Is it right to control another creature against its will? What if that creature is just the lowly cockroach? That is the question raised by today’s article. The company Backyard Brains has perfected technology which allows them to essentially mind-control cockroaches through the use of electrodes and chips. Moreover, the technology is simple enough that they can, and are planning to, sell kits to kids which allow them to make their own “Robo-Roaches”. Quite a few people are against this new technology, since making a “Robo-Roach” requires such things as cutting of the antennae of the roaches, and hurting them in other ways, and the entire premise of the technology is to use mind-control. There is a feeling that this is probably not a good thing to be teaching kids.
Is there anything wrong with selling miniature surgery and mind-control kits to kids? Maybe, maybe not, but I’m more concerned with what this technology could be used for in the future. If you give a kid a kit that tells them to cut open a cockroach and insert electrodes which allow you to control the direction it runs, odds are there will be no long term effects, aside from making them okay with operating on cockroaches. People already squish cockroaches without a second thought, and the type of kids who would be interested in mind-controlling cockroaches are the same kids who would dissect them for fun anyways. We call these kids aspiring biologists. Add mind-control and they’re aspiring neuroscientists. There is nothing wrong, in my mind, to selling these kits to kids, especially since those kids could very well grow to be the ones wo discover a cure for Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.
But, what about the technology itself? Is that okay? I’m less sure about that. We’re talking about using electricity to send signals to a cockroach’s brain which then compels it to turn a certain direction. For a cockroach this is fine, since I do not really feel too concerned about their well-being. Once again, I refer you to the fact that we kill them without a second thought, though many people believe there is a difference. But what about when these experiments begin moving towards more complex organisms? What are the odds that in the future it will be possible to use the same type of technology to control a human being? I know that it is no where near that point yet, but I think it naive to not think that one day someone will try to use this technology in a destructive and/or self-serving way. And if someone were to use these ideas to control a human, that would indisputably be wrong. This is the type of thing which ought to be allowed, but allowed with guidelines to ensure experiments are not taken too far. We want to find a cure for Parkinson’s, not create human robots.
In Genesis 1:28 God tes Adam to “…Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Creating a Robo-Roach seems like taking that to the extreme, but it still falls within the realm of possibility. i don’t see anything wrong with letting kids have Robo-Roach kits, but am worried about the implications of the technology itself. Let us hope it is never able to control a person.