antennae making it turn left and right at the flick of a switch.

    But Backyard Brains says that 20% of the world will soon have a neurological disorder - for which there are no known cures - and the backpacks "allow students to do graduate level research early in life".

    A company spokeswoman told the BBC that the backpack had been developed solely to encourage children to take an interest in neuroscience which, she said, needed to be better taught in American schools.

    "At the moment this crucially important subject is woefully under-taught," she said, "with many schools teaching neuroscience within the biology syllabus when it should be a subject in its own right.

    "That is especially the case when diseases of the brain such as Alzheimer's take a heavier toll within society."

    The spokeswoman insisted that the insects are treated humanely and that the backpack - first developed in 2011 - does not harm them.

    The backpack will be widely available in November in the US priced at $99 (61).
    I'm not off my rocker for thinking this is beyond wrong right?
  2. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
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    So when I first saw this article I was kind of expecting it to be an overreaction, especially since it's a roach ...

    But sanding the shell off its head, poking holes in its body, cutting out its antenna and poking wires in? That seems over the top. I know if I were required to treat an animal like that in school it would have really upset me. That seems almost sadistic ... I don't think that level of harm is necessary at ALL to teach children about neuroscience. It does seem gimmicky and I think the treatment of the insects as well as the scope of the project might actually distract from the material rather than enhance learning.
  3. MilitarySOS Jewel
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    This company got government grant money from the National Institute of Mental Health for bringing education into schools. Errrrgggg, I wrote my senator and he can decide if I'm wackadoodle. To me this is just cruel edutainment and not real science.
  4. verabot89
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    I don't like it. Cutting it's antennae.. I mean those are the insect's primary method of understanding the world around it.
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  5. Senior Member
    Heisenberg's Avatar
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    Unnecessarily cruel. I haaaaate cockroaches but they shouldn't be subjected to that.
  6. 1/2 hippie, 1/2 diva... all Jersey
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    I Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaate cock roaches... I can't even get past that part.
  7. Senior Member
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    I am roach-phobic, and I still think it's cruel.
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  8. Moderator
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    I think it's awful. Use tiny roach-shaped robots. I'm not excited about teaching kids how cool neuroscience is by saying "hey look we can torture living beings and control their will with science! Imagine the possibilities!"
  9. Lime breakfast foot
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    That's disgusting and awful

  10. The Dude Abides
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    I think there's a low likelihood of people actually being able to successfully carry this off, let alone actually wanting to pay $99 to touch a cockroach.
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