Monday, February 20, 2006

Suiting Wasps for War

[Image: San Francisco street art, 2006, photo by Bryan Finoki]

Adding further to The Entomomechanophilic Army, here's a hotrod war bug for you, who has, by nature, been uniquely bred for the art of psycho warfare.

Hiding in the ruins, he enters a set of coordinates into a handheld gamepad-like device. As simple as dipping his fingers into a touchscreen pond and lightly splashing them, an elite swarm of miltarized wasps is ordered into action from a reclusive hive a few miles away. In the remains of a bombed out garrison packed with rubble, debris, and a stash of electronics, the swarm has adapted brilliant hotels from old TV's and computers, unsuspecting air bases made out of speakers and microwaves. It's microcosmic urbanism. Everything looks miserably miniaturized and antiquated half sunken in volumes of obliterated concrete. But up close, this heaping landscape, studded with shards of black glass, has become a sort of electromagnetic Eden for a newly deployed species of non-lethal Subtopian war bug.

When the swarm's icon appears, he rubs the small screen with further instructions and, just like that -- target reticles updated -- they flick themselves off the junk piles of their EM addiction and dart through polluted necropolitan skies to infest a small network of fortified enemy bunkers just out of infantry reach.

On his portable, he watches the swarm's flight en route from tiny cameras that have been fixed to the undersides of their sleek abdomens. This collective imagery becomes a kind of nanoscopic film (a computed nanovideography), streaming narratives of a virtualized space, layered with spontaneous cartographies, annihilated topographies, toxicity levels, aerial depictions of enclaves and densities, strategic positioning, and a bunch of gamey icons that fill up the touchscreen pond as it relays all of this information from the palm of his hand. But this mechanized wasp is more than just a surveillance agent.

Meet the Ampulex Compressa: a stunning parasitoid that injects a serum into the brains of cockroaches, hijacking their zombified bodies in order to incubate her eggs inside them. Carl Zimmer describes the process in full here and here, but her body snatching technique could be, (at least metaphorically), the insect prophecy of further progress in galvanic vestibular stimulation (pdf), or, an applied Parasitic Humanoid apparatus. Basically, manipulating humans with remote control.

"The brain has always been a battlefield. New weapons might be able to hack directly into your nervous system," says David Hambling, who writes extensively about modern warfare and emergent technology. In this case, electromagnetic weapons that could theoretically control enemy minds, by altering their sensations and projecting "controlled effects" through lasers and high-power microwaves. We're talking skin and headspace as targets, here, people. To quote from Defense Tech, it's the process of "activating the nerve cells responsible for sensing unpleasant stimuli: heat, damage, pressure, cold. (...) By selectively stimulating a particular nociceptor, a finely tuned PEP (Pulsed Energy Projectile) might create sensations of say, being burned, frozen or dipped in acid -- all without doing the slightest actual harm." Sounds like high-tech voodoo torture, to me.

Hambling also suggests that synthetic images, or sounds, may be created to confuse someone's senses. Does the ampulex compressa make her cockroach taste bile or smell death first, before chariot-ing it back into her nesting chamber?

He scrolls through an inventory on his gamepad -- nanoscale lasers, PEP's, high-power microwave guns, subaudible acoustic weaponry, and so on -- and, eventually sets the wasps to stun and retrieve. Her instincts to co-opt zombie hosts have been fully idealized in her militant role, here, whose aim, now, is to deliver a similar kind of psychological warfare injection into humans but without the need for having any kind of contact at all. Yes, it is the apotheosis of the Ampulex Compressa, and, certainly, another freaky chapter in the Subtopian future of insecticized warfare.

The Entomomechanophilic Army : Withus Oragainstus : Atomic Monarch (Danaus Plexippus: Plutonium Lepidoptera)


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