Friday, January 06, 2006

The Entomomechanophilic Army

[Image: Nicolas Lampert]

So, maybe one day robots really will take over the world. I know it's only the biggest sci-fi cliché ever, but not just robots like you saw in that stupid Will Smith movie, maybe a new specimen of robotocized intelligent insects will seal our fate, fitted with a nano-chitin armor and new classes of microscopic weaponry attached to their weightless bodies. Little arthropod killing machines buzzing around the battlefield; a perfect Rumsfeldian nightmare of hypercloned war bugs swarming the planet in the name of, what else, freedom. And they will be the only survivors of the very doomsday destruction we will engineer them to bring to the earth that day. Forget China, there is a new Insecta Superpower lurking on the horizon. When I first saw this image I thought of the world completely annihilated, human body parts littered across continents like a confetti of sprung locust legs, machine parts confusing the casualty landscape, shredded lenticulars of gossamer wings and transparent shields, broken limbs with barbs dipped in lethal chemical warfare drops, random exoskeletal debris, a leftover shrapnel field of humanity laid to waste by our epic bout with a future empire of renegade insects, once remote-controlled, automechanized by subparticle military prosthesis bent on the scents of war, swarms of tiny mercenaries now gone astray in a hail storm of all out electromagnetic assault on our civilization.

[Image: (Regina, 2003) Garnet Hertz - Posthuman System #1: Cockroach with Wireless Video]

I recall an amazing piece I once read, 'Insects’ Fatal Love for Machines,' by Nandkumar Kamat who lives in India, about his experience with insects that began to invade and inhabit his recording studio once the climate changed. Aroused by the electronic impulses of his stereo equipment, he describes mini-army raids of blue wasps burrowing into his speakers deep behind the woofer's ears, ants using his telephone cables as superhighways to and from the super-housing complex they had made out of his computer, where other insects had died trapped inside by their own lust for the hymns of electric fields and high frequency operas of currents singing inaudible to the human ear. Wasps building big mud nests on the door handles of his car, moths seduced by static warmth radiating from his hard drive. He called this the new science of "entomomechanophily," an insects adaptation to the new urban environment driven by a biologic love for machines, and insists this must be studied because global warming and the consequent climate change will continue to have considerable impact on this insect behavior. "The age of Ecology of machines and electro-ecology has dawned. By dismissing the love of insects for our machines we would be putting our investment and productivity in danger," he says.

[Image: Isao Shimoyama, Tsukuba University (via)]

[Image: Garnet Hertz, Cockroach Controlled Mobile Robot (2004)]

So perhaps it is perfectly natural that we are co-opting the insect world for modern warfare. It may be wise before they decide to hijack our factories and infest our electronic infrastructure in a crazy scene like that one with the locusts in the beginning of The Exorcist. We have already been using animals in the field for years: dolphins, dogs, rats. Hell, animals have been instrumental to man this way since the dawn of war. Now, we become them. In fact, we may envision an entire animal kingdom one day completely taken over by military control. The end of the world could see, not a Noah's Ark of surviving animals, but perhaps a frightening swarm cloud, or a future aircraft carrier overflowing with mutant cyborgian animal-soldier converts, steering their own destiny long after we have been wiped off the face of the earth. They'll call it, Rummy's Ark: a dystopian vessel for the world's last standing army. In this sense, robotocized insects and robotics applied to human soldiers in the field will continue to morph together into a similar shared reflection of posthuman outcome. While Man becomes Insect (carrying a tank ten thousand times his own body weight on his back, and following orders delivered through his pheromonal sense of smell), the Insect gains intelligence (with a steadier hand than human, may even navigate the final instructions of missile command for us some day), but both* forms colliding on a destined remote-controlled killing path forecast by perhaps the perfection of experimental galvanic vestibular stimulation (pdf).

[Image: Bleex: Berkeley Lower Extremity Exoskeleton. (see Pruned: The Bleex: or, Interplanetary galactic landscape architect, Part II]

[Image: Bleex: Berkeley Lower Extremity Exoskeleton. (see Pruned: The Bleex: or, Interplanetary galactic landscape architect, Part II]

[Image: iRobot, Packbot Scout]

Or, even imagine if somehow, all the animals of the planet that we have researched and tagged with our GPS devices, all the collars we have thrown around an elephant's neck, the RFID chips we've implanted in the ears of lions, the sensor flags dangling from a great white's dorsal or the peregrine falcon's claw, what if they all served to collectively autonomize them together in an electromagnetic frenzy of anti-human solidarity, guided by this colossal side-effect in our spy ships and military attachments that we have shackled them with for war? Instead, they become a prefit network for a massive rebellious artificial intelligence system that we could never have predicted, and the animal world would finally rise up against us enabled by this shock-and-awe capacity for communication and firepower between them.

{Image: The Hellstrom Chronicle, 1971]

In the end, the only film that comes to mind is the classic, 'The Hellstrom Chronicle.' One of my all time fav's. Famous entomologist Professor Hellstrom predicts a retro-primitive insectopia at the end of the world after man loses his showdown with the earth's most ancient species, as the proletarian society of bugs proves the only suitable lifeform adaptable enough to survive a total nuclear fallout. This spoofy academic mockumentary, released back in 1971, is full of the best sound bites and samples and photography I've ever heard about the portentousness of the end of the world, and narrates a brilliant case for our finality with a harrowing pre-future bug insurgency invasion.

[Image: Sprawl Robots - Sprawlita, Tiny Flying Robots Modeled on Insects - National Geographic]

[Image: Julie Mehretu, Immanence (detail), 2003. SWARM (an exhibition), via: research.]

Even though these insects may be used by the Pentagon to attack enemy electronics, or swarm and jam sensitive communications equipment behind enemy lines, sniff out chemicals and explosives, inject lethal doses of poison into the skin of the next phase of would-be enemy soldiers, detect IED's and landmines, or perform super stealthy surveillance missions in places Google's satellites cannot spy, maybe this entomomechanophilic army will also be able to innovate a new breed of humanitarian missions. Insect field guides. Beetle-activists, fruit-fly NGO's, worm doctors, etc. Swarms of fireflies bring clouds of light to streets during a blackout, mosquitos that could inject anti-bodies into people in regions plagued by malaria, swarms which help absorb pollution, or transmit messages instead of diseases during disaster crisis, spiders which weave emergency shelters, solar sattelites, or test colony potential on Mars, locusts sounding alarms, sea flies that detect future tsunamis, ants managing our farms, maybe even some whacked artist will learn how to control beautiful swarm sculptures whirling like bit-kites in the park.

[Image: the one-and-only, we-make-money-not-art]

As I write this a tiny spider sneaks out across my desk from underneath my laptop. Do I spare her baby life? Has she crawled out from some nest behind the tiny fan that cools my hard drive? Will I do my part to save us from a robotocized hell by squashing her with my mouse? If she crawls under there I am gonna have to roll it over her and end this. So, I spare her life. Good luck little girl, don't come back to annihilate me one day, or my little ones, either.

Read these further dispatches: Withus Oragainstus : Atomic Monarch (Danaus Plexippus: Plutonium Lepidoptera) : Suiting Wasps for War : A Preamble to Insecticide (pt. 1)


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