The science that inspired my Twilight Tales story "Signifying Monkey" [warning: graphic violence and sexual language*] is in the news again with a story about robots controlled by human thoughts and another hopeful story about applications for amputees. And again, I call for a memorial to be built to the experimental subjects, animal and human (remember the yellow fever volunteers, and Dr. Erlich's assistant?) that have given up their agony in the service of humanity. Kalamazoo is a pharmecutical town and I'd like to see a gentle tribute here in Bronson Park, along with our memory of the GAR, Lincoln's visit and the Boxer Rebellion.

I wish humans were benevolent enough to Use This Power Only For Good, but then I know that the military began this line of thought in order to create robotic soldiers. We 're not the only ones; Israel is working on a nanotech "hornet" like the hunter-seeker in DUNE, and Lord knows what the Chinese will get up to.

Reginald Hudlin, in his fine revival of the Black Panther, posits a US fighting force that uses dead soldiers as cybernetically controlled fighting zombies, and I suppose that would be next. Horribly, the thing that makes this a "comic book" idea isn't the outre science: in the real world, most militaries still find it cheaper to use up live meat than to spend all that money on hardware to reanimate the dead.

"If men were angels," James Madison says, "no government would be necessary." My students hear that phrase constantly as an explanation for the Constitution and my sad-but-true refutation of the anarchist dream. Now it seems we need to leash engineers and physicians who use their dark art to hurt rather than heal.

* Five bucks says that warning inspires someone to read the story for the sole purpose of being offended.

1 comment:

Stewart Sternberg said...

Are you trying to make me crazy? This sort of stuff always gets my dander up.

I remember reading an article about nanobots. Something about releasing nanobots into the air of a factory when workers are present, using the nanobots to stimulate the brain so that the workers are more productive.

Nineteen Eighty Four wasn't possible in Nineteen Eighty Four, but I don't know if we can say that in Two Zero Twenty Four.